What should never change in Madrid, Spain

Spain urgently needs a new culture of debate

The highly polarized election campaign in Madrid shows a new kind of “trumpization” in Spanish politics. The country, which is still divided by the consequences of the dictatorship, cannot afford that.

It is well known that the Spaniards like to argue loudly and passionately and so far it has not been serious. But the mud battles that the citizens of Madrid had to attend before the polls in Spain's capital region went too far. While the conservatives waved the club of a threatening “communist dictatorship” right in the heart of Spain, the other side mobilized their supporters with a call to “fight against fascism”, the clutches of which the country had so laboriously escaped.

Debating factual issues in such a heated climate was practically impossible from the start, but evidently not even wanted. When letters to politicians with death threats and live ammunition turned up during the election campaign, the volume even exceeded the permissible decibel limit. During a TV round you could watch a politician leaving the discussion group angrily because his opponent had called him a “liar” and asked him to leave the studio. Every morning the newspapers had to explain for pages and pages which politician had not taken the truth very seriously, when and where, what was fake news and what was not.

"Trumpization" of politics

The worrying "Trumpization" of Spanish politics made it difficult to discuss issues that are really important. Because it is still the case that the majority of young Spaniards have no chance on the job market, old people often have to get by on a monthly pension below the minimum wage and broad sections of society are increasingly impoverished. Instead, the candidates argued about whether it was permissible in the corona pandemic to keep the pubs open and have a beer without worries. Important issues such as strengthening the state education system or eliminating social inequalities in a region were completely lost.

In these difficult times, an election campaign that only dealt with trivial questions is hard to understand. The only bright spot was the candidate from the new left party Más Madrid, who argued calmly and persistently with her professional experience as a doctor and pointed out the inadequate health care of the Spaniards and the overburdening of the hospitals. In Madrid, where people now have to wait more than two weeks just to get a telephone consultation with the doctor, this was well received by many citizens. Más Madrid received more votes from the electorate than the self-righteous socialists who carelessly got involved in the radical polarization.

Politicians have yet to learn to listen

The culture of debate in Spain urgently needs to change. Insults, insults and insults must no longer find a place. Politicians in this country have yet to learn that you have to listen to your political opponent without constantly interrupting him, that criticism should be objectively and not immediately emotional. Practically all parties now have to put up with the accusation that with their targeted polarization they have made new wounds in Spanish society, which has been divided into two camps since the end of the civil war (1936–1939).

It's irresponsible. At least the two big bourgeois formations, the socialists of the PSOE and the conservatives of the Partido Popular, would have to be expected to resist populist seductions. This is especially true because Spain has this dark history and the rifts have not yet been closed since the introduction of democracy 45 years ago.