Repitition (I): Side A

Although not unexpectedly, it is most unusual that cautions and objections to the televised debates of candidates for senators and representatives have to be repeated, like the elections themselves, only six months later.

Already spring of this year saw four electoral calls (general, European, municipal, autonomic) in April and May which provokes an indigestion to the benevolent spectator of this kind of exchange. This time the boredom comes, if perhaps, restrained only by being the shortest campaign, although more disconcerting, since 1977.

A campaign in which there seems to be only one debate, pushed by television like the finale of Eurovision or a clash of the Champions. But the viewer has seen at least five on three different channels and his observations are dictated by all of them. This article does not want to be the only one, but only the first of a series.

With three main criteria: judging on the basis of what (better) candidates should and can do in a debate, the comparison with the performance of their rivals throughout the debate and, finally, the consistency between what they have done in the debate and their rhetorical strategies needed to convey their messages and programs.

Side A

So, although this album is scratched, very scratched, more from failures than successes, has its side A and side B.

On the A side, last night November 4 in Madrid in the Crystal Pavilion of the Casa de Campo in the Television Academy, playing on almost all the channels, the debate was composed entirely of men. These men all displayed traits of alpha males and, as was noted, in the debate the bearded to the hairless (3 to 2), the rights to the left (3 to 2 also) won numerically. There was only one that was ruled out and it was not from the extreme left but from the radical right.

Worse than the debate

Such a leaden or lively perspective was not politically resolved at all. This has been very bad for this occasion, the most counterproductive to remember: the pessimism of the spectator voter does not come from having attended a distribution of fire and ashes in which, however, has been able to move to vote and move the vote, but to a confirmation that, even by voting, given the distribution and division of the options, the blockade, to what it seems, will persist. Something depressing, not because of the debate itself, but because it does not show any governable solution.

However, still in its negative qualities, the debate deployed for a few moments a liveliness that is not negligible and a number of paradoxes greater than that of contestants in the fray.

Liability of verbal formulas

Who talked about governing the “most voted for list?” Casado? No, Sánchez. Who reverted every two times that of the “constitutional order?” Rivera? No, Abascal. Who referred to “the cowardly right”? Abascal? No, Sánchez. Who does not mention the Constitution? Casado? No, Iglesias. Who said “yes, we can?” Iglesias? Yes, and Rivera too!

But Obama said it first, it could be argued … It is notable, though not very important at the moment, I think, that the formulas of American politics now matter to them, Vox, some of whose claims seemed straight out of Trump’s campaign manuals and Bannon (for example, in regard to Bruelas). Already in an earlier debate, Espinosa de los Monteros spoke of “regaining control”, picking up the expression, as misleading as it is effective, of Farage, Gove and Johnson in the badly frayed Brexit process.

It remains for the record, in addition, that Vox has taken out its four main leaders (Abascal, Espinosa Ortega Smith and Monasterio), to engage in debates and their dialectical results have been stimulating for the formation and worthy of a detailed analysis. We will return to it.

Strange methods to stay in office

On the contrary, the painful spectacle of the final part of the debate, in which an acting president of the government refuses to answer, questioned and summarily interrogated by Rivera and Casado and, bordering on the passive-aggressive, does not look up from his papers, doing as he underlines and writes, and leaves the mess going on to other issues, confirms something of concern: Pedro Sánchez lacks speaking ability. Or he didn’t want to exercise it, which isn’t much better. And to a greater extent, it is not worrying as much about what happens in this kind of debates as about the (future) parliamentary activity.

Rivera does not take off the resource of graphic elements and supporting materials, indoctrinating even with the cobblestone, and providing great fun for social networks.

But for that (it also happened to Casado) you have to make sure that the television production will pick it up with the right technique. In the first debate of candidates in RTVE the previous Thursday (October 31), the camera did not focus on the foreground the evidence that some wielded. They neither saw nor read each other. In this, the camera reached them, but the lighting was dazzlingly reflective and hardly anything could be deciphered.

Iglesias came with a formula that was successful in his last appearance: the constructive motion to destructive debate, the virtuous circle. That is why it is misunderstood that his “golden minute” technique was so clumsy, ideal to deconcentrate, or disconcert the recipient of his message, when referring to a particular case, by exemplary that is created, to a dramatic “piece of life ” And that when it had already been seen to fail in that effort, and at that same minute, Irene Montero and Noelia Vera with the same approach (plus the one launched to Florentino Pérez) the previous week.

Casado has refined his ways, but he lacks a winning formula: the one he has is also lacking. At least avoid all errors, surely of character, of its spokesman, Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo, model in so many things that should not be done in a debate, but this will focus on the next installment.

Pablo Carbajosa

Head of Rhetoric at Proa Comunicación