Photo: SVT Godmorron Sverige
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.
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!
It’s me, Stockholm Yankee. I’m your favorite kind of immigrant. The kind who came here speaking svenska from the get-go (thanks to a full year of Swedish classes pre-arrival in the US, plus various Folkuniversitet courses once I got here. None of which you had to pay for, by the way.) The kind who put the “hög” in “högutbildad” with 7 years of university studies, capped off with a master’s degree from Harvard. The kind who took your “integrationspolitik” to heart, and eagerly started looking for a job–and ways to contribute to society– from day one.
So, Folkpartiet, you’d think we’d have a lot in common. For a moment many years ago, I even briefly considered making you my party. What’s not to love about being “liberal”?
Then I saw your infamous vote-pandering campaign in 2006. Språkkrav för medborgarskap. At a time when me and my ambitious ex-pat friends were running into hurdles on the job market–that hurt. The last thing I wanted to hear was that everything was my fault and that another “krav” would be standing in my way.
And now you are at it again with a new campaign that looks remarkably similar to your 2006 proposal. And since the devil is in the details, I still don’t understand any of the nitty-gritty beyond the headlines:
- Will you have a national reading/writing/oral language test? At what level? How will it be administered? What will it cost?
- Will you require people to attend or graduate from SFI to fulfill the språkkrav? What about immigrants who don’t qualify for SFI (as I initially didn’t on a student visa) or opt for other programs elsewhere?
- If speaking “felfri svenska” (as many job ads put it) is so important, why all the outdated language textbooks on the market? Why the substandard, outsourced SFI programs? If you truly care about Swedish fluency, it will require a much stronger societal investment.
So, Folkpartiet, if you ever want Stockholm Yankee’s vote—see if you can clarify these points. Then again, based on your new campaign, it doesn’t seem like you want my vote at all—even if I am your favorite kind of immigrant.
Hälsningar från Stockholm Yankee
Stockholm Yankee är tillbaka från en välförkänt semester i södra Frankrike. Jag åt massor av goda ostar, oliver, och glass, men när det gällde blogg- och twittertillvaro var det en riktig bantningskur för mig. Lite som budskapet i boken The Digital Diet.
När jag var off-line på Rivieran var det kul att kolla på lite lokal kampanjreklam. Här är ett exempel från Nice. Jag gillar färgval och kursivstil i Front de gauches affisch.
Stockholm Yankee var i skärgården i helgen. Och fick sällskap av George W. Bush, i alla fall skulle man kunna tro det när man ser Waxholmsbolagets affischer på deras båtar. Tycker du inte att morfar på bilden ser ut som USAs 43:e president? Eller i alla fall som en skådis som knäcker extra som Bush-imitatör när han inte gör båtreklam? Bush, som semestrar i en del av Maine som ser ut som Stockholms skärgård, skulle säkert gilla kampanjen.
(Foto: Jag och familjen på Five Islands Lobster Co.)
Hurra! Nu har jag bokat biljetter för ett efterlängtat besök till föräldrarnas sommarstuga i Maine. Det betyder att jag kommer att missa Almedalen tyvärr, men är det inte SÅ VÄRT det för att få njuta otrolig god och billig hummer igen på bryggan?
Maine har även några spännande politiska förebilder bland kvinnliga politiker. Jag tänker främst på Margaret Chase Smith, den första kvinna att bli ett partis kandidat i en presidentval (1964) samt Olympia Snowe, som har varit delstatens mäktiga senator och en av USAs främsta republikanska kvinnor som lutar mot mitten politiskt.