If recent poll numbers that show the Sweden Democrats to be the most popular party should translate into an equally impressive victory in the next general election, it will amount to an earthquake in Swedish politics. Pictured: Jimmie Åkesson (left), leader of the Sweden Democrats, speaks at a campaign rally on September 7, 2018 in Nykoping, Sweden. (Photo by Michael Campanella/Getty Images)
When I moved to Norway twenty years ago, a term I encountered often was "American conditions" (amerikanske tilstander). It was always used disparagingly. It referred to such things as urban sprawl, strip malls, inner-city gangs, school shootings and private health care. After Barack Obama became president, I heard the term far less frequently -- in Norway, after all, you cannot get too rough on a country with a black president, especially a president to whom you have given the Nobel Peace Prize.
Today, even though Trump-bashing -- in Norway as in the U.S. -- is the media's favorite sport, the term does not seem to have come back into widespread use, which perhaps has something to do with the fact that the U.S., among other things, now has the world's strongest economy and staggeringly enviable employment figures. Meanwhile, there is another term that has become increasingly common in Norway: "Swedish conditions" (svenske tilstander). It really took off about two years ago, when Sylvi Listhaug, Norway's then Minister of Immigration and Integration, used it after visiting some of Sweden's worst Muslim enclaves -- a reaction that outraged politicians and journalists on both sides of the border.
Although recently there has been good news from Sweden -- which I will get to shortly -- let it be said, at the outset, that the term "Swedish conditions," when used in Norway, has exclusively negative connotations. While "American conditions" covers a wide range of purported sins, however, "Swedish conditions" means basically one thing, or rather one set of intimately related things: admitting masses of unvetted immigrants from a very different culture into your country, encouraging them to settle in monocultural, autocratic enclaves that become no-go zones, allowing them to sit home collecting generous welfare benefits instead of learning the local language and finding jobs, and punishing even their most brutal crimes with a slap on the wrist -- all the while continuing to repeat the mantra that their culture has enriched Sweden and to ignore the glaring reality that Sweden is undergoing a long-term conquest as well as what one Norwegian observer has called "an inferno of violence."
Norway is burdened by these problems, too, but not to the extent that Sweden is. After all, Sweden has the second-highest proportion of Muslims in Europe -- an estimated 8.1% to France's estimated 8.8% -- and has the continent's highest rate of population growth through immigration. Since the 1970s, when it was the fourth-richest country in the world per capita and when virtually all of its inhabitants still saw Sweden as folkhemmet, or "the people's home," where everyone would take care of everyone else, conditions in Sweden have deteriorated drastically. Everything from child care to elder care is being deprived of funds that are instead being used to feed, clothe and house refugees, faux refugees, and other foreign freeloaders. Many Norwegians worry, with good reason, about a massive spillover of social chaos, poverty and crime from a country with which it shares a thousand-mile-long border. "Sweden," read a recent headline at the website of Oslo-based Human Rights Service, "is a threat to Norway."
Nor is it just Norwegians who are concerned: Denmark does not share a land border with Sweden, but is connected to it by the Øresund Bridge between Copenhagen and the notoriously immigrant-heavy, crime-ridden Swedish city of Malmö. Both Denmark and Sweden are EU members, which generally has meant no border checks, but as of November 12, Denmark -- which has tried to be at least somewhat more cautious in its approach to immigration and integration than its Scandinavian neighbors -- has instituted border controls on the Øresund Bridge and on ferries arriving from Sweden.
To be sure, the cultural, political, academic, and media bigwigs in both Norway and Denmark tend, even now, to express admiration for Sweden's immigration and integration policies, which they profess to regard as models of multiculturalism at its noblest. Audun Lysbakken, the head of Norway's Socialist Left Party, has praised Sweden as "a light in Europe" for pursuing its frankly suicidal immigration policies.
Sweden's own elites talk about their country in similarly glowing terms. In January of this year, a writer for the Swedish daily Aftonbladet mocked Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg for suggesting in her traditional New Year's speech that Norwegians should have more children -- a sensible proposal in a country, and continent, where the natives reproduce at a level considerably below the replacement rate.
