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Damming the Nationalist Flood

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Geert Wilders fell well behind nationalist-populist hopes in yesterday’s Dutch elections.

His anti-immigration PVV party is set to gain a few seats in Parliament (from 15 to 19), but this is still below the height of Dutch nationalist politics under Pim Fortuyn (who got 26 seats in 2002) and Wilders’s own high point (24 seats in 2010). Meanwhile, the GreenLeft got a big boost (from 4 to 14 seats).

Not only does this mean that the new Dutch government won’t need to consider a coalition with Wilders, but it also hopefully means that likely returning PM Mark Rutte (VVD, Liberals) will not continue pulling to the right to lure voters. Exit interviews suggest that Dutch voters were concerned about Wilders’s wild rhetoric, especially his attacks on Islam and on the country’s migrant populations. Though Rutte’s recent spat with Turkish diplomats certainly helped him appeal to some of the Wilders crowd.

Moreover, this potentially takes the wind out of the Front National’s sails in France. Marine Le Pen is still polling ahead of her competitors for the first round of the French presidential elections on April 23. A strong showing for Wilders would have given her additional force, signaling a true rising tide of nationalist populism in Europe.

The road ahead is not exactly easy: forming the new coalition government will likely take months (and the results will not be the most stable).

But, for a brief moment, let’s enjoy a bit of good news for the fight against xenophobia and reactionary nationalism.

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  • imwithher

    This seems to me to be the correct take. The fascists did not win. They gained seats, but, as far as I can tell, they will not be included in any new government. That this leftist party gained seats and that one lost seats, that negotiations will be lengthy and difficult, that the eventual coalition will be unstable, that the center right party is no great shakes itself, and so on, are of lesser importance. Like the Austrian election, w
    e dodged a bullet, even if not by much..

    • JohnT

      Mostly correct – you could be a bit more optimistic. Wilders could never have been in government, I think. However there was a real chance at one point that he could have won the most votes, which would have been a psychological and national disgrace. In the event he was a long way off first and nearly came fourth. That’s not a bad result for the Sanity Caucus.

      • imwithher

        Thanks. I am happy to be more optimistic! But there some pushback on the other thread to the notion that it is even certain that the fascists will NOT be in the government.

  • Murc

    Marine Le Pen is still polling ahead of her competitors for the first round of the French presidential elections on April 23.

    This doesn’t mean nothing, but it comes pretty close. Nobody is going to gain a majority in that election, which means we go to round two, and LePen would appear to be poised to get crushed by Macron if that happens.

    I mean, her support, as well as Macron’s, is literally under the crazifaction threshold. It’s disturbing when a fascist gets even that high, of course, but let’s not overblow this.

    The French left needs to get is fucking’ act together, by the way. Or they need a better election system for President if they’re going to insist on having one, either/or.

    • humanoid.panda

      I think they have a fairly reasonable electoral system ,but no system can adress 2 identical candidates refusing to concede to each other because egoism.

      • Murc

        I disagree. Going from “infinitely wide” directly to “top two showdown in the steel cage” is not reasonable at all.

        • Gregor Sansa

          Exactly. It’s what doomed Egypt, and it’s been working badly in France for around a decade now.

          The solution is, instead of going ∞-2-1, use 3-2-1 voting. (Approval voting is also better than what the French have, but 3-2-1 beats it).

          • Gregor Sansa

            Of course, from the US perspective, the French system is relatively very reasonable.

    • Scott P.

      LePen would appear to be poised to get crushed by Macron if that happens.

      But who wins the ultimate face-off between Macron and Godzilla?

  • Nick never Nick

    I’m not particularly confident about the ‘momentum’ argument as applied to Le Pen. Is it really that likely that French voters care that much about how the Dutch vote? What French politicians do, what Turkey does, and the occurrence of any violent incidents, will be far more important.

    That said, I agree with Murc’s assessment of her chances, with all due tribute paid to random chance, etc.

    • rea

      “Momentum” is the next day’s staring pitcher. Well, maybe not in politics, but it’s an illusory concept.

      • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

        I guess the press are chasing different squirrels now, but I can remember when headlines a few elections ago would breathlessly speculate on who had “Big Mo” at that time.

  • aturner339

    This is a minor quibble but I kind of wish we could revive the term “nativist” as a descriptor for the Trump, Farage, Wilders, Le Pen movement or even more honest “white nationalist”

    There’s no sense is which Hillary Clinton for example is not a nationalist.

    • Nick never Nick

      Agreed, particularly since one little ritual of American politics is having leading figures of all stripes declare that the United States is uniquely wonderful in all history, that our fighting forces are the greatest that have or ever will exist, etc. It’s an American trope.

      I’ve always wished politicians in other countries, like Belgium, Iceland, or El Salvador, would speak this way.

      • humanoid.panda

        There’s no sense is which Hillary Clinton for example is not a nationalist.

        Hillary (and ,even moreso, Obama) are civic nationalists. Which is a creed that Democrats need to line up behind.

      • Hogan

        Abortions for some, tiny American flags for others!

    • imwithher

      “Fascist” works for me.

    • Anna in PDX

      Thanks, I agree “nativist” is a much better term (if we can’t use the accurate terms “white nationalist” or “fascist” as being too judgy for TV).

    • Warren Terra

      Fascist? NeoNazi? Nazi? Racist?

      “Nationalist” and for that matter “Nativist” seem wrong in any case given that the authoritarian anti-immigrant anti-minority forces are allied both openly and covertly between Russia, Hungary, the Netherlands, France, the UK, the US, likely Germany, and certainly others that don’t spring to my mind.

    • mnuba

      I always assumed (for the European politicians anyway)that “nationalist” was used at least in part because of the specific emphasis within these movements on leaving the European Union. I’m certainly no expert though.

    • CP

      I’ve been using “white nationalist” mostly. “Fascist” is fine too, though.

  • humanoid.panda

    Here is a thorny question for the readers here: given that there really seem to be frictions on both sides of the immigrants-natives fence in Europe, what SHOULD be the government response the rise of anti-immigrant nationalism? If I were king, it would probably be some combination of strenous affirmative action and clampdown on forms of Islamism not compatible with Western society (note: and by that, I don’t mean burka bans). But what does the rest of you think?

    • Nick never Nick

      Basically the same — affirmative action, plus a rational system to helping people get settled that avoids huge urban concentrations and an introduction to the services and resources that are part of society. As an American emigrating to Canada (i.e. with no cultural or linguistic barriers), it still took me several years to discover some very useful options for housing and other benefits.

      However, I would also look back at earlier nativist panics of the 20th century — what was said about the Jews, the Poles, the Hungarians, the Vietnamese? How many of these assimilated well within a generation? I don’t think people’s fears need to be dismissed, but it would be good to both acknowledge them, and then explain why you aren’t reacting to them with the same urgency or dread.

      • aturner339

        Precisely. Dismissal just makes people angry but it really should be made clear that this is not a unique situation and the lessons learned in the past can be applied here.

        • Nick never Nick

          It’s amazing that such enlightened and intelligent people as you and I are reduced to commenting on blogs! In a rational world we would be leading members of society, playing key roles in guiding the public and formulating policy.

          • liberalrob

            Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
            And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

        • humanoid.panda

          However, I would also look back at earlier nativist panics of the 20th century — what was said about the Jews, the Poles, the Hungarians, the Vietnamese? How many of these assimilated well within a generation? I don’t think people’s fears need to be dismissed, but it would be good to both acknowledge them, and then explain why you aren’t reacting to them with the same urgency or dread.

          Fair enough, but this time, there really is a difference, in that there is a lavishly funded transnational network pushing anti-assimilation messages. Add social media, and you really have a problem. And yes, in the early 20th century, you had socialism/anarchism, but one can’t compare it with Wahabbism/Salafism by neither degree or radicalism, nor $$$$.

          • aturner339

            Eh. People said the same about the fabulously wealthy Catholic church. It was plotting a takeover of America for decades if nativists can be believed.

