As the night progressed it became clearer and clearer that something terrible had befallen on us. To Americans, the shock must have been even greater than to the rest of humanity as a terribly reckless tyrant rose to power. Those who lived through Europe’s history, through the Second World War and the Cold-War, and those who are even remotely aware of its war torn history, became utterly moved of its remembrance on that day on election night in 2016.
It was not so much his romance for the war that this leader excelled, rather his unsentimental character to others — impossible to empathize with the troubles of his own people, let alone other nations including those for who he had sworn to show no mercy — that terrorized our thoughts and social media feeds and newspapers. It was the terror only small animals can feel when they are being chased by bigger animals, moments before they are eaten. But it was moreover the mourning of loss that we had to deal with when an image of a thriving West and the prospect of the first female US President withered away.
The heroine of this story was never fully understood. While she had excelled in life in social policy reform and the expansion of rights for women, many couldn’t see what she already had left as an inheritance to the world. Leadership is only for those who dare change it no matter what the prospect for failure is. By the time she sought a rise to power, the complexities of the world had already determined her leadership a failure. The minds had already weakened too much for Hillary Clinton to gain strength through the electoral institutions of American democracy.
Our system had literally failed us. We could no longer see ourselves in the situation that we were before. It is the reason why so many voted for someone who campaigned on changing the system.
Somewhere else in the world, a different hero entered the scene and took on the establishment in a campaign that ultimately ended in his own refusal to govern under the conditions his country is in. While he had not gained as many votes as his competition, he was offered a seat at the table and the ability to run his agenda. Yet, he gave away his seat to others to govern for him as he saw his role as opposition leader to the government be more important than the future of the Netherlands and its people he campaigned to serve for.
As romantic and chivalrous his choice may sound, this role he has taken on generally does not bode well for those who see bigger things than their mouths can feast on. Men in positions of power only consolidate power. That position that Jesse Klaver has given away does not end well at a time that he has everything against him. Although right-wing populism recedes now that President Trump has revealed himself to be a disaster, cultural anxieties in the Netherlands, or Europe and America in general, haven’t changed. White-nationalism is still on the rise everywhere in Europe in communities of different societies and better spun than ever by television media; Jihadist terrorist attacks still get the same sensationalist coverage as they did sixteen years ago, and undemocratic political movements are still on the rise. Contrary to what the Green Party’s Jesse Klaver believes, he does not have the cultural change behind him that is occurring as we speak. Although the Netherlands has become more cosmopolitan since 2001, it has also become more politically divided; as its thirteen parties in Parliament show. For Jesse Klaver to rise to power, he needs strong alliances; and by refusing to govern with the center-parties, he has made himself and his Green Party a pariah in the Lower House.
Insecure times ask for strong leadership. The people see that neither Geert Wilders nor Jesse Klaver has the competence and capacity to lead the country. But there are others rising up with a much louder voice and a much stronger cultural platform for a grassroots movement. Right-wing populism won in 2016, lost a subsequent battle in 2017, but the fight, however, is not over yet. Instead of feeding political expedience to the flanks, leaders from all parties need to work together in an alliance between conservatives and progressives and win over — with carefully crafted policy proposals — the hearts of the people. Populism cannot win if political leaders work together to overcome it. We saw it in 2012 and there are still opportunities left in 2017, yet our leaders worldwide need to excel unity instead of division in order to bridge the gaps of their societies.