By now you will have read just about everywhere what a great and original thinker Mr. Geert Wilders is.
I am not nearly as enthusiastic, and I think comparisons with Mr. Pim Fortuyn are too much flattery for Mr. Geert Wilders. Let's dispell two myths right now, before I get to a fisking of his 'declaration of independence'. One, that Geert Wilders is the new Pim Fortuyn. Two, that he has to suffer through the same kind of verbal abuse and demeaning treatment Mr. Fortuyn had.
First of all, Geert Wilders is not Pim Fortuyn. I knew Mr. Fortuyn, albeit superficially. He was arrogant, but also very smart. I edited his copy when I was a junior editor at Elsevier News Weekly. His proposals were for the most part well thought out, and based on books he had written in the years before. Mr. Wilders' 'declaration' looks like it was penned down on the backside of a very soggy beer mat, but I'll get to that in a moment.
Second of all, Geert Wilders doesn't get nearly the same kind of nasty as Mr. Fortuyn. Ad Melkert, one of the most opportunistic Labour politicians this country has ever had to endure, refused to speak with him during a televised political debate. Mr. Fortuyn was called dangerous almost every time his name was mentioned. To top all that, influential former television host Marcel van Dam called him 'an inferior human being' on Dutch PBS. (Never mind that Marcel van Dam is the former CEO of the powerful PBS station VARA (which has socialist roots). Never mind also that he was accused of bankrupting Exota, a soda company, by allegedly falsifying television footage. Read more about it here.)
If you hear people blabber on about how 'the Main Stream Media' (MSM) mistreat Mr. Wilders, they are simply plain wrong. Ever since the murder of Van Gogh, most MSM don't take such an agressive approach towards politically incorrect ideas anymore. Not because they've suddenly become enlightened about their intellectual blackspots, but because they're also commercial enterprises (yes, despite their attempts to lambast their opponents as tools of evil corporations, they themselves have to make regular sacrifices at the altar of Mammon).
As a result, Wilders' 'declaration of independence' has received extensive coverage, even on Dutch PBS, and he was treated extremely mild compared to the abuse Mr. Fortuyn had to suffer through.
Which brings me to the first point, a discussion of what Mr. Wilders has on offer for the electorate.
I'm sorry to say his 'declaration' contains a lot of proposals, which are either unaffordable or at odds with some of his other proposals, or both. For example, Mr. Wilders claims to be in favour of increasing civil liberties, but nevertheless wants to give the police more leeway, for example by allowing them to frisk citizens without any suspicion or reason. He also wants to dismiss 50 percent of all civil servants, but increase the amount of funding for police departments and nursing homes, presumably to hire more people. (There's only that much money you can spend on diapers, and nursing homes don't have that many material needs either.) Never mind that most civil servants do have work to do, and although I can imagine some increase in efficiency, 50 percent seems rather outrageous. Finally, Mr. Wilders wants to lower taxes, but increase government spending in several areas. I know there's an American guy out there doing the same thing, but let's face it, he's got a trading deficit and the dollar to play around with, not to mention a really old banker who helps him to take advantage of the global financial markets. What is Mr. Wilders going to do? Oh yeah, I forgot: bring back the guilder, our former currency. Now that will help stabilize our economy!
I could go on, but then again, I'm really tired (and reading Wilders' stuff is not helping).
As I've said before, despite the shortcomings of his political doctrines I still think Wilders could do some good for Dutch politics. Populism might be just the right antidote for the pseudo-intellectualism that passes for political debate in The Hague these days. Wilders might be able to keep the right-wing VVD on its toes whenever it tends to stray too much towards the political center. He is after all competing with the VVD for the same group of voters. Labour party PvdA already has two parties on its left side (the Green Party (GroenLinks) and the Socialist Party (Socialistische Partij)) making sure it stays on the 'proper' course. It would be good to have such a counterbalance on the right side of the spectrum as well.