Before there was Trump, there was Geert Wilders.
Leader of the staunchly racist far-right Freedom party (PVV) in the Netherlands, Wilders has built his political fame by using racial and religious stereotypes to stoke anger and hatred directed at Muslims in his own country and across Europe. His aggressive use of race-baiting, however, has earned him a conviction for incitement against a minority.
The recently concluded case stems from a public speech that Wilders gave in The Hague following 2014 municipal elections in which he asked his supporters if they wanted “fewer more more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands.”
Amidst shouts of “fewer!” Wilders remarked: “We’re going to take care of that.”
Following the court’s ruling, Wilders expressed his discontent in self-aggrandizing terms, posing his racist movement as a pivotal historical phenomenon:
Unreliable, unprofessional, politically driven.
They are on the wrong side of history.
All three. pic.twitter.com/QMjxkzb13q
— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) December 9, 2016
The three-judge panel that concluded the case decided not to penalize or fine Wilders, somewhat confusingly making the argument that the mere conviction will have a detrimental effect on the virulently racist politician’s electoral standing.
That rationale may not hold up. Since Trump – the United States’ own pandering nationalist – has risen to power, Wilders’ PVV has edged ahead of the ruling Liberals, currently led by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, in nation-wide polling. If next year’s elections took place today, the Netherlands would have their own Trump at the head of government.
Evidently hateful speech alone – evidenced by the success of Trump, Brexit, and the PVV – isn’t enough to torpedo the far-right.
Merely opposing such vicious and regressive political forces is not enough. A viable alternative – one that addresses the needs of all demographics in Western democracy without driving wedges between them – is paramount for turning the page on this unwelcome, radical nationalist resurgence.