Tomorrow, the 9th of September, Sweden will hold its general election. I’ve been campaigning full time for the last month, and I’ve read quite a bit of the reporting in American and other international media about the upcoming election. Not surprisingly, just like the reporting on American politics in Swedish media, it’s been absolutely cringe-worthy.
If certain media outlets are to be believed, a far-right, Trump-style party called the Sweden Democrats (no association to the US Democrats) might win a majority tomorrow. Speaking as a member of that party, however, I have to set a few things straight, and in the process of doing so
First of all, the Sweden Democrats are nowhere close to a majority. No party is. Swedish politics is parliamentary and by proportional representation, meaning a party that gets 10 % of the vote gets 10 % of the seats (you do however need 4 % to be allocated seats). Oh, and we got 8 parties represented in parliament splitting the vote, so needless to say no party will be anywhere close to a majority tomorrow! The way to win an election in Sweden is by forming coalitions and making your party big enough that a majority government cannot be easily formed without your backing.
Anyway, what kind of party are we then? Ideologically, we combine one nation conservatism with nationalism. We believe in traditional values, a strong military, severe restrictions on immigration (particularly refugee immigration), but we also believe society has a responsibility to care for those who cannot care for themselves and invest in education to help social mobility.
It is true that our main issue is immigration. For several decades Sweden has accepted multiple times as many refugees as other OECD countries per capita, and this has put a massive strain on our famous welfare state which provides a level of benefits to refugees that is simply unheard of anywhere else in the world. In 2015, we welcomed 163 000 refugees to Sweden, and to put matters into perspective, this would be as if the US were to welcome 5,2 MILLION refugees in a single year. Do you think your social safety nets could handle that burden? Of course not, and neither could ours!
This irresponsible immigration policy has been supported by every other party in parliament, with the right being no better than the left. To understand how such a consensus could happen, we have to go back in time: In the mid-early 1970’s, the Social Democrats who had been governing Sweden for over 40 years in a row were slowly losing their grip on the country. The election of 1973 was the tightest ever, and the traditional working class which formed the base of the party was shrinking rapidly as the post-industrial economy began to form. The Social Democrats realized that they were looking at a future of perpetual decline unless they could either 1) stop the post-industrial economy from taking over, 2) appeal to white collar workers or 3) import new voters. Guess which one they chose…
It just so happens that refugees are far more likely to vote left than other voters. Sweden has 60 areas that are classified as “vulnerable” – a term which is newspeak for “immigrant ghettos”. The left-winged parties in Sweden regularly get 70-90 % of the vote in these areas. Why wouldn’t they, when they are the ones that keep the benefit tap running?
This is similar to America, where many Democrats have long supported amnesty for political reasons as Latinos tend to lean Democrat. But why did the right-winged parties go along with this?
To understand that, you have to understand that the welfare state is a part of Sweden’s soul. If you ask a Swede for three things about his country that he is proud of, chances are he’ll name the welfare state as one of them. After more than 40 years (1932-1976) of uninterrupted Social Democratic rule a generation of Swedes had grown up with (one might even say they had been indoctrinated with) left-winged ideals about the role of the state, and no right-winged party could ever really challenge them. Even when the right-winged parties did get a chance to govern, 1976-82, they were only able to do minor changes to the way the welfare state worked. The labor unions that more than 80 % of the country’s workforce belonged to made sure of that.
Since both the left and the right benefited from high levels of low-skilled immigration, the borders were gradually opened up starting in the 1970’s. There never was any public support for this – polling from the early 1990’s and onward consistently show a plurality or majority in favor of reducing immigration. Yet not a single party would touch the issue with a ten-foot pole… until my party showed up. We first won seats in parliament in 2010, and in 2014 we received 13 % of the vote. Polling now puts us anywhere between 16-25 %, a wide range to be sure that’s down mostly to methodology (web vs phone). I’d be happy with anything over 20 %.
Many left-winged media outlets are decrying how the rise of my party shows that even Sweden is turning intolerant and selfish. Truth is that polling on attitudes towards immigrants and other cultures show that Swedes are just as tolerant as we’ve always been, maybe even more so than before. We still don’t mind immigrants, we just expect them to adapt to our society rather than the other way around! Oh and about that selfishness… my party strongly supports foreign aid; we believe it’s better to help refugees in the area where they come from (or the nearest safe territory) since you can help dozens if not hundreds of refugees over there for the same amount of money it takes to help one refugee in Sweden. Swedes are not turning selfish; they’re turning towards a better model for helping refugees
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