Dutch, French say no to Euro-nation
Over the weekend, French voters defeated a referendum to ratify the 300-page European Constitution, and yesterday the Netherlands voted no by an even larger margin, about 62%-38%. In both countries, nearly all major political parties and civic organizations supported passage. Instapundit linked to Netherlands-based, English language blog Zacht Ei, for results and commentary. Looking back through entries before the vote, I find this one, expressing optimism that not only will the Dutch defeat the Constitution, but that the defeat means something more profound for democracy and public discourse in that country.
As far as the Netherlands are concerned: in the past few days I've often wondered what worries Dutch politicians most: that a majority is considering to vote 'no', or that the country is finally engaged in the most intense political debate since the assassination of Pim Fortuyn. Indeed, the one thing that seemed to annoy most politicians about Fortuyn is that they suddenly had to debate issues which a large part of the electorate had wanted to address for years, and thanks to Fortuyn, they no longer could avoid it (though Ad Melkert famously tried).
I've felt strangely hopeful for the past few weeks, as the voice of dissent gradually increased in strength, that the tide may indeed be turning, and that this is the first step towards a better way of governing, in which politicians rule on behalf of the people rather than over them from a pedestal of feigned moral superiority.
My understanding of Dutch politics is limited, but it's my understanding that two or three parties have dominated -- trading places in the cabinet but operating under an unquestioned consensus. You get to an unstable political situation when no dominant party addresses an issue that matters to a large percentage of the population. In the Netherlands, immigration (particularly Muslim immigration) and European integration are two issues that had been ignored by the traditionally dominant parties.
The Netherlands sounds a lot like Tulsa: a powerful political elite confronted by upstart voices challenging the conventional wisdom, and a growing sense among the public that politicians should make government work for all the people, not just a favored few.