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
social sciences

What are you like? What does your personality predict?

Psychology has created many personality tests that help predict and understand people’s behavior. However one of the most used tests seems to be the Big Five test. This test changed a lot in it’s beginning phases, at the end of the nineteenth century. But now the test includes 5 different traits, which is often abbreviated to OCEAN.

OCEAN stands for the following traits: openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and neuroticism. A Big Five test includes scales measuring these five constructs. The beauty of this test is that these traits have been proven to be quite stable over a (person’s) lifetime. And these constructs have been used to measure links with other behaviors or personality traits. For instance, these have been linked to political preference, work performance, health behaviors, and even your social media behavior. (Link below to take the test!)

Big Five traits
As mentioned earlier, the test measures five different traits. The first trait, openness, is about one’s openness to new experiences. If you score high on this trait, you could be considered curious, and interested in arts or music, and you have an active imagination.
Second, there is conscientiousness, this has to do with being organized. This means you’re reliable in your work, and you do things efficiently.
Then there is extraversion, probably one of the most known traits of the Big Five. People who score high on this trait are sociable, outgoing, and not likely to be reversed or timid.
The fourth trait is agreeableness, this is your tendency to agree with others and to cooperate. If you score low on this, you are more likely to blame others, start fights, and be rude.
Lastly, there is neuroticism, people who score high on this are more likely to be emotionally unstable, worry a lot, and get nervous.

Job performance
As mentioned earlier, these traits are linked to behaviors in certain settings. In a job-related setting, in which one has to be social, you could imagine that extraversion would be beneficial for performance. This turned out to be the case according to research done by Barrick and Mount (1991), They also found that conscientiousness was beneficial for most types of jobs.

Political preferences
And in terms of political preferences, center-right voters score a bit higher on conscientiousness, whereas center-left voters scored higher on agreeableness and openness (Capara, Barbaranelli, & Zimbardo, 1999).
Openness to experience is negatively related to conservatism, this means that those who tend to score low on this trait are more likely to hold conservative views. Extraversion is linked to political participation, that is carried out through group settings, which intuitively makes sense since you will be spending time with others. Furthermore, extroverts are also more likely to engage in political discussions, however, interestingly enough do not necessarily possess more political knowledge. Those who score high on openness to experience do seem to have more of this knowledge. And lastly, highly agreeable individuals tend to avoid political discussions (Mondak & Halperin, 2008), and one could speculate that they would do so to avoid situations in which they might have to disagree, this might create an uncomfortable situation.

Health behaviors 
Conscientiousness is linked to behaviors that promote health, agreeableness is linked to behaviors that include less substance use. While both behaviors predict less risk-taking in traffic situations. The same researchers that found these links argue that knowledge of such associations can improve programs aimed to increase/promote help. For instance, they propose that those scoring low on conscientiousness might benefit more from programs that involve peers (Booth-Kewely & Vickers, 1994).

Social media behaviors
Those scoring high on openness to might be more likely to share and post intellectual information (Marshall, Lefringhausen, & Ferenczi, 2015). People who use Facebook for socializing score higher on neuroticism, whereas people who use Twitter for the same purpose score higher on openness. Individuals high in neuroticism and extraversion preferred Facebook over Twitter (Hughes, Rowe, Batey,  & Lee, 2012). The amount of Facebook friends has also been studied, neuroticism is negatively linked to this amount. This means that those high in neuroticism have fewer friends. And extraversion is positively linked, thus scoring higher on this trait means having more Facebook friends. Neurotics also engage in ‘liking’ others’ posts more and are part of more Facebook groups. The authors argue that these individuals tend to experience more negative emotions and therefore are more likely to take part in behaviors that might prompt support (Bachrach et al, 2012).

Take the Big Five test!

Inventory used to describe traits, very interesting read!

Bachrach, Y., Kosinski, M., Graepel, T., Kohli, P., & Stillwell, D. (2012). Personality and patterns of Facebook usage. In Proceedings of the 4th Annual ACM Web Science Conference (pp. 24-32). ACM.
Barrick, M. R., & Mount, M. K. (1991). The big five personality dimensions and job performance: a meta‐analysis. Personnel psychology, 44(1), 1-26.
Booth‐Kewley, S., & Vickers, R. R. (1994). Associations between major domains of personality and health behavior. Journal of personality, 62(3), 281-298.
Capara, G. V., Barbaranelli, C., & Zimbardo, P. G. (1999). Personality profiles and political parties. Political psychology, 20(1), 175-197.
Hughes, D. J., Rowe, M., Batey, M., & Lee, A. (2012). A tale of two sites: Twitter vs. Facebook and the personality predictors of social media usage. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(2), 561-569.
Marshall, T. C., Lefringhausen, K., & Ferenczi, N. (2015). The Big Five, self-esteem, and narcissism as predictors of the topics people write about in Facebook status updates. Personality and Individual Differences, 85, 35-40.
Mondak, J. J., & Halperin, K. D. (2008). A framework for the study of personality and political behaviour. British Journal of Political Science, 38(02), 335-362.