Daniel Innerarity, 23 October 2021
Professor of Political Philosophy at the UPV
Image: Perico Pastor
We were focused on the crisis of social democracy and those who are really at a critical crossroads are the conservatives, harassed by the extreme right and at the same time seduced, for lack of better ideas, by their ideological pottery. The far right is confronted with the left, but competes with the classical right. For conservative parties, the decision about whether to make a difference or seek affinities takes on a tragic character and forces them to choose between their old and unattractive identity or a radicalism that distances them from the decisive moderate voters.
What is disturbing about the new ideological landscape is not so much the appearance of actors to the right of the classical right, but the radicalization of the conservatives. Where before we had a moderate and systemic conservatism, there is now a right that has no problem reaching agreements with the extreme right, which hesitates between maintaining its traditional signs of identity or adopting actions and discourses typical of the most radical actors.
The new right presents a radical warmongering against the adversary and despises the common rules
The new right has three features that distinguish it from traditional conservatism and that force us to understand it with new categories: a non-conservative attitude, a radical warmongering against the adversary, and a disregard for common rules.
The first property of this radicalized conservatism is its willingness to break. The new right differs from classical conservatism in that it seeks a rapid and complete transformation of society, while the conservative parties, as their name suggests, preferred to maintain the status quo and modify it as little as possible. A proof of this willingness to break is the declaration to revoke (not modify or reform) the agreements previously reached and propose a new agenda on issues such as abortion, territorial policy, the welfare state, euthanasia, education or memory. history, or blocking matters that require your agreement.
The second characteristic of radicalized conservatism is a polarization strategy that goes beyond the traditional bipartisan combat. It is one thing to criticize what the left does when it is in government and another to deny the legitimacy of the left to govern. The Constitution is no longer a meeting place for them, but a place of tension. Part of this radicalization is the use of the judiciary in the various legal wars waged by the right wing when it does not have the executive power and does not have a majority in the legislative power.
The most defining characteristic of this new right is the will to break the common rules. I am referring to that declaration of war against the politically correct, when what is really wanted is to make the configuration of a space of understanding impossible. This attitude is also manifested in the belief that it has the right to be above the rules, in its irritating indifference in the face of corruption. Let’s think about the exhibition that they do not have to apologize (for their own corruption or colonial history), in the words of Aznar, Casado or Ayuso, and literally reflected in the anthem of Marta Sánchez in which it is expressly stated “I do not ask sorry”.
Those who fight the new right are wrong if they think that it is enough to point out its falsehoods, errors and mistakes
The breakdown of common rules is part of the celebration that accompanies their identity and their communication strategy. This distancing has even become a praise of social disobedience challenging some prohibitions during the pandemic, in a critique of what they consider paternalism of the State. Everything is debatable and everything has to go through individual acceptance, except the nation, the only reality that is not conditioned to voluntariness. This defiant attitude towards institutions that they do not control is now also directed against the European institutions on the occasion of Puigdemont’s extradition demand, when they formulate this contempt, asking the Government to bring the former president whatever.
This breaking of rules has become the media event par excellence of the new right, which arouses enthusiasm in the followers themselves and indignation in the enemy. Hence, the insults, the provocative language and the rogue style, that point of arrogance and self-confidence, are not errors of his political strategy, but part of it. His success consists precisely in that he does not do what should be done and in this way alters the entire political map. There is no space of common perception to which to appeal and on which to understand each other. When they question the politically correct they are doing something formally democratic (democracy presupposes the legitimacy of the questioning and revision of previous agreements), but they are not doing it with the intention of negotiating a new shared norm, but with the intention of placing themselves above any norm (in health, environment or solidarity duties). There is in this an exhibition of individual superiority, since, as is well known, norms, in organizations and in societies, fundamentally protect the weak.
The fight against the radicalized right cannot consist of imitating their style in the opposite field
Those who fight the new right are wrong if they think that it is enough to point out its falsehoods, errors and mistakes, because all this even has a popularity prize. A good part of the electorate celebrates these blunders because they interpret them as a challenge to break a shared space of evidence and values. This is about feelings that mobilize and oppose, not about facts and rationality.
That is why investigative and data journalism is of little use in the midst of an emotional confrontation. This would work if there was a playing field where everyone respected the rules, something that has been systematically dynamited for a long time. And that is why the fight against the radicalized right cannot consist of imitating their style on the other side. Accepting the rules of the game that the adversary defines is the worst way to give up the battle for loss.