            • humanoid.panda

              Except that, you know, Saudi-funded mosques helping people to make the trek to Raqqa are real.

              • aturner339

                How many priests worked with the IRA? Patrick Fell wasn’t the only one. There simply isn’t a case for unique behavior here.

                • humanoid.panda

                  The thing: The IRA (or the PLO, for that matter) is really not the same as ISIS.

                • aturner339

                  Special pleading. We’ve faced the issues of global terrorist funding networks before.

                • humanoid.panda

                  “Transnational movements are not the same as nationalist insurgencies” is not special pleading.

                • Nick never Nick

                  And yet you dismiss the anarchists as well — they were an international movement.

                  Besides, there is a huge gap between ‘Saudi-funded mosques’ and terrorism. Wahabism isn’t synonymous with terrorism either. How different is this from the arguments that Jews never assimilate and have divided loyalties?

                • humanoid.panda

                  And yet you dismiss the anarchists as well — they were an international movement.

                  My argument is threefold: radical Islamist networks are transnational, well-funded, and enjoy the benefits of modern commmunications. Anarachism was indeed transnational, but was not well-funded, and its media environment was obviously radically different.

                  “Besides, there is a huge gap between ‘Saudi-funded mosques’ and terrorism. Wahabism isn’t synonymous with terrorism either. How different is this from the arguments that Jews never assimilate and have divided loyalties?”

                  If Israel was seeding Jewish communities across the West with the hardest of hardcore religious propaganda, then that would be a problem, yes.

                • humanoid.panda

                  To reiterate: my argument is not “Muslims can’t ever assimilate because SHARIA LAW.” My argument is that state-backed distribution of the hardest of hardcore of versions of Islam among immigrant communities is a problem.

                • Ronan

                  IIRC they(the IRA) generally didnt have much support within the Church institutionally, although there might have been more sympathy (at times, but we shouldnt overstate it) at the parish level. The Catholic Church was generally pretty hostile towards Irish separatists(historically and afaik during the NI Troubles), and committed to maintaining order (and historically to proselytising within the British Empire)
                  There certainly wasnt a comparable ideological apparatus committed to developing religious justifications for political violence that you see now vis a vis Islamist terror. (although it shouldn’t be overstated how mainstream such actors are within Islam) Not being an expert on this stuff, I’d guess part of that is explained by the fact that Catholicism is more institutionally hierarchical and so you have less power vacuums and competing interpretations of religious doctrine etc. Although someone who knows can correct me)
                  They were (particularly 1916-22) overwhelmingly Catholic and observant(which shows in the state they built) ie they were representative of the population at large.
                  It’s arguable that in the North the, at least urban, elite in the PIRA were more secular than their base (though this probably isnt true of the leadership in the border counties) so there was the struggle between their often avowed non sectarianism and Marxism, and the reality of being a sectarian paramilitary organisation.

                  But still, their reach was pretty limited. They posed a potentially existential threat to the Irish govt (particularly in the early days) and after the mid 70s a continued nuisance to the British state. They didnt have the reach of Islamist terror, or as broad a potential base. And the violence you at times see happening on continental Europe (extreme sectarian violence) was mostly confined to the North. So that’s worrying. If that sort of extreme violence becomes more common it has the potential to really harden sectarian and ethnic divisions.
                  Most of the PIRA violence in England was instrumental and relatively limited. They werent (outside the North anyway, but even there) as committed to the sort of extreme violence you see from Islamist terrorism.

          • Nick never Nick

            Basically, you’re arguing that the Islamist ‘threat’ is uniquely threatening. I don’t think that’s true. People are always dismissive of past fears, and solicitous of present fears. Today’s Syrian refugee is tomorrow’s French presidential candidate.

            • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

              Today’s Syrian refugee is tomorrow’s French presidential candidate.

              Or Steve Jobs.

          • guthrie

            That’s kind of the important thing here, this isn’t a truly populist uprising by ordinary voters, this is a carefully funded and encouraged insurrection, co-opting the voters into putting pressure on politicians to do things the funders like.

