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Home » Content » The Senate as an agora by Manuel Cruz, President of Senate and philosopher
The upper house has the opportunity to be a space for debate and meeting to face all the problems that will define us as individuals, as a society and as a country in the coming years

Manuel Cruz

Manuel Cruz is president of Senate and philosopher.

2 SEP 2019 – 00:00 CEST


Whoever has the firm intention of neutralizing a claim has at his disposal an old formula, of proven effectiveness. It is about presenting this claim from time to time, but taking care that nothing changes as a result of the presentation. In this way, it is achieved that the recipients of the message get used both to see it presented and to the absence of results. The final outcome of such vain insistence is that the original claim is converted into a litany as predictable as well-intentioned, which is incorporated into the catalog of inherited claims, but from which no one expects any consequence to be derived. It is not even, then, as in Lampedusa’s sentence in El Gatopardo, that “everything changes so that everything remains the same”. Sometimes, it seems that it is enough to simply formulate the desire, without further ado, in order to conclude an institutional or political duty.

That is largely what seems to have happened with the debate on the role of the Senate for decades. The diagnosis of the need for reform is shared almost unanimously by all political forces, and has been expressed throughout several legislatures, especially at the very beginning. Everyone sees it necessary to provide the Senate with greater weight and relevance, and thus genuinely adapt it to what the 1978 Constitution tells us it is: a Chamber of territorial representation and, also, a second legislative reading. However, the urgencies and conjunctures of a changing political life – which has gone from an imperfect bipartisanship scenario to a multi-party system that we still have to get used to, but whose destiny is still uncertain – have always ended up imposing their rhythm and their interests, although these were not always those of Spain. That must change, and it must do so in this legislature.

I am very aware of the difficulties of the task, and I already referred to them in my inauguration speech: there are too many legal and political nuances that make my intention something complex, and to some extent, alien to my own will and that of the group that proposed me for the position that I now occupy. But it is no less true that there is a certain margin available to bring our reality closer to our aspirations. A field that I am determined to explore in this legislature – whatever it takes – and with the determined objective of not making this a useless effort that, in Ortega’s words, leads us all to melancholy, but a fruitful path that culminates an aspiration not only widely shared, but also necessary and urgent.

We live moments of anxiety and perplexity that question a settled way of understanding the world

We live in moments of personal and political anxiety, of perplexity in the face of events that question a settled way of understanding the world. The illustrated story is presented to us in crisis, with the linearity of the idea of ​​progress questioned and with the consequent crisis of our relationship with the future. We have all heard the widespread regret that our sons and daughters will live worse than we do. In addition, during these turbulent years, democratic institutions have lost solidity and appeal in the eyes of increasingly disenchanted citizens, to the point that one could speak of a true bankruptcy of one of the pillars on which the democratic building is held, to know, trust between citizens and institutions.

Now, even the distrust admits degrees, and it is not possible to be deceived with respect to the fact that the same is aggravated when some type of suspicion (of uselessness, obsolescence or other) existed previously against the institutions distrusted, as is the case of the Spanish Senate. But precisely because I have had the honor of presiding over it and I have assumed the political and moral duty to claim it, I dare to formulate this idea with complete emptiness. It is time to change the order of the equation: if the Senate could be an involuntary part of that problem, it must now be, with more determination, one of the axes of the recovery of our self-esteem as political citizens of a full democracy.

It is not a mere desideratum, much less a misunderstood institutional obligation. Let allow me in this respect a final reflection concerning both our political system and our general historical moment. Dominated by our debate and our public life by the short-term urgencies and our immediate adaptation to a new party system, the Senate has the opportunity and the duty to think in the long term, to be the strategic conscience of our political system. Since the return of democracy, the virtues of bicameralism and the balance of powers of our institutional scaffolding can never be more evident. Not in vain accredited specialists like to refer, as tempted by too many stimuli and false urgencies as we constantly see ourselves, to the attention span as the new intellectual quotient of our day. Well, it is this background reflection role that our Upper Chamber is willing to play better than any other institution.

The Senate has the opportunity and duty to be the strategic conscience of our political system

I hope that the Senate will be from this legislature the Chamber speaking with a more authoritative voice on those issues related to the organization and territorial stability of Spain. Because there are few initiatives that we can take in this regard, from the reception of the conferences of regional presidents to the analysis and promotion of a new system of regional financing, through the creation of reporting groups and commissions responsible for studying everything related with what, in a diaphanous way, we could frame as matters of territorial competence. But, as a Senate, we also have an added opportunity in these coming years: to take charge of the strategic challenges we face as a country and as a medium and long-term society. Being able to develop widely shared diagnoses which could then serve as a basis for the design of appropriate public policies. To be, in short, a genuine and authentic chamber of reflection, conscience and compass, where those core issues constituting the basic framework of the collective concerns that make up our present are debated. With the unavoidable corollary that follows from the foregoing: precisely because of the importance of the pending task, the participation of all those citizens who have ideas to contribute in order to build a better future for all is needed.

I am convinced that the Senate has now, and unprecedentedly in recent years, the opportunity to become a true influential, effective, close Agora. In a space of debate and meeting less besieged by distractions and short-term complications, and suitable to address all those problems that will define us as individuals, as a society and as a country in the coming years. Because we live a real change of era, in a crucial moment of global transformations, and every citizen must feel and know that the Senate is at their height and at their service. That is my goal, and based on it I would like my performance to be judged over time.


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