I usually point out the importance of the conquest of Hayek’s climate of opinion, the philosophy of the non-philosophers Gramscian or Laclau’s floating signifiers in matters such as feminism, sexuality or the environment, when the Spanish center-right of the cultural battle. And I do so remembering, above all, the importance of not arguing with the adversary using his language because it implies buying his framework to define society and, therefore, contributing to the victory of the left in this battle.
It is important that the centre-right creates its own narrative frameworks from which to present its perspective on various matters. As Friedrich Hayek explained in his essay The Intellectuals and Socialism, through the conquest of the climate of opinion the average person can discover philosophical theories without studying them, without being explicitly aware of what they are, and replace the erroneous ideas of socialism.
That is why it is important to open the discourse and give the battle in different fields without forgetting that our objective is a political order that recognizes the individual as a subject of rights and not the promotion of forms of social organization where nature, race, sex or sexual orientation are the corrections to which society must submit.
But not all the work is yet to be done. There is an oasis in the middle of Spain which, in matters such as taxation, freedom of educational choice or town planning, promotes the ability of individuals to pursue their individual goals and life projects freely. In the Community of Madrid, the philosophy of non-philosophers or floating signifiers has been conquered by the moderate right in these areas through its own mental frameworks and discourse. In matters of taxation, urban planning or freedom of educational choice, the centre-right has managed to enable the average person to discover the philosophical theories of freedom without studying them and to establish the paradigm by which they will be governed in the coming decades.
It was surely the unreserved discourse on tax matters of the centre-right in Madrid and above all the experience accumulated since 2005, when the first budgets of the Esperanza Aguirre government began the path of tax reductions in taxes such as donations, The first of these is the reduction of the minimum income tax rate to 9%, the lowest rate in Spain, which led to the specter of the right, despite its division and the fact that Gabilondo’s socialism came out on top in the regional elections for the first time in several decades.
The fact is that a large part of Gabilondo’s programme, and that of his potential partners, focused on an increase in personal income tax from “a certain amount” or that the people of Madrid should, once again, “make an effort” on inheritance and gift tax from “certain amounts”. All this in a region where successive governments have maintained their own narrative framework from which to present their moral perspective on tax matters, and where citizens have experienced how tax cuts have not led to any decline in the quality of public services or how 1,200 million euros more than in Catalonia and twice what socialist Andalusia collected.
The same is true in Madrid when it comes to freedom of choice in education. Only Citizens at the beginning of the last legislature had a lukewarm flirtation when they gave up leading this battle horse to join the left. That is why it is not surprising that the people of Madrid did not buy Isabel Serra in the last autonomous elections a model where one of its fundamental pillars was the elimination of 18 school concerts with differentiated educational models. In the Community of Madrid, 46% of the students of General Education were enrolled in subsidized or private schools.
Finally, and with regard to the cultural victories of the centre-right in Madrid, it is very interesting to read a column published in El Confidencial by Fernando Caballero Mendizabal entitled Why Madrid is Right-wing? where he states that “for more than two decades a social and economic model has been planned and constructed that generates a logic of liberal-conservative behavior” […] “a lifestyle that not even those who set themselves up as progressive leaders can escape, which they also enjoy in neighborhoods where the community spirit dissolves into a social model of housing developments with a swimming pool and parking space”.
But the rest of Spain is not the Community of Madrid, and the voter, even in those regions where the centre-right continues to be or has been hegemonic, is not like the Community of Madrid. In Andalusia the centre-right has a lot of work to do to ensure that the policies on tax cuts and the discourse that accompanies them win the cultural battle against a left that has been hegemonic for almost forty years until the last autonomous elections. There are also those like the political scientist José Egea who say that the success that the centre-right has experienced in the Valencian Community since 1996 is due to the fact that “it has appropriated all the signs of identity of Valencianism”. Furthermore, we could ask ourselves why the voters of Castilla – La Mancha or Extremadura after the brief experiences outside of socialism have preferred to return to it.
If we look at the legacy of “Thatcherism” and its influence on Tony Blair’s “Third Way”. Culturally, winning over the left is not only important because it allows for good electoral results by sharing the climate of majority public opinion. It is important because you impose the way of doing politics on the adversary and guarantee that minimum principles are maintained that allow the individual to develop in freedom.
But returning to the future of the Spanish centre-right, and to short-termism. Exporting the cultural model of Madrid to regions such as Andalusia or Murcia or having done so in Valencia, Castile-La Mancha or Extremadura, allows us to have an electorate that believes in low taxation or freedom of choice paradigms because they have lived them and have understood them. For them it is not an entelechy released in an electoral debate.
Madrid is not the only example to follow, as Aznar tells us in his memoirs, about his time as president of Castilla y León, the following: “the change of approach and political discourse that our arrival at the Junta meant: that we spoke of fiscal discipline, of cutting superfluous expenses, of rigor and seriousness in the administration of public money […] It was a discourse that contrasted radically with the socialist attitude”.
His example of management in a Spain governed by socialism since 1982 was fundamental for him to reach the Moncloa in 1996. If we want to emulate once again the reunification of the centre-right and regain the confidence of the Spanish majority, those regions in which he has joined must be the cultural example and the counterpoint to the Spanish government.
Once again, Madrid, and especially its mayor, has been the example in this recent crisis of the coronavirus. Almeida or Isabel Díaz Ayuso had received the auctoritas of presiding over the Governing Board of the City Council or the Governing Council of the Community of Madrid, but in these days they have won the potestas against their opposition of left and right.
Strategic and public policy evaluation consultant. Political scientist and jurist by the University Carlos III of Madrid and Master in International Relations by the University Pontificia Comillas (ICADE).