Populist Losers Keep Winning

By | 2018-09-14T19:33:26+00:00 September 15th, 2018|
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Perhaps the populist wave breaking across Europe had calmed into a dampened squib by the time it reached liberal Sweden last week, but the ripples have already made it onto dry land.

After a tumultuous election uncharacteristic of Swedish kumbaya and its usual progressive Olympics, the populist Sweden Democrats landed with 18 percent of the vote in third place, not far behind the conservative Moderate party (20 percent). The historically dominant Social Democrats “won” despite their worst result (28 percent) since back when Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House.

The Swedes will now work to cobble together a coalition government, but given that neither the left nor right blocs managed to win outright, months of horse-trading follows.

Jimmie Akesson, leader of the Sweden Democrats (SD), claimed his party would shape Swedish politics for “months and years to come” while every party involved in the left bloc of three, and the four-party Alliance, have refused to work with Akesson.

Ulf Kristersson, the leader of the second-largest Moderates, and perhaps the next prime minister of a center-right minority government, said he will “not discuss” anything with the leperous Sweden Democrats.

But he will need Akesson’s 63 (from 49) lawmakers to help vote through budgets. They’ll want a say on immigration policy in return for those votes.

Akesson could perhaps be disappointed that his 25 percent polling high dissolved into a third-place finish, but his party’s raison d’être concerning immigration remains front and center. Indeed, Akesson’s rivals all hardened their immigration stances in the run up to Sunday’s election, blunting his bombast.

Moreover, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini celebrated the result, saying “the homeland of multiculturalism . . . has finally decided to change after years of rampant immigration.”

The populist realignment sweeping Europe is not over. They don’t have to win outright to win. For all their public “disgust” at such politics, mainstream parties privately are stealing the clothes of those they publicly claim to detest.

In the fractious last weeks of the election campaign, Sweden’s center-Left pledged to halve the number of refugees, slash welfare benefits for failed applicants, tighten security checks, and ban failed asylum-seekers who refuse to leave Sweden voluntarily from ever coming back. The Social Democrats, led by current Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, promised to halve the numbers coming into Sweden.

The center-Right (the equivalent of moderate Democrats in the United States) hammered out a similar approach, calling for stronger integration measures, and warning that failure to integrate new arrivals would threaten Sweden’s generous welfare state.

It appears that Swedes accepted the cross-party U-turn, in a country which only four years ago had a prime minister Reinfeldt begging his 10 million citizens to “open their hearts” to hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers.

More than 200,000 arrived—trumping per head even Angela Merkel’s disastrous dalliance—often finding themselves mired in crime-ridden ghettos as riots and violent crime dominated an often-bemused Swedish mainstream media.

The immigration debate soon infected Sweden. Despite even the sitting prime minister imploring Swedes to vote for anyone but the Sweden Democrats, one-fifth of all voters did.

Perhaps Swedish parties learned from the mistakes of their denuded center-Left European brethren and listened (albeit rather lately) to the concerns of those they govern.

Of course, in public they still denounce anyone outside of their simpering claques to be “extreme” even as they raid those filthy elements of their ideas on immigration.

But the real extremists are those shouting loudest. Their enbubbled friends may all agree with them, but unfettered immigration isn’t at all popular with the actual mainstream. Ask the Italians, the Austrians, the Hungarians, the Czechs, the Poles, the Dutch, and, of course—the British.

You can also ask Americans. President Trump’s immigration four pillars enjoy strong support, just not among Washington careerists and those still wedded to Ayn Randian hellscapes, or majority-minority fantasy.

A full 63 percent of Americans said they backed the president’s offer to legalize DACA recipients, in trade for a merit-based system, border wall funding, and elimination of the visa lottery. Two-thirds of Americans also said those caught entering the country illegally should be sent home.

But Democrats are ignorant of the subtle volte-face of their more prudent European friends, as their hard-left base surges to prominence with utopian demands for open-borders.

A Gallup poll found in 2017 that almost 150 million people—four percent of the world’s adults—would move to the United States, if possible. If they, and some Democrats, had their way, the U.S. population would increase by almost half. The effects of such an increase need little illumination.

So, the Swedes may prattle on about the same progressive pieties as their American friends, but on the kingmaker issue of immigration, they’ve quietly shifted towards the actual mainstream. Something tells me not to expect the same from the Democrats. Not until Senator Kamala Harris out-loses George McGovern in 2020, at least.

Photo Credit:  Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

About the Author:

Christopher Gage
Christopher Gage is a British political journalist.