So the Dutch prove that while they are not exceptionally right-wing, they are still pretty right-wing. Mark Rutte will be able to continue his premiership by forming a new coalition government, with Geert Wilders somewhat out of the picture. While this is a blow to populist rightwingers the world over, it’s barely a scratch on hardline conservative governments, which in both tone and policy actually reproduce the same ideals that the Wilders’ party propounds. There will be curbs on migration, cuts in tax and a more bullish tone towards foreigners, but you know, Rutte will be a lot nicer to the EU.
Is this a good thing? Yeah. Kinda. Obviously it’s better than having an exceptionally rightwing zombie in charge of a leading European country – but it’s not that much better. It’s a bit like having an exceptionally zombified rightwinger – someone who maybe, kinda, sorta, also, somewhat – probably – believes the same things, but is a little less charismatic, and somewhat more amenable to public tastes.
However, with French elections looming, I believe the contrary to a Rutte is needed. Not in terms of policy – obviously I would love it if an angel of a socialist won, or a much maligned SWJ, or a beautiful, saintly leftwinger who fights poverty by day and structural inequality by night, takes every holiday to remember the colonial oppression and oppression of women on which present day prosperity is built – but this is unlikely. Instead, according to many forecasters (which we have all learnt to distrust) project a narrow victory for a Centre-Right or Centre-Left candidate, with Le Pen taking it all the way to the second vote.
No, what I believe is needed is a kind of equal to Le Pen in populist appeal – just someone who believes and fights for justice for all, and someone who doesn’t waste time arguing about ethnicity and religion and cultural history and political correctness and Jews and Europe and all that other boring conspiracy stuff. No, I would love it if we were able to strategically position ourselves as people who fight for people – which is what many and most of the people on the left do – yet the message does not get through. Instead, we are marked as people who fight for rich people and university-educated people and institutions which oppress poor people. What I want is someone unafraid to connect with people, and someone savvy enough to push through their policies. Take Jeremy Corbyn as a negative example: The guy has all the right policies, but he does not know how to even stand-up straight at the podium, which means, no matter what he thinks or believes, his message does not get through.
This is a key lesson for the left – which I think is super unpopular for many people: Beliefs and policies don’t win elections – popularity and appeal and connection and storytelling do.