Nej-sayers triumph


It's a familiar story: The newspapers nag relentlessly, the politicians and the political parties trumpet their support. Everyone is voting yes. It's all about jobs. Only kneejerk naysayers would be so selfish, so unpatriotic as to oppose this progressive measure.

No, not Tulsa. Sweden. And today the Swedish people voted overwhelmingly against joining the European Monetary Union, which would have meant discarding their own currency and control over their own monetary and economic policy and adopting the Euro. The Euro has now been rejected by voters in the two countries (Denmark and Sweden) that allowed their voters to make the decision. In both cases, well financed "vote yes" campaigns, with the support of the establishment, the major media, major political parties and big business, were defeated by grass-roots opposition campaigns which cut across ideological lines. But the pro-Euro forces in Denmark are already plotting a second attempt, and will no doubt keep trying until they wear down the populace and get it passed.

In Sweden, the opposition withstood a wave of sympathy following the death of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, who was stabbed in the chest in a Stockholm department store last Wednesday. Lindh was a leading spokesman in favor of adopting the Euro.

Before the vote, left-wing British newspaper the Grauniad had this to say about the two sides:

The yes camp has most of the money. In the seat pockets on trains, there is a free glossy magazine, designed to look like "OK!" or "Hello!". It is called "Yes!" At yes rallies, young women wearing Yes! anoraks and carrying Yes! satchels hand out free sandwiches and bottled water to voters. Business leaders stand four square behind [Prime Minister Goran] Persson. Unlike Britain, almost all the other mainstream political parties are backing the yes campaign. Unlike [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair, Persson has not had a pack of viscerally anti-EU newspaper proprietors, editors and columnists snapping at his heels. There's no Daily Mail in Sweden.

There has been a problem. While the ruling business, media and political elite has been marching towards the single currency, the majority of the voters, and many of the members of the pro-euro parties, have been marching in the opposite direction. The social democrats have been split; Persson's party has a No! campaign as well as Yes! campaign, and in an act of some humiliation for the leader, the party treasury was forced to allocate funds to both sides. Five of Persson's own cabinet ministers have publicly said they are against Sweden joining the euro, although they have agreed not to take part in the no campaign.

The other parties are split as well. And what should make Britain's political establishment sit up and take notice is that opponents are not divided, and allies not united, along traditional, right-left lines. Something remarkable emerged in Sweden's euro debate, the crystallisation of a new set of political dividing lines, in which right-wing and left-wing activists find themselves in alliance against powerful, cross-border, private-public bureaucracies. On one side, the small, the local, the personal, the individual, the accessible, the familiar, the inherited; on the other, the big, the transnational, the impersonal, the mass, the remote, the alien, the acquired.

Drawing the comparison to Tulsa's recent vote: Some high-ranking politicians in Sweden's ruling party were willing to oppose their own prime minister for the sake of principle. Here in Tulsa, the only open opposition from elected officials came from one State Senator and one Glenpool City Councilor. A lot of high-ranking elected officials from our "ruling party" privately opposed the tax measure, but either out of fear of political reprisal or out of a desire not to undermine Mayor LaFortune, they remained silent.

As in Sweden, this campaign polarized Tulsa's politics in a way that brought left and right together on both sides of the issue, with the more activist-minded in both parties fighting against country-club Republicans and country-club Democrats.

What would Whirled editorial page editor Ken Neal's counterpart in Sweden have to say about all this? Thanks to the Babelfish Swedish Chef translator, we don't have to guess:

Emeed zee smesheeng veen ooff Feesiun 2025 lest veek, zeere-a vere-a sume-a deeseppuintments.

Zee fuoor meesoores iech vere-a epprufed by et leest 60 percent ooff neerly 129,000 futers. Boot ceefic leeders hed tu puny up mure-a thun $700,000 tu prumute-a zee prugrem und persooede-a futers tu epprufe-a a 1 percent increese-a in zee cuoonty seles tex.

Thet sooggests thet mooch muney oor mure-a veell be-a needed uny teeme-a zee ceety oor cuoonty needs ceefic imprufements. It tekes thet mooch tu oofercume-a ebuoot 50,000 ceetizens vhu veell fute-a egeeenst elmust unytheeng. Bork Bork Bork!

Bork bork bork, indeed. That makes more sense than it did in the original.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 14, 2003 9:37 PM.

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