    • Gregor Sansa

      – Refugees should be accepted where and when they have a sponsor, and sponsoring should be a real thing.

      – The last step in becoming a citizen should be a buy-in of significant money (like, the price of a cheap new car). That money should go to pay back the value of any schooling you got in your home country; to pay for schooling non-citizens in the US; and a small amount (under 10%) to the general local budget. You also should be able to cash out your citizenship and go back to your country. This solves the brain drain and “using our money” issue, and allows much more open borders; basically, anyone is welcome for the first 10 years as long as you aren’t using public money more than the average US citizen, and then after 10 years you either pay up to become a citizen, pay a lesser amount to stay on as a non-citizen, or go home.

      – Minimum wage and labor rights for non-citizens are enforced, because they’re not afraid of deportation. So there’s no underclass, either for farm labor or for H1B programmers, who are depressing wages for natives.

      … the ideas above are not fully thought out, but some attempts to assuage any legitimate issues so that borders can be MUCH MORE OPEN. I realize that “make a reasonable bargain” might not be a viable strategy when dealing with nativists so probably all of the above is worthless or worse, but I find it worth thinking about. Note that my family lived in exile from the US for 10 years so I am not by any stretch anti-immigration.

      • aturner339

        I agree that a political bargain to accept more refugees is better than none at all and share your skepticism that anti-refugee forces would be all that appeased by it.

        • humanoid.panda

          These suggestion do seem to apply more to the US then to Europe, where problems are ethnic and ideological..

          • aturner339

            At heart it’s all ethnic really. Sure American complain about welfare but you hear the fact same complaints from Parisians or Danes about immigrants. I think taking these complaints purely at face value obscure their symbolism

      • Tzimiskes

        I’ve long thought that adding a fiscal element to immigration would be helpful with assuring the low information mushy middle that nativists are wrong about immigrants stealing jobs. I would add a small payroll tax to employers hiring non citizens. It would make things a bit harder for refugees looking for work but it seems like it would open up a new dimension for compromise with people concerned about immigration but who aren’t ideologues on the issue. It would be an excellent counter to the depressed wages argument since immigrants would cost more dollar for dollar until they get citizenship and they would be contributing more to pay for shared services than citizens. Of course this would require something close to open borders to justify, it would be terrible if something like this was added as an additional disability for immigrants on top of our existing system rather than as part of broad based reform.

        • Lost Left Coaster

          until they get citizenship

          If you’re suggesting that we would want to increase barriers to permanent residents getting jobs, I’m 100% against it. This would make people’s lives much harder.

        • Nick never Nick

          This is an awful idea.

        • CP

          I’ve long thought that adding a fiscal element to immigration would be helpful with assuring the low information mushy middle that nativists are wrong about immigrants stealing jobs

          I think that’s wildly optimistic. “Immigrants are stealing my job” is a religious belief, like “tax cuts increase revenue.” It’s a more acceptable way of saying “I don’t like immigrants,” just like the other is a more acceptable way of saying “I don’t like to pay taxes.” Its main purpose is to project your and your society’s problems onto an unpopular “other.” Trying to address it rationally won’t work and will just make them more pissed off.

      • Lost Left Coaster

        The last step in becoming a citizen should be a buy-in of significant money (like, the price of a cheap new car). That money should go to pay back the value of any schooling you got in your home country; to pay for schooling non-citizens in the US; and a small amount (under 10%) to the general local budget.

        Respectfully, this doesn’t really make sense. Immigrants pay taxes already; why would they owe even more money? If immigrants arrived in the USA with an education already, then this represents a net benefit to the USA, because they have someone who is educated and ready to work but who didn’t cost any US money to get to that point.

        Giving people citizenship is not a favour to them; it’s a net benefit to the US to have more citizens. Also, the paperwork involved with immigration, permanent residency, and citizenship already costs money. If we made it cost even more money, then it just means that poorer people would never become citizens and live on with less security and rights.

        Just my two cents. I know you’re just throwing out ideas for discussion.

