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Why U.S. Democrats Should Be Very Worried About Sweden’s Hard Right Turn


The incredible strength of a far-right party in Sunday’s elections in Sweden should be a stunning wake up call for U.S. Democrats. Yes, Donald Trump’s election was also stunning, but in a sense what happened in Sweden goes far beyond.

A marginal party with obnoxious fascist roots came in third, with 17.6 percent of the vote, in elections in the country world famous for tolerance, open-mindedness, and liberalism. The larger parties say they will have nothing to do with the nationalist Sweden Democrat Party (not to be confused with the more dominant, liberal Social Democrat Party), whose voters are apparently the Swedish equivalents of “deplorables.”

Of course, in the same breath they say it is fine to ignore almost 18 percent of the population, even though shifting their votes rightward was the only way for voters to communicate to political leaders that they are unhappy with the direction the mainstream parties are taking the country.

If it can happen in Sweden, it can happen in the United States. U.S. Democrats may think Trump’s election is a transitory fluke caused by Electoral College idiosyncrasies, but Sweden offers pause. The Swedes don’t have an Electoral College. The critical question for Democrats at this point is, “What did it take to turn the most tolerant country in the world in the hard right direction?”

First, it wasn’t the economy. Many observers have noted that the Swedish economy is doing just fine right now. Thus, the ruling party should have been a shoo-in. Given that the economic success equals electoral success equation is almost a truism of politics everywhere, something else must be more important to a democratic electorate than even the economy.

What People Care About More than Money? Safety

What do people care about more than their economic security? Their physical security. A perception that “mayhem” is growing fosters a quest for a political power willing to acknowledge the mayhem and fight it. The liberal Swedish Social Democrats were not prepared to do either.

Back in 2016, I was writing on Sweden’s open-door policy towards migrants coming in the great wave of 2015. Knowing something about the societal effects of rendering a country’s young adult sex ratio seriously abnormal (the 2015 influx caused the Swedish 16- to 17-year-old age cohort to become more imbalanced than even China’s, with a calculated 123 males per 100 females), people warned me my comments would be branded as racist in Sweden.

I responded that it didn’t matter if everyone in the country was a native, blonde, blue-eyed Swede—any country with that kind of imbalanced sex ratio was asking for trouble. Regardless, academic peers in Sweden did accuse me of racism when my commentary was published.

As a follow-up, I was asked if my predicted trouble was actually occurring. I started digging into the Swedish crime records, only to find that at the turn of the 21st century the ruling center-left coalition government had decreed that it would collect no information about the origins of crime perpetrators. So even if you wanted to disprove that there was any link between Sweden’s immigration policy and its crime trends, you couldn’t. You couldn’t prove it, either.

The government’s Orwellian choice to make citizens ignorant so its society would not lapse into racism seemed to me, as an outsider, to be political suicide. Even if you couldn’t access any statistics on it, people were living the crime increase in their neighborhoods and homes. They would know what you didn’t want them to, even without precise numbers.

A Moderate Government Could Have Done This

When people literally cannot speak about their fears about their security, both because they would immediately be branded racist and because any information that could either disprove or prove the linkage was forbidden knowledge, you have basically told people their government has no concern for their personal security.

Average people do not take kindly to this conclusion. In reaction, they will seek a political force intolerant enough to want to know the facts and acknowledge reality. They will seek a political force intolerant enough to enforce order.  With special regard to immigration, they will also seek a political force intolerant enough to insist on a sufficient level of assimilation to make that order possible.

The Swedish Social Democrats could have been that force. It is entirely possible to hew to principles of tolerance and liberalism yet be willing to face reality by acknowledging unpleasant facts and showing determined intolerance towards mayhem and refusal to assimilate. It is a failure of the imagination to suggest liberal political parties are incapable of such a stance: liberalism deserves better than what the Swedish Social Democrats offered their country.

Consider that in the new political landscape in Sweden, even the press has broken free from the accepted mindset that they used to salute. It was Swedish state TV that recently broke the story that nearly 60 percent of all convicted rapists since 2015 have been foreign-born and that 40 percent had been in Sweden for less than a year.

Finally acknowledging reality, finally allowing people to know the truth, was Social Democrats’ last, desperate measure, however, and it wasn’t enough. It came a day late and a dollar short, as they say.

The Implications for the United States

The question for Americans is whether the U.S. Democratic Party is smarter than its Swedish counterparts. Will the Democrats continue to drive average Americans rightward, as we saw in the 2016 election? Or can they learn from the 2018 Swedish election?

If U.S. Democrats were paying attention, they would begin to acknowledge fears about personal security that Americans have been voicing in recent years. They would acknowledge the crime illegal immigrants perpetrate and have a plan to combat it. They would acknowledge that border security is essential to that plan, whatever form they believe that increased security should take. They would disavow sanctuary cities as undermining Americans’ sense of security, which sense of insecurity tends to steer the country rightward.

They would also start listening to women and girls who feel insecure about their safety in restrooms and locker rooms where they are more than usually vulnerable. They would not house persons with penises in women’s prisons because they will have listened to women prisoners’ concerns.

They would also recognize that many good Americans feel far safer with guns than without and commit to safeguarding Second Amendment rights, while strengthening measures to keep guns out of the hands of those who have practiced domestic violence.

I’m an independent, but if I began hearing Democratic candidates talk like this, my ears would prick up. Unfortunately, I’m not hearing anything of the sort. I fear the Democrats may be as stunned in 2020 as the Swedish Social Democrats were this past Sunday.