Donald Trump appointed a Dutch American ambassador to Holland

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tags: Trump, Ambassador to Holland

Pete Hoekstra seemed a good choice for America’s ambassador to the Netherlands when President Donald Trump appointed him last year. Mr Hoekstra, a former congressman, was born in the Netherlands and grew up in Holland, a largely Dutch-American town in Michigan. Unfortunately, Mr Hoekstra had baselessly claimed in 2015 that politicians in the Netherlands were “being burned” by Muslim radicals. A Dutch television reporter in Washington duly asked him what he had meant. Mr Hoekstra denied having said it, prattling about “fake news”. The Dutch press corps was livid. Mr Hoekstra waited three weeks before formally apologising. The Dutch were also irritated by his opposition to same-sex marriage.

As it turns out, appointing a Dutch-American ambassador to The Hague was a diplomatic and cultural misstep. The Netherlands is among the most liberal countries in the world. Most Dutch-Americans, like Mr Hoekstra, are conservative. The regions where they cluster, in north-western Iowa and south-western Michigan, are devoutly Protestant and overwhelmingly Republican. Mr Hoekstra’s hometown has not backed a Democrat in a presidential election since 1864.

Holland’s other favourite daughters and sons include Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education, and her brother Erik Prince, who founded the private security firm Blackwater and was an early backer of Mr Trump. Dick DeVos, Mrs DeVos’s billionaire husband, is Dutch-American too; his father co-founded Amway, a sales company based in nearby Grand Rapids. Mr DeVos’s political activism includes a well-funded, ultimately successful campaign against trade unions.

What accounts for the cultural gulf? Some trace it back to the early settlers. “The people who left the Netherlands were some of the most conservative Dutch-speaking people on the planet,” says Jay Peters, a progressive city council member in Holland.

Read entire article at The Economist

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