YES. Today it’s official: I’m entering Dutch politics as a candidate for D66. With no hope of actually winning.
I’ve been asked by Amsterdam D66 to be a ‘Lijst Duwer’ for the 2014 local elections, Gemeenteraadsverkiezingen. Jan Paternotte is Number 1 on the Amsterdam candidate list (aka lijst trekker). He asked me to support the party by joining the list – as Number 49. In other words, I’m the ‘List Pusher.’
At first, I was flattered that a major political party would think I have enough notoriety to help their campaign. In truth, I’ve only carved out a bit of a niche among Dutch expats. And that’s exactly want they’re after. There’s a record amount of internationals in Amsterdam, and many are unaware they can vote. Yes, that’s right: You don’t need Dutch citizenship to vote in the nationwide local elections; you only need 5 years of residence in the Netherlands. If I have the chance to help spread that message, how can I say no?
Why D66? 3 reasons.
– Independent. To me, they are the embodiment of Dutch pragmatic politics. They’re not bound by ideology (see ‘Socialists,’ anything with ‘Christian’ in the title, etc.). They play a vital, centrist role. Supporting them is denying support for the far-right and left.
– Pro-Europe. I am a fan of the European experiment. To me, D66 is the loudest supporter of the EU – even while anti-EU populism is much louder. (I also give full credit to PvdA Minister Timmermans for demanding a more effective EU.) There are those who resist a ‘United States of Europe.’ But who else will take over while the US is clearly ready for a rest?
– Education, education, education. D66 has positioned itself as ‘The Education Party,’ and I’m a fan of Dutch education. My kids are going to Dutch schools, which would be vastly unaffordable in the US. Still, the evidence of cutbacks here is shocking, and the fact that D66 steadfastly prevented further cuts is a huge relief.
Another reason – it’s personal. One of the biggest early fans of Boom Chicago was Lousewies van der Laan. That’s well before she became the leader of the national party. More than a fan of our comedy, she was a fan of bilingual education – just like me. At one point she asked me to help out on an internal campaign, and from there I ended up volunteering for various D66 campaigns. Amsterdam D66 politician Sebastiaan Capel has invited me a series of events on making Amsterdam more attractive for expats, and you could say he was the inspiration for my project ‘Behind Dutch Headlines.’ And I’ve even been invited to perform for the D66 national congress. That’s where Pep Rosenfeld and I teased them: ‘The reason they’re called D66 is “‘If you’ve only got 66 seats in Parliament, they’re the extra 10.”’
Yes, I’m aware D66 is not perfect. For a non-ideological party, they do like the government to live up to its own ideals. If D66 doesn’t get its way (national referendum voting, direct election of mayors, revoking the passport of a Dutch politician), it will occasionally crash the coalition. The 2010 non-democratic antics of D66 in Amsterdam West were agonizing to watch. And – for a party that calls itself pro-education – you’d think that the party leader would argue for more slavery-awareness in Dutch schools, instead of ducking the cameras at the mention of Zwarte Piet. Sure, I could continue to lob my potshots from outside the party. But why not take my chances inside it?
Perhaps the biggest reason I’m supporting D66 is the D for Democrats. We’ve got 2 big elections coming up in 2014, and I don’t hear anybody talking about them. If I’m offered a chance to help raise awareness and get people to do their democratic duty, I say yes.