- I am very happy to report that my fellow Svenska Dagbladet USA panelist Frida Stranne has just launched a blog on American politics. You can read it here. Just like me, Frida will be in DC during election week bringing you on-the-spot coverage.
- And of course, my other co-panelist Mathias Sundin has one of the most comprehensive, up-to-the-minute American political blogs out there–www.amerikanskpolitik.se. As does Sven Wennerström and company—at www.usaval.se.
- Ever insightful Martin Gelin is blogging for DN. Buy his new book too (Den amerikanska högern : republikanernas revolution och USA:s framtid.) I have my signed copy already.
US election fever has arrived in Sweden, and Stockholm Yankee has been wrapped up in a media blitz. If you didn’t catch my op-ed duel with Hans Bergström in Sunday’s SvD Brännpunkt, or the latest answers from SvD’s USA-panel, you might have seen me weighing in on Monday’s SVT Godmorron Sverige or Aktuellt.
So besides feeling briefly like a minor celebrity, here it what I’ve learned in the process:
- Many Swedes can’t seem to get their heads around the whole Todd Akin comment and why abortion is such a hot button issue in American politics. No matter what the topic is here, the abortion/GOP question just keeps coming up.
- There are more closet Republicans in Sweden than I realized. A lot of the on-line comments I’ve been getting are about the left-leaning Swedish media bias, and that talking heads like me are pro-Obama. In reality, I try to be more of a campaign analyst than advocate.
- Which also means I need to make a disclaimer: despite my background and titles, my opinions are my own. I do not represent the interests of my PR firm, Team Obama, or the Social Democrats. But at the same time I try to be as open as possible about my affiliations and where I stand.
- The conventions are an intriguing concept for many Swedes. A convention is sort of like a Swedish political party congress, with less boring speeches that start with “kära kamrater” and more glitz and balloons. The conventions are, after all, not just a way of rallying the faithful but convincing the viewers at home how to vote.
August is here. That slow news season when “mediadrev” heats up and reaches fever pitch in Sweden. And following a time-honored Swedish tradition, the targets tend to be women in government (remember Cecilia Stegö Chilò, Maria Borelius, and Ulrika Schenström) Now the victim is Tillväxtverket’s director Christina Lugnet.
You can argue the rights and wrongs of each case and whether these women deserved to leave their posts. But I am sensing the same kind of pattern I see in American politics (think Zoë Baird, Kimba Wood, Lani Guinier, and even Harriet Miers) where women new to power—both on the right and left—are brought down very quickly over one false step.
It is Sweden’s own version of the swiftboat attack--the infamous August smear tactic from the 2004 presidential campaign.
Some questions this whole Tillväxtverket/Lugnet/skattepengar mediadrev brings up:
- Does the “häxtjakt” atmosphere intimidate women from stepping forward and taking a prominent position in the public sector?
- Is the only way to silence critics in Sweden to “göra en pudel”? Would it have helped if Lugnet and friends had invested in more media training?
- Do we expect our public servants to live faultless lives, to save every “kvitto”, and (harking back to Juholt) always take the bus when they could instead have rented a car? Are we building up our politicians only to tear them down? Is there a limit to the amount of “granskning” we can take?
Tomorrow, I will be heading off to the US for summer vacation, which means I will be missing Almedalen this year. If you are remotely connected to the PR and politics world of Sweden, you understand what a BIG DEAL it is to miss this event and that my career in strategic communications may never recover. So I take comfort in the following six things I won’t miss about Almedalsveckan:
- Greedy Gutes. Gotlänningar are supposedly known for their friendliness and for serving up mighty fine saffranspannkakor. But in the last few years, they have really figured out how to milk all they can out of week 27. Rental prices have exploded. In 2008, I paid 4000 SEK/week for a whole house. In 2011, I paid the same price for just a bunk bed. Organizing events and renting meeting facilities hasn’t gotten any cheaper either.
- Death by Panel. Same people, same faces, same opinions— year after year. You know there’s trouble when all my Facebook friends who style themselves as “samhällsdebattör” have status updates like: “Har precis tackat ja till att medverka i 191 seminarier under #Almedalen!”
