Dutch Elections: Borrowing American Rhetoric

Election day is approaching in the Netherlands, on the 17th of March Dutch citizens will be able to cast their vote. However this year people will have to do a little more homework on parties’ policies than they’re used to, as a record number of political parties have registered to participate in the elections. 89 parties1 in total. These parties are competing for a spotlight to get their ideologies out. Therefore, as a political party, it has become imperative to participate in online media to win votes. Relying on traditional media (e.g. TV, radio, and newspapers) isn’t enough. Parties seem to be fully aware of this and have extensively used social media platforms over the past couple of months to get their points across. However, with a large ‘American’ presence on social media, Dutch parties have started using typical American discourse to appeal to Dutch voters.

Concepts and phrases endemic to American media and literature can now also be found in Dutch political campaigns. These words and phrases are sometimes overt and directly referential to its American origin. Though, other times, the concepts are inserted in Dutch political discourse in such a seemingly casual way that it almost seems as if the rhetoric was historically Dutch all along.

The Netherlands are GREAT?

The tweet that can be seen here is a prime example of an overt reference to American politics. The political party “Christian Democratic Appeal” (CDA) uses the American ‘Republican-Democrat dichotomy’ to frame their centrist stance. While it might get the message across, the American political landscape does not translate well to the Dutch political spectrum.

In their tweet they also borrow former president Trump’s recognizable rallying cry “Make [noun] great again”. While the message tries to appeal to centrist voters, the language used here is associated with Republican (e.g. conservative) beliefs. But in this context that might not be relevant, as it serves to appeal to nationalistic attitudes.

Furthermore, the tweet also alludes to the Netherlands being “great”. This kind of wording is evident in American media and literature to describe the United States and stems from American exceptionalism. American exceptionalism is the idea that the United States are inherently different from other nations. They might be conscientiously borrowing this rhetoric as they specifically refer to the country (“land”) being great.

The Dutch dream?

This is a post shared by former prime minister Mark Rutte of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). The phrasing used by Rutte borrows two concepts from American discourse.

First, he uses the ‘bootstraps mentality’. This is the creed that one can achieve success through one’s own effort. Social mobility is possible for everyone, all you have to do is work for it. This mindset has existed in the American political discourse for a very long time2. A recent political example would be the words of Senator Tim Scott, as said the following: “That’s the beauty of America, from cotton to Congress in one lifetime”3. Rutte hijacks this type of discourse in his post as well, stating “[…] don’t give up! You can achieve anything you want in this country”.

As for the second concept, Rutte refers to the “Dutch dream” being alive. Which blatantly plagiarizes the well-known phrase, “the American dream”. Moreover it also hints at the contemporary discussions whether this “American dream” is still alive (e.g. NYTimes: The American Dream is Alive and Well4). Rutte takes this recognizable concept and attempts to embed it into the Dutch political context, in which is doesn’t exist yet.

(Green) New deal?

This is a retweet by the Green Political Party (GL) referring to a tweet by CDA. CDA mentions the “New Deal” here. The New Deal was comprised of financial programs and reforms implemented in the United States during the Great Depression. CDA uses the New Deal as a concept to indicate what the party will do for the Dutch economy after the pandemic.

GL responds to this tweet by mentioning the Green New Deal, this proposal for policy is based on Roosevelt’s New Deal. The Green New Deal has also been part of the American political landscape as Democratic house members have tried to pass legislature with the same name in 20195.

Because of the Green New Deal already existing in online (American) political discourse, GL can effortlessly use this phrase to introduce concepts related to climate change policies.

New medium new tools

Media such as Twitter has given politicians a platform to appeal to voters. And Twitter ‘forces’ users to encode a message in a few sentences. This means that users will have to resort to already known concepts. Because of the large presence of American politics on the Internet, social media users from all over the world have learned to understand concepts from an American political context. Thus, the political concepts from American discourse create a framework that politicians from other countries can use in their effort to communicate with potential voters.

  1. https://www.kiesraad.nl/actueel/nieuws/2020/12/30/89-partijnamen-geregistreerd-voor-tweede-kamerverkiezing-2021
  2. https://ideas.time.com/2012/09/07/the-myth-of-bootstrapping/
  3. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/tim-scott-family-racism_n_5787fd89e4b08608d333c56d
  4. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/18/opinion/inequality-american-dream.html
  5. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/senate-fails-advance-green-new-deal-democrats-protest-mcconnell-sham-n987506