Normalcy. The word reeks of arrogance. Elected officials and bureaucrats these days talk of “returning us to normalcy” when our collective effort finally allows us to come out ahead of the same virus that brought our civilization to its knees. This wishful thinking is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
More than a year after lockdowns began in many parts of the world, governments still maintain strict controls on everything from our individual behavior to our economies’ structure and resilience. To think those controls will simply disappear is a farce. Both in the United States and the Spanish world, more broadly, left-wing administrations have become emboldened in their plans to fortify an ever-larger state. For Hispanics on the right, whether they are libertarian or conservative, the picture isn’t very pretty.
Various steps backwards
Earlier this month, the Movement for Socialism (MAS) party in Bolivia ordered the detention of former president Jeanine Áñez. Áñez led her nation after the notable socialist and indigenous leader Evo Morales’ nearly 13-year reign was brought to an end when the Organization of American States (OAS) published a report clearly outlining significant irregularities in 2019 general election results.
When the MAS party regained power with Luis Arce’s victory in the subsequent 2020 elections, plans to prosecute Áñez on vague charges of terrorism, sedition, and conspiracy to commit a coup finalized with her arrest. She is now being forced to serve a four-month sentence in prison while she awaits her trial.
When I first saw the photo of a solemn Áñez being taken away by the Bolivian police, my heart dropped. It reminded me how dangerous it truly is to confront the tyrannical forces of the far left. Standing up for libertarian and conservative values in a country where left-wing governments maintain a firm hold on their constituents’ actions is more a call to martyrdom than it is an expression of political opinion.
While the United States is clearly far from becoming a totalitarian state under President Biden, I fear the coronavirus taught governing officials the efficacy of government expansion during a time of crisis. As Hispanic conservatives and libertarians, we cannot let this virus (or any future crisis) become the tomb of our liberty.
What does this mean? The unity of the Hispanic right both in the U.S. and abroad is vital to our interests. Whether you come from the anarchist-libertarian tradition of Ludwig von Mises or the traditionalist conservative tradition of Edmund Burke, the power and grandeur of the values of liberty enshrined in the U.S. Constitution tend to be a common vein in the ideology of those who claim its cause. In order to more efficiently fight off the rising statism of the left, libertarians and conservatives cannot allow the temptation of division and pettiness to overtake the right.
The rise of the Cuba-Venezuela-Nicaragua bloc of totalitarian governments exporting their miserable political and economic systems to the rest of our nations shows us that we simply cannot afford division. Elections only matter if you win. The right is no longer useful when it loses.
An unfortunate example: the Spanish right
Spain offers the best example of a nation with an unnecessarily divided right. There are three main political actors to consider:
The traditional driving force of conservatism in Spain is the People’s Party (PP). Founded after the establishment of democracy in 1975, the PP has grown to be the largest conservative political force in Spanish politics. In Barcelona, growing calls for separatism gave rise to the Ciudadanos (Cs) party led by Albert Rivera and Inés Arrimadas. The Cs, framing themselves as a centrist but liberal party, appeal to constitutionalism and Spanish unity as their primary political strategy. They saw enormous success in Catalonia beginning in 2013 and in the National Congress in 2015.
Of particular noteworthiness is the rise of Vox, a right-wing party formed by disillusioned members of the People’s Party who felt the mainstream conservative movement became overly submissive to the left. After a surprising turnout in the 2018 Andalusian regional elections and two subsequent national elections, Vox went from being the fifth largest political force in Spain to the third.
The betrayal of Ciudadanos and the battle for Madrid
Just one week ago, a fragile center-right majority in the Autonomous Community of Madrid led by President Isabel Díaz Ayuso was ruptured when her own Vice President, Ignacio Aguado of Ciudadanos, betrayed the coalition by secretly attempting to force a vote of no confidence with the support of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and their left-wing allies. Conservatives and moderate voters in the public received this extremely poorly, and Cs now polls near 2% both nationally and within the Community of Madrid.
This first occurrence should be a lesson to the right: do not form coalitions with people who cannot commit, or as Vox voters famously label them, la derechita cobarde (or in English, the cowardly right). Cs is well-known for forming governments with the left in other regions of Spain.
This was a political miscalculation the People’s Party simply failed to take into account. In an act of divine providence, President Díaz Ayuso was able to convene new elections just two minutes before the vote was presented. If Díaz Ayuso had convened new elections any time after the vote was presented, the PSOE would have been able to seize the legislature without the consent of the Madrilenian people.
Madrid as a force for liberty in Europe
In the face of this treachery, the left now feels more emboldened than ever to retake Madrid from the right. Since the beginning of her administration, Díaz Ayuso promised to promote Madrid as a cultural and economic center based on the values of liberty in opposition to Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s coalition government of socialists, communists, and separatists.
She maintained a less confiscatory tax regime (much to the chagrin of a national government who wanted to raise taxes during the coronavirus recession) and, with the help of Rocío Monasterio (leader of Vox in Madrid) afforded conservatives and libertarians the opportunity to voice their concerns against radically progressive social and economic reforms passed by the Sánchez administration.
Now that new elections are to be held in May, Isabel Díaz Ayuso and Rocío Monasterio are ready to take on the challenge of preserving a free Madrid. Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias, a cultural and political icon of the Spanish left after the 2008 financial crisis, resigned his position in the central government to lead his party in the upcoming Madrilenian elections. The Socialist and Podemos parties are hellbent on achieving victory and the Spanish right has united like never before to stop them.
Unity facing the statist threat
The unity of Vox and the People’s Party in this moment is a remarkable example to follow for Hispanic conservatives and libertarians elsewhere. While Vox maintains legitimate disagreements with the People’s Party in some matters of governance, the leadership sees the continued expulsion of the left from governing institutions as a much greater priority compared to squabbling over a few socially conservative policies.
This sentiment was best represented by Vox President Santiago Abascal, who, in an interview with Orlando Avendaño in El American, lamented the inability of unionist forces in Catalonia to retain a majority in recent regional parliamentary elections despite the fact that Vox had received more votes than the People’s Party in a legislature for the first time.
This is the kind of political calculation we must aspire to: a willingness to sacrifice our own electoral gain to attain the common goal of establishing a government based on liberty and cooperation. I personally cannot wait to see what President Díaz Ayuso (and hopefully, future Vice President Monasterio) has to offer the Madrilenian people.
This lesson in governance offers a glimpse into what awaits us here in the United States. It seems as though the Republican Party is more divided than it has ever been. Social media is filled with fuming Trump supporters attacking members of Congress because they would not certify an already legally contested election result.
Members of the old guard in the GOP deride Trump supporters in the middle of the country as stupid and incapable of accepting basic reality. The fact is the cult of personality maintained by the sycophants who cherish presidents more as earthly gods than as political leaders, along with the radical indifference of the donor class, is just as present in our party as it is in the Democratic Party. We are just worse at hiding it.
The GOP must be the coalition the United States needs to protect us from the statist threats of the next four years. One of the largest spending bills in the history of the United States was passed not too long ago. In a daring response, the Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy decided to engage in the culture war by reading Dr. Seuss. To me, this move is indicative that Republicans are spinning out of control with no solid anchor in ideas and political philosophy.
Yet it goes without saying that being anti-left is not sufficient as an ideology in itself. We on the right need to have a conversation about what our party will represent moving forward. It is clear that Trump has impacted conservative politics, but Friedmanite libertarians must have a seat at the table. We need to find a middle ground and move forward together, for the sake of our nation and our liberties.