For Swedes, a Lesson in U.S. Politics
As the presidential race intensifies the U.S. embassy in Stockholm has decided to show off our fabulous democratic system to one of our closest Scandinavian allies: the Swedes.
Late last month, politicians from the four parties which make up the center-right "Alliance of Sweden"--the Moderate Party, the Center Party, the Liberal Party and the Christian Democratic Party--trekked to Washington D.C. and New Hampshire to watch the presidential campaigns in action. The eight officials from Sweden's ruling power got a bipartisan, equal opportunity taste of what's happening on the campaign trail as they visited front runners and long-shot candidates. On Nov. 28 they checked in on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's (R) and Sen. Christopher Dodd's (D-Conn.) operations in New Hampshire as well as Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) team in Concord. On Nov. 29 they visited Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-N.Y.) D.C. headquarters, as well as the Republican National Committee.
"Our main reason for studying the campaigns and for our visit to New Hampshire and Washington DC was that it is very important for Sweden and Europe to know more about the candidates and what they propose when it comes to policy and leadership," wrote PÃ¤r Henriksson, Moderate Party director of communications, in an e-mail. "I think that it is clear that we will see changes in U.S. foreign policy whoever the American voters elects as new president. Therefore it is important for us to know more about the candidates and to know more about the issues that American voters care about."
The group, which also included Center Party Secretary Anders Flanking, Christian Democratic Party Lennart SjÃ¶gren and Liberal Party Secretary Erik Ullenhag, was struck by many differences between the U.S. and Swedish style of campaigning, including how much money the candidates are spending and how they repeatedly touted their families on the campaign trail.
Susanne AhlstrÃ¶m, communications manager for the Christian Democratic Party, said in an interview her party would be the best suited to show off politicians relatives because it is based on "family values."
One of the hot button issues in the current contest didn't really resonate with lawmakers from the famously generous social welfare state, according to Henriksson: "I was a bit surprised that immigration was such a big question among the Republican candidates."
But Henriksson added his colleagues were wowed by how American presidential aspirants have been able to mobilize grassroots support and volunteers for their candidacies. "Many of the candidates have also done impressive mobilization on the Internet, which of course is something that we also are trying to do," he said.
Posted at 2:19 PM ET on Dec 7, 2007
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