Two young Dutch politicians: one substantial, alert to the times, the other unadulterated narcissism

Even with Trump handling his twitter account each morning, there isn’t much happening in politics this summer. As usual, that makes appearances and utterances by politicians stand out more; and two of those in the Netherlands symbolize the contrast in western politics nowadays.

 I’m talking about what two blackhaired young Dutch politicians published recently. The flamboyant conservative-populist Thierry Baudet  published a remarkable photo on Instagram; while the Oxford-educated Churchill biographer and convinced European Felix Klos, presently speechwriter for D66 party leader Alexander Pechtold  emphatically launched his candidacy for D66 top candidate for the European Parliament.

 The Dutch public has grown accustomed to the Milo Yiannopoulos-like  stunts and utterances of Baudet, who led his rightwing populist “Forum voor Democracy”  with 2 out of 150 seats into Dutch parliament in 2017, but his summer surprise raised a few eyebrows, even in his rightwing populist clique and claque. From an unknown holiday resort, he put a photo of himself on Instagram  lying down stark naked near some water, one hand covering his private parts, with just the words “release and reload” as subtext. This unleashed a storm of parodies on twitter; someone inserted Baudet as the body (of an executed killer) in the painting “Anatomy lesson of Dr. Tulp” by Rembrandt.  But even the rightwing populist weblog “Dagelijkse Standaard” (dayly standard) commented that they hoped Baudet would stop publishing this sort of thing and return to real politics.

 At around the same time, Klos (an ardent follower of British and Lib Dem politics) announced he’s entering the internal D66 elections for the leading post on the party list for the European Parliament election. In an overview of the Dutch parties’ candidates so far, the newspaper Trouw commented that if Klos won the leadership, he would be the first fresh, and youngest, face among other “lijsttrekkers” (Party list leaders).

 Felix explicitly motivates his candidacy as a means to engage the present young adult generations who have so much more possibilities (freedom of travel and of working anyplace, Erasmus scholarships, etcetera) thanks to the EU, but who fail to go to the polls in EU referenda (on Brexit in the UK, on the Ukranian EU association treaty here) and European elections. That generation has more than ever to lose, Klos argues, if the EU is pushed into a slump by the European populists now being mobilized by the likes of Steve Bannon, and/or if Orban succeeds in taking over the EPP election platform (as he today said he wanted to), pushing the Christian Democrats into an imitation of Trump’s disastrous “America First”-policies, and making latent antisemitism mainstream.

 The populist Baudet extolling his own body and the social liberal Klos talking about what is at stake in European politics: an emblem of what are the two poles in politics nowadays.

* Bernard Aris is a Dutch historian (university of Leiden), and Documentation assistant to the D66 parliamentary Party. He is a member of the Brussels/EU branch of the LibDems.

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One Comment

  • Peter Hirst 4th Aug '18 - 11:20am

    Without going into the details, it sounds like a fit time to strengthen our and perhaps Dutch civil society. Many people I speak to find politics too negative and egocentric. However, they do have views and civil society is there to represent them. Civil society also should echo the views of the silent majority.

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