Parties must also try to win voters

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Magdalena Andersson’s speech in Almedalen was rhetorically skillful. It certainly also appeals to an audience outside the closest organized circles. However, no policy of its own with substance was presented. Politics needs dividing lines. But the differences should not be artificial, where details of the opposing side’s policy are magnified to create a conflict surface while having approximately the same policy in the major areas. They try to paint a conflict that doesn’t exist. Magdalena Andersson addressed this in her speech. The government’s climate policy was called “climate slaughter”. Welfare was called “de-privatized”. An index-regulated change in the cut-off point for state tax was called “prioritizing high income earners”. At the same time, the Social Democrats have largely no reform ideas of their own. The proposal for “summer vacation activities with lunch” has now been supplemented with a “system shift for welfare”. This means that government subsidies must be indexed. It may involve a lot of money and it is not a wise proposition. But it hardly makes sense to call it a system change. Words lose value. How is it then that the main opponents of Swedish politics have such small differences in the major areas? The simple answer is that the political room for action is small at the same time as the social problems are acute and extensive. The structures are limiting. But the power politics answer is that the parties do not seem interested in attracting new voters but more in not losing voters. The moderates do not want bourgeois sympathizers to move over to the S side. The Social Democrats do not want to risk losing to the Sweden Democrats. The result is a new wave of triangulation, i.e. the adaptation to other parties’ positions that was part of Fredrik Reinfeldt’s recipe for success. This time it is about the Social Democrats accepting the Moderates’ criminal policy and the migration policy that just a few years ago only the Sweden Democrats pursued. And the Moderates are calling a press conference in Visby to clarify that there is no question of any tax cuts. Ulf Kristersson’s Almedalstal focused on preventive efforts and a strong social service, something that might otherwise be associated with social democracy. It is in this light that Magdalena Andersson’s consistent use of the term “SD government” should be seen. It is not primarily about compromising M, KD and L so that they would allow themselves to be controlled by SD. No, it is rather a way of making SD responsible for the entire government’s policy. One of many signs that the Social Democrats now see the SD as their main opponent, not M. There can be big differences between the political blocs’ ability to get social problems fixed, to create functioning majorities. But when the difference in political ambitions is blurred, it is bad for democracy. Consensus politics creates the illusion that all actors have roughly the same goals, which breeds dissatisfaction and can lead to resignation. The Social Democrats should stand up for their policies and say what tax increases they would like to implement (instead of just criticizing the government for tax cuts). The moderates should talk about their visions for the future rather than suddenly devoting almost an entire speech to welfare and preventive work, solely for the reason of being able to stay on the Social Democrats’ level. Party politics cannot continue in this way for the rest of the term. Voters need clear alternatives. And parties dedicated to winning voters, not just trying to avoid losing them.Listen to the live podcast from DI’s leadership page during Almedals week, with comments on the party leaders’ speeches. Here about Ulf Kristersson, and here about Magdalena Andersson.

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