2006-09-19

“The voters have spoken, the bastards.”

It has been amusing to see how the losers of the election have reacted to their defeat. With unanimity, each of the party leaders (S, V, and MP) has explained the loss in terms of a failure properly to communicate the party platform to the voters. Left party leader Lars Ohly even went so far as to claim that the Moderate party stole the language of the Left party's platform. A common Moderate campaign slogan was ““Sweden needs a new worker's party,”” and Ohly was angered that his opposition would talk about itself in terms of labor. Apparently, Ohly cannot imagine that voters could believe that Reinfeldt's Moderates are actually a better worker's party.

These leftists are out of touch with the current political reality in Sweden. They assume that the voters support them still and would have voted for them too if only things were as they should be. Some of these politicians (e.g., Göran Persson) take personal responsibility for their party's defeat, but they never entertain the idea that their party's policies may be what voters find distasteful. They blame their own style of communication, but never stop to examine their ideals to see if they are in line with what is important to voters. They blame the media, the other parties, and the scandal of the day; but they don't adapt to changes happening in the world around them.

These folks feel strongly about their ideals; for them, the very notion that public opinionion may have shifted is so abhorrent as to be impossible to imagine.

It's possible that all this huffing and puffing is mere political theater. The the left bloc party leaders may understand all too well that Sweden is undergoing a fundamental political change. By blaming their defeat on everything except their policies, they may hope to save the party's reputation and prestige, in the hopes of winning the voters back later. I don't give them this much credit though. I believe they're deceiving themselves, and that they honestly ascribe their defeat to shortcomings of style rather than of substance.

Some might say that true leadership means sticking to one's ideology even in the absence of public support. But at some point, what began intended as bold leadership becomes contempt for the voters. Only one who trusts the voters to make up their own minds truly believes in democracy.

The liberal alliance won because more people voted for them. The leftist parties lost because they did not offer a platform that inspires voters. Style isn't the issue. Substance is. It's not enough to dress up the same tired old policies in new rhetoric.

To react to an election defeat by claiming that the public still supports your policies is to make a fatal political error and fundamentally to misunderstand how democracy works.

If an ideology loses out in the court of public opinion, that ideology is not shared by the people.

4 comments:

daniel said...

If an ideology looses out in the court of public opinion, that ideology is not shared by the people.

The largest right wing party got 26,1% of the vote. The largest left wing party got 35,2% of the vote. Clearly the ideology is not shared by the people...?

It's not enough to dress up the same tired old policies in new rhetoric.

But it worked so well for Moderaterna! They just stuck the word "new" in front of their name and avoided talking about the substance of the issues. In this election style has indeed been everything.

In four years time they will have left the economy in shambles, again, and the Social Democrats will be re-elected to head the government so we can start to repair the damage done. This is the natural order of things in Sweden. :)

smaggi said...

"The politics of failure have failed! We must make them work again!"

Vote for Kodos.

Michael said...

The largest right wing party got 26,1% of the vote. The largest left wing party got 35,2% of the vote. Clearly the ideology is not shared by the people...?

That's true of course. It's also true that the margin of victory between the blocs was only 1.6%. However, S's losses and M's gains were historic. There are different ways to look at the results.

But it worked so well for Moderaterna! They just stuck the word "new" in front of their name and avoided talking about the substance of the issues. In this election style has indeed been everything.

Clearly, the public must know what the parties stand for in order to make an informed decision. And how effectively the parties communicate surely contributes to how informed the voters are. Style certainly plays a role in this.

Yes, some of the voters share the ideology of the Left. But the leftist leaders refuse even to entertain the notion that voters knew what they were doing.

To explain a loss by blaming the voters for being ignorant is to make the classic mistake of extremists on both the left and the right.

Substance matters.

daniel said...

That sounds fair and balanced to me!