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Will the Sun Shine Again in the Netherlands?

Geert Wilders finally gets his chance.

The coming of spring is pretty much the same everywhere, but it is especially glorious in the Netherlands. The winters are cold and clammy, the sky almost constantly gray; most winters, in most Dutch cities, there is little if any snow, but the air always feels damp, the sun rarely if ever shows itself, and the rain can seem never-ending. Then, at around this time of year, it all changes, quite suddenly and quite gloriously: the rains cease, the sun not only emerges but shines with such intensity that you can feel the warmth in your bones; as if on cue, the café owners all put their sidewalk tables out again and the householders fill their window boxes with tulips. Looking around you, you’re reminded what an extraordinarily beautiful country it is.

So there was something especially moving about a statement Geert Wilders made at a historic press conference last week. Just under six months had passed since the November 22 elections in which his Freedom Party (PVV) won 37 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives, making it the nation’s largest party for the first time since its founding in 2006. The results represented a spectacular upset for the ruling coalition of four parties, all of which experienced losses, as well as for the Dutch political establishment generally. Since that establishment has long considered Wilders a dangerous extremist, and since some of the fifteen parties that are represented in the lower house still want nothing to do with him, the question of how exactly his party’s success could be translated into the formation of a viable government representing the will of the Dutch electorate was not an easy one.

Indeed, it has taken many months of proposals, counter-proposals, and elaborate negotiations for the the PVV and three other parties — the VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy), the NSC (New Social Contract), and the BBB (Farmer-Citizen Movement) — to work out detailed plans for a coalition government whose goals have been spelled out in a newly released 26-page document. Announcing this agreement at his press conference, Wilders promised to institute “the strictest asylum policy ever,” to lower taxes (including taxes on gasoline), to reduce development aid, to address the housing crisis, to take a “tougher approach to terror,” and to “work toward deporting criminal refugees.” In short, the coalition government will “set a new course for our country” under the motto “hope, courage, and pride,” and will seek to make Dutchmen “proud of this country again, of our beautiful Netherlands.” In short, as Wilders put it, “the Netherlands will become safer and the sun will shine again.” The sun will shine again! Yes, it was political rhetoric, but as a great admirer of Wilders and a lover of the Netherlands — especially of Netherlands in the spring — I found it moving.
The new government will be an unusual one. Half of its members will be non-politicians — business people and other experts in various fields. Neither Wilders nor any of the other party leaders will become prime minister. It’s not a bad idea. In parliamentary democracies, cabinets tend to consist exclusively of members of parliament who belong to the ruling party or parties; as a result, important ministries like finance or defense can end up in the hands of callow young people with no background whatsoever in these areas. (Of course, if the wrong person is in charge, the same thing can happen in the U.S., where a buffoon like Pete Buttigieg is named Secretary of Transportation simply because he fulfills certain identity criteria that have nothing to do with the duties of the job.) And of course in any system where career politicians run government departments, sensible decision-making can easily take a back seat to political considerations.

Needless to say, the Netherlands’ legacy media has no interest in giving Wilders’s coalition a chance. In the view of the editors of NRC, a leading newspaper, the Netherlands was now “joining a sad European trend” whereby “right-wing radical parties … are coming to power by sharpening their sharpest edges.” Responding to Wilders’s use of the word “pride,” NRC lamented that it seemed “to refer mainly to a Netherlands that is anxiously turning inwards, no longer wanting to look beyond the dikes.” Wilders, NRC charged, was leading the Netherlands full-speed into a “climate crisis” and was putting “the ‘ordinary’ Dutchman” ahead of “asylum seekers, Muslims, nature, Europe, the cultural sector” — a patently unacceptable choice.

Sound familiar? The problem for NRC, obviously, is that Wilders’s program is, to all intents and purposes, a Dutch variation on Trumpism — favoring natives over illegal immigrants, national sovereignty over subordination to international organizations (the UN) or superstates (the EU), the voting power of “deplorables” over the tyranny of a small unelected elite, and common-sense environmentalism over radical climate ideology.

To sensible people, every bit of it makes sense: but to NRC it’s “raw right-wing conservatism.” NRC does admit that this “is what a majority of voters who voted for these parties apparently want.” But NRC, like many mainstream media in the U.S., isn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of actually allowing the electorate to choose its own country’s leaders and chart its own country’s path.

The Dutch media are particularly uneasy about the coalition’s possible actions on immigration, especially of the Islamic variety. Wilders, of course, has for years been his country’s most prominent voice on the subject — a role formerly occupied by, in succession, Pim Fortuyn (who was murdered in 2002), Theo van Gogh (who was murdered in 2004), and Ayaan Hirsi Ali (who left for the U.S. in 2006). Owing to his frank talk about Islam, Wilders has lived for years in a bulletproof house, is driven to work in an armored car, has the most secure office in the Dutch Parliament (believe me, I’ve been there), and goes nowhere without a full-time cohort of six bodyguards. In other words, he’s told the truth and fought the good fight at great personal sacrifice. (This is the man about whom the editors of NRC have the audacity to say: “Wilders has not cared about his voters for years.”)

To be sure, some of Wilders’s plans don’t sound as sweeping as one might wish: during last year’s campaign, his proposals included banning mosques and madrassas and even the Koran. (For my part, I’d send every household in the Netherlands a booklet containing all the most incendiary passages in the Koran.) But given that he’s working under the constraints that go along with being part of a coalition, the bullet points in the agreement with regard to Islam, immigration, and integration seem like a reasonable start: freezing decisions on asylum cases; deporting people without valid residence permits; ending the current practice, in the allocation of public housing, of prioritizing refugees with temporary residence permits over native-born Dutch citizens; tightening border controls; imposing stricter policies for admitting refugees, which includes an end to the practice of rewarding refugees who’ve discarded their identity documents; tightening “family reunification” policies; shortening the appeals process for refugee applications; making it possible to deport criminal aliens quickly; taking stricter action against asylum seekers in “reception centers” who commit acts of violence against women, gays, or Christians; punishing those who’ve failed to comply with deportation orders; and taking a more aggressive approach to integration, which, the coalition agreement specifies, means, among other things, requiring a higher level of competency in Dutch and extensive education about the Holocaust.

Is this new start for the Netherlands too little, too late? Perhaps. But if Wilders’s coalition can put its program into effect, and carry it out with enough force and (yes) toughness, it could make a positive difference. It could encourage politicians in other Western countries who share Wilders’s determination to preserve their own countries’ freedom, tradition, and values — and who recognize the rampant ongoing Islamization of Western Europe as a cataclysmic threat to these things — to amp up their own efforts.

In any event, when one turns from Wilders’s program to (for instance) the British government’s approach to Islamic perfidy — as exemplified by its long-term whitewashing of Muslim rape gangs, its hands-off approach to even the most violent participants at pro-Hamas rallies, and its brutal attempts to silence (or even destroy) critics of Islam like Tommy Robinson — what decent, liberty-loving individual could do other than to cheer the ambitions of Wilders and his coalition partners?
Better, after all, to go down fighting than to yield power to a merciless enemy all the while hoping desperately and pathetically for mercy.

Read this article on the website of The American Spectator.