Dutch Support Clinton, Hear Echoes of Own Populist in Trump

The socially liberal Dutch are more sympathetic to Democrats. Supporters of the nativist Geert Wilders are the exception.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte meets with American president Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, November 29, 2011
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte meets with American president Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, November 29, 2011 (White House/Pete Souza)

If they had a vote, the Dutch would certainly pick Hillary Clinton to succeed Barack Obama as president.

Partly this is because many are socially liberal and find the reactionary views of America’s Republicans on everything from abortion to gay marriage abhorrent.

Dutch media also have a pro-Democratic bias. There was little favorable coverage of Mitt Romney four years ago and Donald Trump can count on even less sympathy from journalists.

Support for the Republican is confined to populist right-wing blogs, like GeenStijl — which helped organize a referendum in the Netherlands on the European Union’s association treaty with Ukraine earlier this year — and the nationalist Freedom Party of Geert Wilders.

But even his supporters are split. One survey shows (PDF) that a third of Wilders’ voters would back Clinton.

Echoes

Commentators see echoes of the Clinton-Trump contest in the Netherlands’ own election, which is still a few months away.

Tom-Jan Meeus has argued in Politico that a Trump victory would normalize the unceremonious, hard-right style of politics that Wilders shares with the Republican candidate.

A win for Clinton could rehabilitate politics as usual. She, like the incumbent Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, represents consensus and a respect for political norms.

Can the center hold?

Stevo Akkerman, a political analyst, is less sure. He cautions in the newspaper Trouw against assuming that the bitterness and anger Trump has brought out — and which is present in Europe as well — will simply go away if he loses today.

A victory for Hillary, which should have been a foregone conclusion, doesn’t mean the hateful populism that poisons politics on both sides of the Atlantic will be defeated.

The reason, he argues, is that parties in the center haven’t found a way to address the concerns of voters who are drawn to nativism.

International security

There is another reason the Dutch pay such close election to America’s presidential election: their own security.

A small nation that is dependent on global trade, the Netherlands has for decades sheltered under the American security umbrella. In turn, it has loyally supported American foreign policy, even when Dutch voters were critical, as during the Vietnam War and the 1980s cruise missile crisis.

In de Volkskrant, the Netherlands’ leading left-wing daily, Fokke Obbema argues that the world needs a reliable, deliberate president — “not a man with a bad temper.” Trump’s behavior during the campaign, he writes, “has confirmed every suspicion that he is unfit for the presidency.”

NRC Handelsblad, a more centrist publication, agrees, calling Trump a “jester” whose election would be an “historic mistake”. Clinton may be imperfect, they write, but she at least has four years of experience as secretary of state. “She is skeptical about Putin and sees the enormous changes in Asia.”