The Netherlands’ new populist “messiah” is “as fascinating as he is frightening,” said Stevo Akkerman. Thierry Baudet won a stunning upset victory in Senate elections last week. His Forum for Democracy party—founded only three years ago—went from zero to 13 seats and is now the biggest party in the legislature’s upper house.
A former academic, the telegenic Baudet, 36, is remarkable for his total self-confidence: He once described himself as the Netherlands’ most important intellectual. And unlike fellow populist Geert Wilders, who relies mainly on hate speech, Baudet has the ability to inspire his followers with soaring philosophical rhetoric. Few would have picked up on the literary and biblical references in his victory speech, but his lament about a spiritual vacuum clearly touched a chord with citizens disillusioned by today’s vision-free technocratic politicians. Painting an apocalyptic vision of a white culture undermined by immigration and climate change activism, he spoke of the sun setting on “the greatest civilization ever,” a sunset that will be checked, he implied, now that he’s on the scene. One can admire Baudet for being willing to tackle big themes. But the idea of returning to a “glorified past,” with salvation reserved for his chosen group of white nationalists, won’t do. “In such a paradise the snake is never far away.”