The Corner


If You or I Were Swedish . . .

Police organize a line of arriving refugees at a train station outside Malmö, Sweden, November 19, 2015. (Johan Nilsson / TT News Agency / Reuters)

Today, Swedes have gone to the polls in their general election. The votes are being counted as I write.

The Sweden Democrats are expected to do relatively well. For a news story on the election — an excellent report from the Associated Press — go here.

Last year, I went to Sweden and subsequently wrote a couple of pieces, including a journal. Let me quote an item from it:

The Democrats are an interesting party here. They have their roots in Nazism. They are nationalist and populist. They are anti-EU and anti-NATO. Generally, they are considered right-wing. But are they left-wing? Does it matter?

There is a point at which Left and Right join . . .

Another note:

I echo something that Radek Sikorski said to me not long ago: It’s a pity that the phrase “national socialist” has been taken by the Nazis — has been stigmatized by swastikas, world war, and genocide. Because “national socialist” applies to many people and parties on the scene today, including Madame Le Pen. It is the phrase juste. But it’s out-of-bounds because of the Third Reich.

And one more note, please:

In Sweden, plenty of people support the Democrats. Are they fascists? Well, some are, surely — but others are basically liberal-minded people who have turned to that party because they are fed up and scared. The “mainstream” parties should pay better attention to them, I think . . .

Yes, definitely. One bright morning in Stockholm, I was sitting in a café window with a veteran and wise observer of the Swedish scene. We were talking about the Democrats, who were getting something like 18 percent in the opinion polls. He said, “Look out the window.” (The streets were busy.) “Do you think 18 percent of those people are fascists? No. But they are worried about their country and its future.”

Specifically, they were worried about Muslim immigration and its effects on Swedish culture. They were especially worried about crime. All of this is entirely understandable. There has been immigration to Sweden before — by Vietnamese refugees, for example. Integration followed. The current story is more problematic.

Indulge me in a memory. I was a big watcher of The McLaughlin Group in the 1980s. All of us political junkies were. Mike Potemra and I lived in the same dorm, across the hall from each other. He said to some of our hallmates, “Jay and I both worship in the Church of McLaughlin.”

On the show one week, the group was talking about South Africa. Mort said to Bob, “Novak, with your personality, don’t you think you’d be a member of the ANC, if you were a black South African?”

That was a very good point, which I’ve never forgotten (obviously). I wanted Bob to say something like, “I probably would be — but at this distance, I know better. I can be cooler about it. I can see things that I might not be able to see within.” Instead, he said something else (I forget what).

So, to face the music: If I were Swedish, would I vote for the Democrats? I don’t think so. I think my nose would recoil from the brown smell emitting from that party. But maybe I shouldn’t be so sure. I am sure that the mainstreamers had better be clear-eyed and unflinching about immigration and its consequences — good and bad — lest people turn to the fascists as the Only Alternative.

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