Dutch lessons for all American friends that are struggling with the Trump-phenomen

Although this blog is intended to be about the amazing stuff happening in Dutch society and politics, it's now time to publish a feature for our friends in the United States of America.

The Trump turn of events is not unique
In the last year, you Americans have seen something happen that you wouldn't think possible. A strange guy, with strange hairdo and outspoken, politically incorrect behaviour, is appealing to the masses and making a run for Presidency. While at first you all thought this was extremely unlikely to ever lead to that guy being the Republican nominee, this did happen after all.

And while you think this is a unique turn of events, you may rest assured that it is not. What you are witnessing now is something we've seen happening here in the Netherlands already for quite some time now.

Even today we still have a blond loudmouth claiming to bring back the true Netherlands and true Freedom. And the guy ranks dangerously high in our polls. He even made it to become part of a condoning coalition but then ran away from this position of power, being afraid to be criticised by his followers.

Will you end up there as well in the US?

Well, it's up to you, and in order for you to get your bearings, let me provide some further background

The mechanics of narcist-populist leader
A Dutch scholar by the name of L D'Anjou has written a very solid piece of work about narcistic leaders and politicians. You can read it here and the summary is
In modern societies narcissists regularly enter the political arena to make their dreams of success and power come true. The dynamics of narcissism tend to propel these politicians into extreme behavior and radicalism - a process that is further intensified by the way the media operate. Moreover, a kind of ‘natural’ affinity exists between political narcissism and populism. 

Narcissistic politicians, therefore, try to organise electoral support with a populist platform and seek support in populist movements. As the latter are invariably radical, this strengthens those politicians’ radicalism even further. The article analyzes the dynamics of political narcissism, its relation to populism and the conditions that determine the success or failure of narcissistic politicians.

As the article is in Dutch I would recommend you to learn Dutch and read it. Or else, you''ll have to do with this brief summary and reflection by yours truly. 

Trump walks a clear narcist-populist walk 
In essence the article outlines that the modern society -with all media around- provides a great stage for narcistic personalities and politicians to florish. In general, the media will reinforce the performance of narcist leaders, but first they must gain political ground.

D'Anjou states that this may be easier in open societies as the Dutch (with low barriers for new parties to be founded). For that reason our two main political narcists, Fortuyn and Wilders, have understandably come from a background where they founded their own party, rather than affiliated with an existing one.

While D'Anjou thought it unlikely for a narcist to pass through the hurdles of political parties, the interesting thing is that in the US, our blond loudmouth property-developing and loss-making cowboy did do so. This can be the result of the fact that rather than achieve media-exposure via the political party, the candidate had drummed up his own media-exposure.

Next up on the list of conditions is that other players in the political market provide the opportunity for the narcist to gain grounds. In general this can be easier in times of fast change and turmoil, as the narcist can play an opportunistic game against current politicians. So the narcist will combine his outlier position with a populist approach and plays on emotions like ('things were better in the past'). The use of the 'make America great again' slogan is therefore in line with this theory.

Most important success factor for these politicians is formed by the functioning of media. The media, with their great need for news, deviations, rows, incidents will jump on the narcists behaviour to provide him with a forum for his views. And quite interestingly, we can now also see US media, recognising this dynamic and reversing course. This would be a nice lesson for the Dutch media (who tend to still amplify the vision of our local loudmouth with little fact-checking to debunk his untruths).

Whereto next?
The author D'Anjou states, at the end of the article, that our societies effectively have to learn to live with these narcist-populist players in the political game. So that means we best learn and adapt from the experiences all over the world.

Here in the Netherlands we now have some more than 10 years experience with that and all along Europe other countries are also experiencing this fact. We can see a populist bang a simplistic drum and attract a lot of followers. Putting their words to consistent political action will however not be as easy, as our local history showed.

But even so, for us in the Netherlands the jury is still out. Next years elections may even see - despite all our experience in dealing with narcist politicians) our local loudmouth become the biggest party (which of course has only one member, chief, secretary and treasurer: the loudmouth himself).

What appears to be happening in the US now, is that the essential traits of the narcist (inability to lose, to be left alone) lead to an increase of his erratic behaviour. In combination with the media that take their responsibility to not just amplify the voice, but also check it, this may finally lead to a choice for capabilities rather than pomposity.

Still, it will be very interesting to see how, in the US, as an example of a democracy with a lot of checks and balances, the elections play out. So in determining your vote, I wish you all the wisdom you need.