        • If immigrants arrived in the USA with an education already, then this represents a net benefit to the USA, because they have someone who is educated and ready to work but who didn’t cost any US money to get to that point.

          The first of Gregor’s three reasons for that part of his proposal was “to pay back the value of any schooling you got in your home country”: I assumed he meant that that money would be sent as foreign aid to the “home country” (on top of any other aid the US was giving it, else the exercise would be pointless). The US gets the “net benefit” you make explicit, and the “home country” is recompensed for what would otherwise be its net loss.

          • Lost Left Coaster

            Yeah…granting that, I still don’t like this idea. For one thing, remittances from overseas residents add up to a hell of a lot for a lot of countries that are otherwise victimized by the brain drain. I mean, they do lose, as their most educated residents leave, but they also gain in other ways as more money comes in from abroad. I just don’t want to see immigrants pay additional economic penalties — immigration is expensive enough as it is.

    • LeeEsq

      I agree with you that Radical Islam poses a bigger threat than other radical and reactionary movements did at the turn of the 20th century because it is better founded and exists in a more media rich environment. The early 20th century Anarchists and Roman Catholic Church did not have the power of the Internet behind them. There isn’t much that could be effectively done to clamp down on forms of Islamism not compatible with Western society though.

      Your going to have to decide what forms of Islamism are incompatible with Western society. We might not see the burka as incompatible but a lot of other people do because they see consensual sexual libertinism as part of contemporary Western society. You might argue the same with drinking alcohol. Then your going to need to decide how to crack down on it without making a mockery of liberalism. Not that easy.

      • Nick never Nick

        Ah yes, that explains why Mennonites, Amish, Hutterites, Shakers, old women wearing wimples, Catholic nuns, etc., are reviled. I’m sorry, but this is just ridiculous. If Western society is threatened by people not drinking booze or not having sex, why does it tolerate AA and Catholic priests? This whole ‘incompatible with Western society’ is hogwash. Western society is large enough to contain Islam, and does.

        ‘Islamism’, if the name even means anything, is far weaker than reactionary Catholicism was at the turn of the 20th century. Sure, there was no Internet then; what there was was a powerful, well-organized Catholic church that commanded huge numbers of priests and faithful laity throughout Europe.

      • Ronan

        on this broader question (the reviewed book is decent aswell)

        http://www.unz.com/gnxp/there-is-no-exception-in-islam/

      • AMK

        You’re going to have to decide which forms of Islamism are incompatible with western society

        All of them, in the sense that political religiosity taken to the point of “ism” is always incompatible with “Western society” defined more-or-less by the Enlightenment. This isn’t just a “Muslim” problem of course; how millions of American Christianists are fundamentally incompatible with western society.

        • humanoid.panda

          Well, it depends. If Islamism is defined as “Muslim religious community should be allowed some autonomy in the name of pluralism” it’s hard to see how this is not compatible with 20th century liberal thought.

  • CP

    I’ve been damning the nationalist flood for quite some time.

    Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all night.

  • wp200

    As a Dutch liberal who has watched Wilders in horror for years, the term “fascist” is difficult. You don’t call just anyone a fascist. A real fascist needs a certain evil je-ne-sais-quoi.

    Wilders is an idiot. On top of being an idiot, he has no plan how to gain power or how to govern. So while, yes, he is a fascist, he’s a fascist in the way the Illinois Nazis from the blues brothers are Nazis. If Illinois Nazis ever polled at 13% nationwide.

    Still, he ticks all the fascist boxes, so I guess even idiots get to be fascists if they want to.

    • CP

      Well, you know. In another life, Hitler would’ve been an Illinois Nazi.

      One of the many depressing things about fascism (as if there weren’t enough) is that it really doesn’t take any criminal mastermind to bring it about. Some dumb bastards in the wrong place at the wrong time are all you need.

      • wp200

        You’re right of course.

        But it’s depressing, because it means the battle is harder to win.

        Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.

        • CP

          Ha!

          I know just enough German to recognize the classical citation…

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