America needs a Pym Fortuyn, and Rudolph Giuliani may be the man for the job.
Fortuyn, you may recall, was the gay, flamboyant sociology professor turned "right-wing" Dutch politician who took a hard-line position against immigration and Islamic extremism - two issues inextricably linked in a country where whole communities have become enclaves of Sharia law. Fortuyn was labeled right wing for his unapologetic view that the Netherlands should stay both liberal and libertine.
His basic view was that the Netherlands has a culture too, and there's no shame in defending civil liberties, free expression and tolerance against their opponents, even if those opponents exploit liberal guilt by casting themselves as victims. In other words, Fortuyn wanted to keep the party going, and that meant taking a strong line against the killjoys. That Fortuyn could be both libertarian and tough-minded caused great cognitive dissonance in the media and on the left. He was assassinated by a left-wing extremist.
America is not the Netherlands, and Rudy Giuliani is no Pim Fortuyn in his personal life. But Giuliani is still a social liberal, as Americans define the term. He's for same-sex unions, though not gay marriage. He's pro-choice. A Catholic, he's been married three times. His first marriage was annulled on dubious grounds - he "suddenly" discovered his wife was his second cousin. And his second marriage ended in a tabloid divorce. Giuliani also has a decidedly liberal record on immigration; how could a mayor of New York not?
But Giuliani was considered a raging right-winger as mayor. No doubt this had much to do with the city's political center being so far to the left. But there's more to it than that. When I grew up in New York in the 1970s and 1980s, the job of mayor was, essentially, to manage the city's decline. Crime was not only seen as permanent, some on the left even tried to rationalize it as part of the city's charm.
By the time Giuliani arrived, social chaos was seen as the natural order of things. Giuliani heroically challenged these assumptions. He and his first police commissioner, William J. Bratton, refused to accept that mere containment was the best anyone could hope for.
Some are familiar with Giuliani's quality-of-life campaign against turnstile jumpers, welfare cheats, squeegee men, graffiti artists and porn shops. What's forgotten is that Giuliani was reviled for these efforts by the New York Times, the entertainment industry and the intellectual left - whose numbers are so great in the Big Apple that they actually constitute a voting bloc - and that every day he leaped back into the breach.