The transcontinental byway between far right politicians has gone mysteriously silent.
The day after Donald Trump was sworn in as the US’s 45th president, France’s Marine Le Pen stood with the Dutch far right’s Geert Wilders and Europe’s most divisive politicians to hail Trump’s election as a victory for their own nationalist, anti-immigrant platforms. Le Pen told the cheering crowd at a “European counter-summit” that 2016 was the year “the Anglo-Saxon world woke up. 2017, I am sure, the people of continental Europe will wake up.”
This was on the heels of a curious Le Pen sighting at Trump’s New York home days before his inauguration.
The right-wing love fest didn’t last long. “Marine Le Pen has dropped references to Trump on the campaign trail,” says Richard Maher, research fellow at European University Institute who studies European integration. The far right presidential contender makes little mention of him during her campaign speeches, and there wasn’t a peep about the US president during either of France’s last two presidential TV debates.
Indeed, cheerleading for Trump has become taboo. In the wake of Wilders’s surprising loss in the Netherlands election, Trump’s victory is no longer a harbinger of looming populist upsets in Europe. Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, declared 2017 to be “the year of the patriotic spring,” but his party came far behind in second place in the country’s election, ceding ground to the left.
The “Trump effect” was partly to blame for Wilders’s loss. His supporters initially took a shine (link in Dutch) to Trump’s far right message, and support for his party peaked shortly after Trump’s election. But once Trump took office, Wilders’s support tanked.
In the month before the Dutch election, 60% of voters (paywall) who had supported Wilders before Trump took office, and then switched to support another party, said they now disagreed or strongly disagreed with Trump’s White House. Rem Korteweg, a senior research fellow at the think tank Centre for European Reform (CER) says once Trump became president, many Dutch thought, “if this is what it means to have a populist in power, maybe we shouldn’t want that.”
The same could happen in France. “Trump is really unpopular in France—even among Le Pen’s own supporters,” Maher says. A poll carried out two days after Trump was elected found that 75% of French people had a bad image (link in French) of the embattled US leader. Even 47% of FN supported admitted to disliking him. Maher says scandals and gridlock plaguing Trump’s government suggest that French voters who were “at least open to Trump initially” have been “turned off” by his dysfunctional administration.