The loss of national identity. Disillusionment with mainstream politicians. Unemployment. Globalization. None of these are new features of Western societies.
The problem is that these issues have collided with the refugee crisis and poor economic growth across the continent, leading some to conclude that their countries are in decline.
This challenge to the status quo has, it seems, been aggravated by new forms of rebellion and political activism, made possible through the Internet -- which is something that traditional political parties seem to have not gotten their heads around yet.
Donald Trump's victory in the US presidential election seemed the perfect example of this changing political landscape. When discussing far-right parties contending in elections in Holland, France and Germany, the media often refers to a Trump-style breakthrough in Europe.
Wilders had been trying to link his campaign with Trump's victory. He even adopted the slogan
, "MAKE THE NETHERLANDS GREAT AGAIN!"
This rhetoric was naturally welcomed by the generally pro-Trump news site, Breitbart. In its eyes, Wilders was
"following in the footsteps of would-be presidential wall builder Trump."
Yet, we should not be under the illusion that this is all down to Trump: The groups we are talking about -- populists, nationalists and neo-fascists -- have been around in Western Europe for some time.
Even in the aftermath of the Second World War, former Italian fascists founded the Italian Social Movement, a political party that survived in democratic and post-fascist Italy.
From the 1980s onwards, a new wave of far-right movements, led in France by Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front, began gaining votes and popularity. This was followed by important electoral gains in the 1990s by the Swiss People's Party, the Freedom Party in Austria, the Northern League in Italy, and also in Greece, Hungary and Scandinavia. Their anti-immigrant policies were very similar to those of the new breed of nationalists.
Wilders is simply the latest example of a European right-wing extremist tradition with roots in interwar fascism.
Despite claims that Marine Le Pen's National Front and fellow parties have been "normalized" since Trump's win, I don't believe this stands up to scrutiny.
Wilders and others are merely championing a right-wing, white European version of a civilization/religious clash that we had heard long before the 2016 US election campaign.
What the new nationalists share with the old is a platform based on economic protectionism, defense of national cultures, abandoning free movement of EU citizens across borders (and more broadly the rejection of the EU), anti-Islam and, often, a positive approach to Russia.
If the far right gets its way, Europe will end up as a collection of non-liberal and non-multicultural single states. There will be consequently no space for supranational institutions, foreigners and solidarity.
Before the election, Wilders said
: "I say to all Dutch people at home, when you go to vote on Wednesday, if you want to put our country up for sale and ensure that our money goes to asylum seekers, Brussels and Africa instead of our own people, vote for the VVD."
But that these sentiments attracted support should not be shocking to anyone.
It is perhaps time that Europe stopped kidding itself by hiding behind its perception of being a place of tolerance, liberalism and culture.
As the Dutch result shows, extremist voters and narrow nationalist feelings are not yet a majority. But people who voted for Wilders also show how much the idea of the cosmopolitan old continent is under threat.
It is time for elites and civil societies to wake up before it is too late.