Weekly Review

Populism Wears Out its Welcome

Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders of the PVV party leaves a polling station after voting in the Dutch general election in The Hague
Dutch far-right candidate Geert Wilders' Freedom Party came in a distant second in voting in Wednesday's election. Source: Reuters / Yves Herman

 

Two events this week gave the world a needed break in our daily, dark drip of apocalyptic populism.

In the Netherlands, Dutch voters sent an unequivocal message to artificially white-haired Geert Wilders, a far-right candidate who had called Moroccan immigrants “scum’’ while urging voters to make the Netherlands “ours again.’’

Voters heeded Mr. Wilders advice and indeed made the country “theirs’’ again, just not “his.’’ Wilders’ so-called “Freedom’’ party finished second in Wednesday’s national voting, but secured far fewer seats in parliament than predicted.

Across the Atlantic in Washington, two U.S. federal judges stopped President Donald Trump’s second attempt to ban immigrants from predominantly Muslim nations. One judge cited then-candidate Trump’s nasty comments about Muslims and Mexicans as evidence his policy was racially and religiously discriminatory, which is still a no-no in America, and tossed his closed-door protocol back in his face.

 

The biggest challenge facing the world’s largest economy is not hunkering down in a massive bunker, surrounded by an expensive new wall, and waiting for the rapture to come. The biggest challenge facing the United States is preserving those values that make it truly great.

President Trump, miffed, vowed to challenge the ruling to the Supreme Court, saying the courts were making the United States look weak.

One could argue, however, that the courts did just the opposite. In fact, they accomplished what Mr. Trump wants: Make America Great Again.

The biggest challenge facing the world’s largest economy is not hunkering down in a massive bunker, surrounded by an expensive new wall, and waiting for the rapture to come. The biggest challenge facing the United States is preserving those values that make it truly great – its defense of minorities, the downtrodden and promotion of diversity and civil liberties, while fending off terrorism, rogue states and economic Armageddon.

It won’t be easy over the next four years in Washington; the nation is just as divided as it was before the election. And in Europe, there’s no guarantee that as goes The Hague, so goes Paris and Berlin. Elections in April and May in France, and in September in Germany, will tell us whether Mr. Wilders’ defeat last week was the beginning of populism’s end, or a blip on the way to a dystopian La La Land.

But before that happens, a curious meeting is taking place later today in Washington when Mr. Trump receives Chancellor Angela Merkel. It’s the first meeting of political opposites: Trump, the Wall-building protectionist, will sit with Merkel, that refugee-hugging internationalist. Both ironically share more in common than appears at first glance. Merkel, largely because of her open-door policies, is unloved by a large segment of the German electorate, just as Trump, with his closed-door policies, is in America.

Both tend to be awkward in big public settings; both are winners – Mr. Trump in business and on the campaign trail; Ms. Merkel in German and European politics. Their relationship didn’t get off on a good foot: Mr. Trump criticized Ms. Merkel’s refugee policies, and Ms. Merkel lectured the U.S. president on respecting common values and not being more like his predecessor, Barack Obama.

But both are pragmatists. Already we are hearing in Berlin that the meeting is being pre-programmed to send a harmonious message.

Which may or may not be genuine, but in this day and age, we’ll take any good news we can get.

 

Kevin O’Brien is Editor in Chief of Handelsblatt Global. To reach him: obrien@handelsblatt.com

 

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