Over at The Monkey Cage, Erik Voeten has an interesting post about how politicians in Europe (in this case, specifically, The Netherlands) are learning American political behavior. However, this is not necessarily a good thing. Writing about a far-right Dutch politician repeating Todd Akin’s infamous statement about “legitimate rape,” Voeker writes:
The SGP is one of the most reactionary parties in Europe. It is a Christian Conservative party that was finally forced in 2006 to allow women to become members. It still prohibits women from standing for elected office (although the Dutch Highest Court has ruled that something needs to be done about that). It would hardly seem necessary for a party like this to advertise its beliefs that women shouldn’t be allowed to choose much of anything. Yet, the party is routinely ignored by the media unless its spokespeople say something offensive about gays or women. However, even that is difficult. The party has long held that abortion should not be allowed even after rape. This viewpoint no longer gets the media juices flowing. Yet the Akin theory that the female body has magical properties that shut down its reproductive channels in cases of rape seemed to do just that in the U.S. A nice opportunity to draw some attention a few weeks before an election.
For most politicians in most electoral settings mimicking Akin would be a bad idea. But the SGP has two seats in a proportional representation system. It would like to have three seats, as it did in the past. It is not going to attract mainstream voters so it has to draw the attention of voters with fringe ideologies. Geert Wilders has long been a master at this: looking at the US public space as a laboratory to figure out what types of opinions create maximally divisive responses; and thus attention. European political parties have long mimicked the campaign strategies of their American counterparts but now at least some of them also seem to be mimicking their campaign gaffes (although Van der Staaij was smart enough not to talk about “legitimate rape”).
This is an interesting comparison that could be viewed in at least two ways: What kind of parties outside the US make such statements? How do such statements work in other institutional contexts? But, also, what does this say about political discourse—both in America and abroad?