Geert Wilders And The Perils Of Populism
September 13, 2012, 07:42 PM
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Dismal news for fans of Dutch nationalist-libertarian politician Geert Wilders.  His party performed poorly in this week's election.

The Freedom Party of Geert Wilders, which is known for being fiercely anti-Islam, and campaigned on a Eurosceptic platform, won 15 seats, well down on its previous 24.

Dutch voters went instead for what the BBC calls "the two main centrist parties." One, the VVD, is a neoliberal free-market tad-to-the-right-of-center show: think the Republican Party minus the save-the-world bombast.  The other, Party of Labor, is fairly congruent with our own Democrats.  The whole political landscape is more socially liberal than in the U.S., though.  Both parties, for example, support legalized euthanasia.

Part of Wilders' failure is just rotten luck.  For the past couple of years he's been running populist ads featuring a made-up couple of typical Dutch citizens, with the typically Dutch names of Henk and Ingrid.

Then, a few weeks ago, an elderly Turkish immigrant was knocked down in the course of an argument with a Dutch neighbor.  The neighbor's wife is supposed to have shouted an anti-Muslim insult at the prostrate Turk.  The blow turned out to have caused a brain hemorrhage, and the Turk later died.

The names of the Dutch couple?  Yep:  Henk and Ingrid.  Ouch.  Nationalists just can't catch a break.

(In order to come up with name-archetypes like that, a nation needs to have some high degree of ethnic homogeneity.  Russians can do it:  Vanya and Katya are Mr. and Mrs. Citizen.  

It won't work in the U.S.A.  When I was a kid in England "Brother Jonathan" was still current as the archetypical American, but I don't recall that he had a wife, and I haven't heard his name for decades.

For the English people of today it's easy:  Mohammed and Fatima.)