I am not talking about the court ruling on version two of his travel ban. Neither am I talking about the mounting incredulity over his wiretapping claims and tax returns.
I am talking about an event that took place 3,843 miles away from the White House on the other side of the Atlantic– the Dutch general election.
Trump’s man was Geert Wilders. The anti-EU, anti-immigration, racist leader of the Netherlands’ Freedom Party who has bounced in and out of the Dutch courts on hate crime charges.
There was never any question of Wilders winning a majority in parliament and forming the next Dutch government. Their proportional representation system makes that a virtual impossibility for any political party.
However, Wilders’ Freedom Party was tipped to win more seats than any other Dutch party. He failed, miserably. And he failed with 80 percent voter turnout—up 5.5 percent from the 2012 elections.
The hope of President Trump and his alt-right eminence grise Steve Bannon was that a Wilders victory would be a fresh stiff breeze for the anti-EU, anti-immigration flag hoisted by Britain’s Brexit referendum on June 23rd.
“Look at what’s happening in Europe,” say the Trump people. “They are turning away from liberal values and demanding a return to the homogenous nation state in reaction to the immigrant takeover.”
Well, not in the Netherlands. Or, at least, nowhere near a majority. Not only did Wilders fail to achieve the alt-right breakthrough, but the rabidly pro-EU, pro-immigration Green Party jumped from 4 to 19 parliamentary seats.
Led by the 32-year-old curly-haired telegenic Jesse Klavers, the Greens secured the youth vote when their leader told the BBC: “We are the opposite of Geert Wilders. He is hate. We are love.”
Wilders’ defeat is also a blow for Marine Le Pen, the right-wing National Front candidate in the two-round April-May French presidential elections. Le Pen has been slipping in the polls as centrist dark horse Emmanuel Macron has moved to just one point behind her. National Front failure to the reach second round voting would be a major setback for Europe’s far-right and destroy any hopes for Germany’s Alternative for Deutschland party in the autumn German elections.
But back to Donald Trump and Steve Bannon. Why are they so opposed to the EU and its apparent liberal attitudes towards world trade, race issues and immigration? Because the failure of the EU and its rejection by the European electorate is justification for Trump’s America first policy of walls, deportations, travel bans, aid cutbacks, increased defence spending and tariff barriers. The interdependent hip thigh bone theory of the world is not acknowledged by Trump economists, but it is embraced by his political philosophers.
Next Saturday EU leaders gather in Rome for the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome which established the European Economic Community—forerunner of the European Union. The EEC grew out of the recognition that the only way to end the long history of disastrous European wars was to make member states economically and politically dependent on each other.
For more than half a century it looked as if the founders had succeeded. The continent became the world’s number one trading bloc and delivered peace and prosperity to its members. But it has been downhill since the banking crisis of 2008-2009. There are economic woes in Spain, Italy, Portugal and—most of all—Greece; immigration fall-out from a war-torn Middle East and then—worst of all—Brexit. All of which has led people to voice the unspeakable—Can the EU survive?
The 27 heads of government have been practising their brave face looks for the Roman festivities. Following the Dutch elections their task will be lightened—a bit.
Tom Arms is editor of LookAheadnews.com