Sweden experienced an unexpected eruption of right-wing populism this autumn. While news accounts focused on the electoral defeat of the ruling Social Democrats and the victory of a center-right coalition, the bigger story was the success of two new political parties: one telling the Swedes, “be good”; the other, “be happy.”

The left suffered across the board. The Social Democrats, who promised to defend welfare state benefits, attracted only 37.9 percent of the vote, down from 43.2 percent in the last election, and their lowest share since 1928. The Communists, meanwhile, fell to 4.7 percent, a decline of 0.9 percent, but still held on to 17 seats in the 350member Swedish Riksdag (or parliament). In this, they fared better than the Swedish Greens, who fell below the magic 4 percent level, and lost all of their seats in the proportionally determined chamber.

Indeed, in a comparative calculation of decline, the Reds even out-performed the middle-of-the-road parties. The Liberals (a group ranging ideologically, in American terms, from the American Civil Liberties Union to the left-wing of the National Association of Manufacturers) tumbled sharply from 12.9 to 9.2 percent of the vote and held on to only 34 seats, while the Center Party (“anti-nuclear,” statist agrarians, more Tom Harkin than Chuck Grassley) dropped to 8 percent and 29 seats.

Scoring big was the most conservative of Sweden’s old-line, parties, officially called the Moderates (and resembling our Republican Party), which ran on a tax-cutting theme and took 21.7 percent of the vote (up from 18.3 percent last time) and 80 seats. Shaking up everyone, though, were the 14 percent of votes going to two new parties: the Christian Democrats and New Democracy.

Barely respectable a few years ago, the Christian Democrats won 27 seats. Their platform stressed Christian values, the defense of traditional families from the state bureaucracy, and cuts in the welfare state. The party also condemned government incentives that encourage illegitimate births and discourage mothers at home, rearing their own children. In the spiritual birthplace of cradle-to-grave socialism and “children’s rights,” such sentiments have been scandalous, if not illegal. Now, they drive one of the two parties holding the parliamentary balance of power.

The other party organized only this February. Imagine a party cobbled together by Pat Buchanan, Tom Fleming, and Murray Rothbard, but headed by a Roosevelt, and you’ve got an American version of Sweden’s New Democracy party. Emerging out of the shadows of the Swedish psyche. New Democracy says it’s time for Swedes to have fun again. The party stands for the virtual elimination of the angst-ridden welfare state, a similar end to foreign aid (particularly that going to the quasi-Marxist states long favored by Swedish bleeding hearts), deep tax cuts, strong restrictions on new immigration, the quick expulsion of phony “refugees,” and—most endearingly—cheap liquor. Headed by Ian Wachtmeister, rebellious scion of an old noble family, this party will hold 24 seats in the new Riksdag, votes needed for any working non-socialist coalition.

Polite Sweden is horror struck. Both the Center and Liberal party leaders said during the campaign that they would “never” join a coalition with New Democracy. Sweden’s Consul-General in Chicago, Lave Jonsson, told me with embarrassed, quivering voice that New Democracy is a “clownish party,” one “not to be taken seriously,” merely a “populist” blip that will soon disappear.

He may prove correct. Modern history has rarely been kind to protest parties of this sort. Then again, Europe in the 1990’s isn’t going the way that anyone has predicted. So let’s each just pour a tall, cool one, and offer a toast to both New Democracy and the Christian Democrats: Sweden’s best hopes for a free and wholesome future. Skill