Joëlle Raus

Yes We Cohen – How Obama’s Hype Took Over Holland

Holland is preparing for the next national elections. On June 9, we’ll stick a red pencil behind our ear, march to the nearest voting office and decide, from our multi-party system of 11 political organization, who’ll be running the Netherlands for the next four year term.

On February 20 2010, the latest Dutch cabinet crumbled under the heavy question of whether or not to extend the military mission in Uruzgan. Political parties CDA, which is Holland’s biggest coalition party, and Christen Unie, the smallest organization in Prime Minister Balkenende’s fourth cabinet, refused to comply with the demand of Labour Party leader Wouter Bos to withdraw all of the 1,600 Dutch soldiers from the Afghan province and just like that another one of Balkenende’s cabinets collapsed. Of course, this outcome would have been less dramatic if any of Balkenende’s previous three coalition governments completed their terms…

The parties represented in the Dutch parliament are the Christian Democratic Appeal, Labour Party, Socialist Party, People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, Party for Freedom, GreenLeft, ChristianUnion (or Christian Unie), Democrats 66, Party for Animals, Reformed Political Party and the Independents Senate Fraction. One of the most remarkable changes happened in the camp of the PvdA (Dutch Labour Party), the second biggest of the 11 political organizations. PvdA party leader Bos, who’s also the Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister, made way for Job Cohen who, at the time of the democratic demolition of Balkenende’s fourth cabinet, had been the mayor of Amsterdam for over 10 years.

“Cohen for Prime Minister!” roared the crowd.

Word on the Dutch streets, blogs, Internet forums and tweets were that Cohen was the man to get the job done. After being beat by the CDA in the Prime Minister-race and losing many votes to the Socialist Party during the elections of 2006, the PvdA party now seems to have regained its groove.

With the increased popularity of the party and Cohen as its new face it was only a matter of time before the organization found a new slogan. If anything, the umphteenth collapsed cabinet shows Holland that there’s work to be done and with a name like Job, the possibilities are infinite. Normally the party’s phrase is presented during a speech or campaign but this time the public beat the politicians to the punch. It was Joëlle Raus, the assistant artistic director of one of Amsterdam’s leading theatre companies MC, who came up with the catchphrase “Yes We Cohen” and brought the Obama-hype to the Dutch capital.

Accordingly, any self-respecting movement has a Facebook page and the Dutch didn’t have to wait long before fan requests hit their inbox. The “Yes! We Cohen” page on Facebook gained dozens of members by the minute but on March 24 Amsterdam’s ex-mayor pooped the party. Cohen informed the nation that even though he loves the people’s enthusiasm, he wouldn’t be using Barack Obama’s chant for change. On March 25 however Cohen recorded a video message for Joëlle Raus and Jara Enkelaar, the masterminds behind the fan page, where he talked about how great and supportive their Facebook initiative was of his PvdA’s candidacy and how pleased he is with Holland’s political shift.

Today the fan page shouting out Cohen has 13,582 members and the numbers keep growing. I think, regardless if he ends up using the slogan or not, Miss Joëlle should at least get a spot on the PvdA’s election team. I certainly hope Cohen will hook this sister up with the proper appreciation for letting her wit and work serve his popularity. And not just because he should, but because he can.

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