Like a lightning bolt out of the blue, Fredrik Reinfeldt recently expressed his support for Barack Obama in the current race for US president. But in order to tell the whole story, we should probably start at the beginning.
Reinfeldt’s Moderate Party and President Bush’s Republican Party are members of the same international umbrella organization, the International Democrat Union (IDU). During the 2000 US presidential election, Reinfeldt travelled to the US to examine Republican campaign techniques up close. Let’s not forget that famous photo of Reinfeldt, posing with his sunglasses, a Bush campaign sign waving high. He looks positively impressed.
Obama came out against the Iraq war early on; a war which Swedish conservatives supported. Reinfeldt’s foreign minister, Carl Bildt, lobbied intensively for the war throughout the halls of international political power. And Jan Björklund, now Minister of Education, wanted to contribute Swedish troops.
Reinfeldt has also expressed some support for Obama’s tax policies. But it was in fact Bush who pushed through deep tax cuts for the richest Americans. In the same way, more than half of Reinfeldts tax cuts have gone to the highest third of Swedish earners. A la Bush, one might say.
Sure, it can be hard to compare Swedish and American politics. But one thing is clear: Obama wants to take America to the left, and Reinfeldt is taking Sweden to the right. While Obama wants to raise America’s ambitions for the environment and welfare policy, Reinfeldt wants to dismantle a model which even the US sees as an example worth following.
Reinfeldt is nothing more than a hopeless opportunist. A flip-flopper who will say whatever he can to keep the opinion polls from going down further. Down in Texas, home to Reinfeldt’s party ally Bush, they have an expression for people who talk a lot but don’t do much. And thus I say to Reinfeldt, you are all hat—and no cattle.
Eric Sundström is Editor-in-Chief of Aktuellt i Politiken, a weekly publication distributed nationally in Sweden which examines political and societal issues from a social democratic perspective. It is produced by AiP Media Produktion, a subsidiary of the Social Democratic Party.