Europe’s far-right leaders gathered in Koblenz, Germany, on Saturday to cheer the rise of populist nationalism that they believe is sweeping the West, from Britain’s exit from the European Union to the election of President Donald Trump. With national elections coming up this year in the Netherlands, France and Germany, Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front party predicted 2017 “will be the year of the Continental peoples rising up.”
According to NT millions in the United States and around the world, including in cities across Europe, were rising up, but not to support the populist right. They marched in an astounding display of global solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington to express their outrage at Mr. Trump’s attack on hard-won rights, and at the politics of division that helped propel him to office.
The latest poll now pegs Ms. Le Pen as the front-runner in France’s two-round presidential elections in April and May. And polls suggest Geert Wilders’s anti-Islam Dutch Freedom Party will win a majority of the seats in Parliament in elections in the Netherlands on March 15. The fortunes of the far-right Alternative for Germany are also on the rise, and while the party is far from taking power, it is expected to garner enough votes in the federal election in September to win seats in Germany’s Bundestag for the first time.
Still, polls can be fickle. Witness François Fillon’s victory over Nicolas Sarkozy in France’s center-right Les Républicains party’s primary in November, and Sunday’s first round of the Socialist party’s primary vote in which the left-wing candidate Benoît Hamon took a surprising lead over Prime Minister Manuel Valls. In December, Austrian voters rejected the far-right candidate Norbert Hofer’s bid to become president, handing victory instead to the Green Party leader, Alexander Van der Bellen. Alarm over the election of Mr. Trump, and his punches at the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, may have contributed to Mr. Hofer’s defeat.
Trying to replicate the victory of Mr. Trump — who won the Electoral College vote but lost the popular vote by nearly three million — could prove a bad bet for Europe’s far-right candidates, whose elections are based on the popular vote. The falsehoods Mr. Trump issued in his first days in office, his contemptuous treatment of the press and the rollbacks of important policies are sure to fuel even stronger resistance in the United States.
That resistance is resonating in Europe, putting additional pressure on mainstream political leaders, but also sounding a warning to far-right challengers: When citizens realize what upending, rather than fairly reforming, the existing economic, social and security order actually means, they will most likely hit the streets.