- The two-tiered party system. Everyone says Almedalen is the perfect place to mingle, but in reality there are two separate tiers: the public events listed in the official program, and an underground network of invitation-only seminars and parties, where the real elite mingle. So if you are a young student of media/politics at Öst Högönös Högskolan hoping to meet your favorite chefredaktör or riksdagsledamot —-lycka till. You might see them on stage at a seminar, not next to you at a party. (See Death by Panel, above.)
- Jimmie Åkesson Day. Every political party has its own day at Almedalen. Last year SD had their day at the end of the week, this year it’s right at the beginning. There is no way I want to be there then, watching Åkesson give his speech and looking like I’m a supporter. Although I doubt he was expecting much support anyway from an immigrant PR consultant.
- Veckans snackis. Whether it’s Gudrun Schyman’s kronor burning or Sven Otto Littorin’s resignation, there is always some story-of-the-week that seems like big news to the rosévin crowd. Whatever it is this year won’t actually have as much impact on humankind as we all think at the time.
- 5 AM ferry rides. Seriously. Just checked on Destinations Gotlands website and 4:50AM is the only time not sold out if I wanted to change my plans and go to Visby on Monday morning. Nej tack, I’d rather have my vacation instead!
With so much going on here between Första maj and the big partiledaredebatt, I haven’t had a chance to talk about the NätRot’12 conference in Stockholm at the end of April. Stockholm Yankee got to hang with the all-stars of Swedish progressive political blogging.
- State, local, and congressional races will be the focus (think Elizabeth Warren’s Massachusetts race). The very same volunteers who gave so much to Obama in 2008 will be now putting their time and money in more local, and issues-based contests.
- On-line campaign tactics are exploding, with more web-based ads, outreach, and solicitations. Profiling and tracking are getting more advanced too, with campaigns hiring statisticians to get at their target groups on-line.
- And while campaigns are using the power of social media to get candidates elected, the approach has been more conventional once they take office. Obama, for example, took a long time to bring bloggers to the table in the White House.
- Humor matters in an election too. YouTube’s effect was already seen in the 08 election—where the right viral video can make people rethink their stance.
Stor tack till Natalie Sial and Björn Fridén for putting together such a terrific program!
While these signs and slogans may have ended up in the Norra Bantorget dumpster after the march, the Soc Dems nonetheless delivered another impressive Första-maj event in Stockholm. The sun was shining, red balloons were everywhere, and both the mood (and poll numbers) were optimistic.
But Stockholm Yankee knows that only Americans can hold a proper parade. And as an experienced Första-maj marcher, I can tell you what’s missing from the whole concept:
1. Floats. Beyond the band, is there anything interesting to watch in the actual march? Don’t the folks who bothered to come out and wave roses along Kungsgatan deserve to see some creative costumes/vehicles/decorations? A float can help drive home the point of message in a memorable and fun way.
2. Good chants. How many times can a person sing Internationelen? What is the Swedish equivalent of Obama’s Fired Up and Ready to Go? How can we rally everyone—both marchers and parade watchers– around a common theme?
3. Is this a protest….or not? Is there one uniting thing we want to change in this “demonstration”? What do we want those on the sidelines to go out and know, feel, and do? Those marching around me seemed to all come with their own agenda, any many seemed to be marching mostly for the sake of nostalgia.
May 1st is the Soc Dems day, and their best platform to reach both the media and the general public with their message.
So come on, let’s infuse some Obama-style rallying in next year’s Första Maj!
(photo: a welcoming sign I found in Camden, Maine)
For years, people have been pushing me to blog about PR and politics, from my perspective as an ex-pat and American campaign expert who also passionately follows Swedish politics. I am finally jumping on the bandwagon and getting into the blogosphere. I will be blogging mostly in (imperfect) Swedish, and sometimes in English—trying to put a Swedish spin on the 2012 American election.
Since I am new at the game, have a little patience and try to keep your comments friendly. And help me spread the word about Stockholm Yankee—Sweden’s only political blog by an American with both a ‘blågul’ and red-white-and-blue perspective.