Danish journalist discusses American politics and Denmark’s form of government

by Brian Bahouth

Peter Krogh Andersen in the KNVC studios on November 5, 2018 - image - Nevada Capital News.

Carson City – Freelance Danish journalist Peter Krogh Andersen spent the last week in northern Nevada doing some reporting.  He observed and wrote about a 3-day free dental, medical and vision clinic in Silver Springs.  He also wrote about Emilio Parga’s work on grief and loss with northern Nevada children.  Andersen rounded out his time speaking with Trump voters about the president’s actions since the election.  For some insight into his perspective on the American political system and the workings of the Danish government, Peter Krogh Andersen stopped by the KNVC studio earlier this week for an interview with Brian Bahouth …

I began by asking Andersen about the government in Denmark.

“On a national level, we are 5.7 million people, if I am correct, and we have what we call a multi-party system, which means we usually have eight or nine parties in the Parliament, and they go, I guess you can say, left to right,” Andersen said.  “And when we vote, we vote for the politicians, and they appoint the prime minister.”

The United States by contrast to Denmark is a vast, highly diverse nation of some 325 million people governed by essentially two political parties.  I asked Andersen for his impression of the American system of democracy.

“As a little anecdote I can say the last time when I was in Texas, I talked to this people who are strongly against abortion, so they had to vote for Trump.  They thought at least because of the Supreme Court justice, but they agreed with the Democrats on all other issues, so when you are in Denmark at least you have different options.  I’m sure that people will say they don’t have enough options or they don’t agree with the parties fully, but at least you have nine options,” Andersen said. “You can vote for the far out left party, which I think just recently took off the word ‘revolution’ from their party agenda, and then you can go to the far right, where you have the anti-immigration party, Danish People’s Party.”

In the US the majority party controls the House of Representatives or Senate, but in Denmark, a minority party typically governs.

“When I say we have a multi-party system, we also have what we call a minority government, almost always.  I think one time in the ‘80s we had a majority government, but usually it’s a minority government, which means the government formation that usually consists of one, two, or three parties, they need a support party,” Andersen said.  “That support party can also go into coalitions with the opposition, so I’m sure that a lot of people would say that they stick too much to the government, but at least we have the option, and it does happen once in a while that they go with the opposition instead of the government.”

In a minority rule government, lawmakers have to make deals with other parties and coalitions to affect change.

“The government is also a coalition, it’s a little confusing, but our biggest party have 47 or 48, I think, parliament members, and we have 179 in total, so you can do the math yourself and that it takes a lot of parties to get up to 179,” Andersen said.

Healthcare in Denmark is paid for through taxes, and all citizens have access to medical care.  While in Nevada Andersen wrote about a 3-day free dental, medical and vision clinic in Silver Springs, Nevada.

“What I saw was … what can I say … interesting.  Something that I have never ever seen before. The basketball court was the big clinic, and people were sitting on the stands waiting for their turn.  It was somewhat sad sights. A lot of hopeless people, the ones I talked to at least,” said Andersen. “But of course also a very beautiful thing is that clinics give healthcare for free only based on volunteer help and a few staff from the clinic, so this something I have never seen before in my life.”

For many conservative Americans, the words socialist or socialism are pejoratives aimed at those on the political left, but in Denmark, the work socialism carries no stigma, nor does another America conservative slur, welfare.

“Another work that we really like and take pride in is the word welfare, which here is definitely not a positive word,” Andersen said.  “We see our welfare state as something that we’re very proud of, and that is working to everybody’s benefit, so the gap between rich and poor is not as big as it is over here.  I’m not saying which one is better or anything, but I’m saying it is a very very different system.”

On his current trip to the US, Andersen has been asking Trump supporters in the US about the president’s performance since taking office.

“It’s really hard to discuss politics, even for me.  I think I’m given a little discount because I’m a foreigner and come from Denmark, and as I was told just before I arrived here by a person I know in Florida who supports Trump, a lot, saying that I should shut up and I don’t live here.  I don’t take part in the discussions. I don’t watch the media outlets 24-7, so I have no right to utter what utter,” Andersen explained. “I was just saying have a good day, have a good Election Day because maybe she’s right, but she’s an extreme case.

“Other people seem to still have a hard time trusting the media.  Trusting each other, reading a lot between the lines, so if I ask a question, it’s biased, even though I find it is hard to be a journalist without asking questions, but if I do ask a question concerning whatever, healthcare or taxes, I will invariably be in the Democrat’s side,if I talk to Trump supporters.  That’s what I have experienced.”

Andersen visited Arkansas when reporting on the 2016 US presidential election.

“I went to Arkansas during the presidential campaign last time, and I told this guy that I was a journalist, and he had just told me how he was longing for his childhood back in the ‘50s.  He wished that the United States would go back to the ‘50s, so telling him I was a European journalist with collared socks and not looking like a person from Arkansas in many ways, I would suspect that he would be in many ways angry with me or tell me to leave or, but he actually gave me the sandwich for free and told me that ‘it’s very hard to find a good journalist these days,’” Andersen said.  “And I would just think that if you take away the word ‘good’ from that sentence, it’s very hard to find a journalist these days. I think you have the accurate sentence, and that’s why I think it’s so admirable what you guys are doing down here because I think it’s important that the whole talk is not left to Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Washington Post, but that people get out there and actually start trusting in what they hear and see whether it is online or the tv or the radio.”

For more from Peter Krogh Andersen, listen to the audio interview embedded above …