In response, Kjetil Rolness, one of the few major authors in Norway to challenge the politically correct consensus, pointed out that, of course, native-born Swedes, who have an average of 1.67 children per household (and the figure is surely far lower among ethnic Swedes), prefer foreign refugees to Swedish babies. The Aftonbladet commentary, Rolness argued, provided a perfect example of the "wishful thinking," "virtue signaling," and "nearly pathological denial" of reality that characterizes official Swedish thinking about immigration and integration. Indeed, this year Sweden actually decided to increase the rate of immigration through so-called "family reunification."
In her recent book Sweden's Dark Soul: The Unraveling of a Utopia, the Swedish journalist Kajsa Norman provided a vivid portrait of Swedish elites' chillingly out-of-touch attitudes toward the calamitous consequences of their immigration and integration policies. Writing about the refusal of police officials and mainstream journalists to deal responsibly with the mass sexual assaults by immigrant youths at a summer festival for teenagers, Norman notes that among these and other people in positions of influence, "sympathy for the refugees trumps sympathy for the girls."
One is reminded, of course, of the indefensible way in which British authorities handled -- or refused to handle -- decades of child-rape cases in Rotherham, Rochdale and other cities throughout Britain. But in Sweden -- whose distinctive history of ideological conformity and self-image as a "moral superpower" Norman writes about illuminatingly -- the readiness to deny unpleasant realities is even more widespread and deep-seated than in the U.K. and other Western European countries. Nobody in Sweden needed to be told what to think or to do about the assaults at the youth festival: "In Sweden," Norman observes, "everyone knows so well what the accepted position on any given issue is; what others are thinking and how they will deviate from that."
Elsewhere in the Western world, ordinary working men and women -- people whose well-being had long been ignored in the corridors of power -- have in recent years made their dissatisfaction known: Brexit; Donald Trump; France's Yellow Vests; the rise of so-called "populist" parties in Italy, the Netherlands, and elsewhere. The relative passivity of the Swedish masses, with their herd instinct and reflexive trust in authorities -- was often commented upon and puzzled over, given that their nation is perhaps in more urgent and immediate trouble than any other in Europe. But no more.
Which brings us, finally, to the good news I mentioned up front. In recent years, after a prolonged period in the wilderness, during which the political and media establishment routinely talked about them as if they were just this side of Nazis, the Sweden Democrats (SD), the only party in the nation that takes a practical position on its wayward immigration and integration policies, have been steadily gaining support. They did not win any seats in the Riksdag, the national parliament, until 2010; by 2014 they had become Sweden's third-largest party in parliament. Now, according to poll results released this month, SD is Sweden's most popular party, dislodging the Social Democrats from a pinnacle of predominance that they have occupied without a break for a century.
If these poll numbers should translate into an equally impressive victory in the next general election, it will amount to an earthquake in Swedish politics. But meanwhile, the Scandinavian elites continue to smear the Sweden Democrats. In an editorial about the sensational rise in support for the party, Norway's largest daily, VG, commented that while SD "describes what is wrong in [Swedish] society," it doesn't have a good answer to those problems; the task facing the two main establishment parties, the Social Democrats and Moderates, asserted VG's editors, is to "convince the voters that they have far better and more responsible solutions to Sweden's challenges than the Sweden Democrats' simple populism."
Poppycock: it was the Social Democrats and Moderates that created Sweden's current crisis and allowed it to endure and worsen and be considered beyond criticism; and if "simple populism" means, for a change, letting the people think for themselves and then actually listening to them, then by all means let there finally be a taste of real populism in the country that claims to be the people's home. Truly drastic, though humane and sensible, action of the proper kind may well put off a total catastrophe for a few years. One fears, however, that the Swedes have waited too long to stand up for themselves and that it is -- alas -- already far too late to forestall Sweden's transformation into a sharia state. The Sweden Democrats' triumph, then, may well be at once a genuine milestone in the advance of Swedish democracy and individualism and a mere turn in the road to ultimate cultural displacement.
Bruce Bawer is the author of the new novel The Alhambra (Swamp Fox Editions). His book While Europe Slept (2006) was a New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. His other books include A Place at the Table (1993), Stealing Jesus (1997), Surrender (2009), and The Victims' Revolution (2012). A native New Yorker, he has lived in Europe since 1998.