Swedish democracy

Quillette, which is a publication I’m increasingly fond of for its quality journalism, has published a new piece on Sweden’s election turmoil by one Paulina Neuding.

Basically, the social turmoil that began earlier this decade begot, surprise surprise, an anti-EU and anti-immigrant party called the Sweden Democrats.  As seems to have happened everywhere, the cosmopolitan elite was initially appalled.  The left-wing party, the Social Democrats and the center-right party, the Moderates, are the other two parties there.  Amazingly, what they did in response to a populist but democratic uprising based around ideas that the elites had connived to keep down and out of discussability was…to connive further to keep them out of power.  “The largest of the two minority blocs,” Neuding wrote, “would get to form a government with the passive support of the opposition. [The Sweden Democrats] would thus be kept from influence.”

What the hell are elites thinking?  That all this populism is some sort of temporary spasm, surely– an aberration that will soon go away.  That would be a relief to them.  It’s attractive for other reasons, too.  It would mean that they were right all along, and that they don’t have to change, and it means that they’ll soon get to continue to be ambitious in terraforming Western societies into something that could be approved by your average Women’s Studies program.

There is no evidence that this is anything but 190-proof wishful thinking.  Mismanaged reactions to the grievances of a minority of a population have historically driven unaffiliated people in the population to the other side.  Tories and moderates during the American Revolution were shocked to discover that George III and the elites in his government did not think of them as the Englishmen they considered themselves to be, with all the rights of Englishmen.  They were instead painted with the same brush as the rebels, and were told to shut up and be grateful.  We took the side of the corrupt South Vietnamese government, and lost to a guerrilla movement that could not have operated if ordinary people hadn’t supported it.  Elites today seem to be hosing around “Nazi” and “white supremacist” labels, and that will surely not end well.

The Swedish governing agreement described above was an attempt to disenfranchise a large section of people, instead of compromising with them, and it seems to have shocked more and more people into realizing that there’s some serious substance to the complaints about the elites by the populists.  The Moderates went along with the Social Democrats’ socialist policies.  And outraged conservative Swedes began defecting…to the Sweden Democrats.

Somehow I get the feeling that what the 1950s are to economic liberals– a supposed golden era that will surely never return– the 2000s will be to social liberals.