Speaking ill of the dead is in bad taste. I suspect that speaking ill of the winner of a competition is no better.
So I have a problem. I may not speak ill of the winners of the US presidential primaries, may not speak ill of the Brexicists and may not even speak ill of a man I viscerally abhor, Spain’s President Rajoy.
Of worse taste, even, is the speaking ill of voters of the winners.
What can I do?
Today was a truly sad day for me. I had hoped that Spain would finally turn its back on its shameful past: the very recent corruption, the not so recent dictatorships with “disappearances” of people my age – neither accounted for nor investigated – the extremist catholic stance on a number of issues, the pathetic nationalism, the recent sacking of a prominent judge for political reasons, the abuse of the Constitutional Tribunal, etc., etc.
But no, the voters voted for the party that represents all that, the party whose top brass regularly appears in court, accused of every kind of corruption. I nearly wept!
I will not, repeat not, speak ill of Spanish voters. Here and now I intend to make peace with them, at the risk of making a fool of myself. In a couple of days, analysts will have broken down the figures, examined turnout, age groups, social backgrounds, etc. Just as they defined the average Trump voter, just as they have already (!) defined the average Brexit voter, they will define the Rajoy voter. I am going to put my neck out and define the Rajoy voter myself.
Before I do that, I must explain why I am doing it: Having read who the average Trump voter is, I feel shame on behalf of my Trump-voting friends, if I have any. Having read that the average Brexit voter is an ageing, if not senile, racist loser, I truly feel pained on behalf of my Brexit-voting friends, and I do have them: They are neither losers, nor ignorant. As for my numerous Spanish friends, conspicuously many of them take pains not to reveal their political preferences. I suppose that meanst they are not leftist, because leftists tend to vociferate a lot.
So, to Spain: I suspect that the turnout of people younger than 50 was relatively poor. Why? Because the factions that could have attracted the young were the ones that lost most seats compared to what they won the last time. This applies to both Ciudadanos, on the right, and Podemos Unido on the left.
Podemos Unidos has a very daring, left-wing programme and a leader who plays high stakes and is considered arrogant. After the first burst of enthusiasm that met Podemos, voters are wary. Can the party be trusted? Look at the plight of Greece, for instance. Moreover, Spain definitely does not want to leave the EU, and after the Brexit debacle, voters are afraid of anything that might rock the boat. Podemos makes a habit of rocking boats.
Ciudadanos is a modern party that tries to appeal to the up and coming. It wants progress, not so much social progress, perhaps, as modernity, efficiency, transparency.
The result of the vote is already seen as a triumph of the traditional bi-partite system. I think not. I think it is an expression of the new parties’ failing to convince a “fragmented electorate that oscillates between apathy and indignation” (I have stolen this line from the BBC). I think the oscillation is very much a reality that will haunt Spanish politics for some time. Indeed this new election is again considered a “deadlock”, though there is no doubt that the old-fashioned authoritarian president’s hand has been strengthened.
I suspect voter loyalty came from the people who vote ritually for the values they have held all their lives. PP has always flagged Spain’s glory, the importance of traditional family values and the church, the importance of giving alms to the poor… etc. Many PP voters are bigots, to be sure, but the ones I think I know are good, kind people who are afraid of modernity because they see ominous signs around them, signs the rest of us have grown so used to that we ignore them: drugs, organised crime, violence. They believe that Mr Rajoy will be less permissive than his PSOE counterpart.
Most of all, they want to be told that everything will be all right. Mr Rajoy is good at that. In his stern, patronising way, he chastises critics, and makes us all feel like little boys and girls again. (And you should hear how he talks to Catalunya! No wonder they want out!) No need to make decisions. No need to think. “Mr Rajoy has brought Spain to its knees, but he is taking care of us,” Spanish voters seem to be saying. Indeed they need taking care of. In Andalucia, registered unemployment is somewhere around 35 percent, over 60 per cent among the young.
Why didn’t the ritual voters of the other traditional party, PSOE, turn out? They have lost faith, that’s why. Podemos has undermined voter faith in PSOE. And with good reason.
If, in the UK, Labour is divided, in Spain it has split.
In all of Europe, I suspect, the left is either divided or split. Why? Well, that is the big question, isn’t it? There will be no Pax Romana until a few cardinal issues are resolved.
Speaking of which: How about leaving NATO to Mr Trump and establishing, instead, a European Military Defence Alliance (EMDA)? The UK, I suppose, will prefer to go it on their own again, or stay by the side of their dearest ally, but the rest of us might make a nice go of it? After all, Iceland’s football victory over UK has proved that nothing is impossible.