While the phrase “drain the swamp” originated in the 19th century, it has recently become synonymous with the politics of Donald Trump, a deeply unpopular figure in Denmark.
Former Danish Immigration Minister and liberal-conservative Venstre party deputy leader Inger Støjberg has landed in hot water after calling to “drain the swamp”, a phrase immediately associated with the campaign and views of US President Donald Trump.
Standing before a cartoon of the incumbent prime minister, Mette Frederiksen of the Social Democrat party, Støjberg employed the language of US President Donald Trump by saying: “We have to drain the swamp of Mette Frederiksen’s power and arrogance”.
Due to Trump’s deep unpopularity in Denmark (merely 10 percent of Danes had confidence in Trump, according to a 2020 study by the Per Research Centre), Støjberg’s comments sparked outrage across party lines.
Justice Minister Social Democrat Nick Hækkerup called the comments “deeply distasteful” and “damaging”.
“Venstre is attempting to create a schism in Denmark to try and win political ground. But we cannot have a situation like in the US, where the population loses all trust in the authorities”, he said.
Social Liberal Party leader Sofie Carsten Nielsen urged Venstre to “distance themselves from this”, not to “sow division”, and “not to become like the GOP”.
“Dræn sumpen”? @venstredk det er I nødt til at tage afstand fra. Vi skal løse problemerne. Komme til bunds i lovbrud. Ja! Men det dér? Det er splittelse i sin essens. I ved det. Vi har set det. Bliv ikke til GOP #dkpol
— Sofie CarstenNielsen (@sofiecn) November 21, 2020
Even former and current Venstre members weighed in, expressing criticism.
“‘To drain the swamp’ has, until now, never been a part of normal Danish speech”, former Prime Minister and long-time Venstre leader Lars Løkke Rasmussen said.
Even Former Venstre Justice Minister Søren Pind lamented the phrasing on Twitter.
“‘Drain the Swamp…’ what happened to my good old party?”, Pind wondered.
“I thought the liberals were against cultural appropriation. Apparently not in the case of Reagan-Trump-Støjberg”, he added.
Jeg troede, de borgerlige var imod kulturel appropriation. Åbenbart ikke i tilfældet Reagan-Trump-Støjberg
— Søren Pind (@sorenpind) November 24, 2020
Even Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, the current chair of Venstre and the son of former Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, tried to distance himself and the party from Støjberg’s rhetoric.
“I have heard that phrase from the – fortunately – now former US president. I can assure you that whatever he meant by that phrase does not represent the views of Venstre”, Ellemann-Jensen told TV2.
Støjberg, no stranger to controversy, stuck to her guns by arguing it was just a common phrase.
“I thought it was such a common American expression when it comes to not just being perfect in power. And that is what I think is the problem with Mette Frederiksen and her government”, Støjberg told Danish Radio.
Støjberg previously landed in hot water after celebrating the 50th tightening of immigration laws under her tenure with cake and calling Muslims fasting for Ramadan to take a leave of absence from work so as not to disturb the rest of society.
The phrase “drain the swamp” has frequently been used by American politicians since the 19th century, alluding to measures combat malaria by keeing mosquito populations low. Over the years, it has been employed by Ronald Reagan, Pan Buchanan, and Nancy Pelosi, to name a few. However, in recent years it has become most cloesly associated with Donald Trump, who in three weeks before the 2016 election tweeted it no fewer than 79 times, describing his plan to combat corruption and fix the government’s problems.