The PJ Tatler

Spanish Tea Party?

Yesterday voters in Spain handed a crushing defeat to the ruling Socialist Party. That much you may know.

And the election was preceded by a massive wave of protests across the country. You may have known about that too.

Now, I had been assuming that the protests in Spain were similar to those last year in Greece — anarchists, students and government union members throwing a public tantrum because their benefits were on the chopping block. But this morning I read an interesting first-hand account of the protests which cast them in a different light:

Democracia Real Ya! Revolution comes to Spain.

…the gathering was designed as a protest against the meager choices represented among the slate of candidates. Most carried signs that said, “Democracia Real Ya!” (“Real Democracy Now!) or various slogans representing the current batch of Spanish politicians and bankers as at best incompetent and at worst corrupt. There were speakers and music, though the crowds were so large we were never able to even catch a glimpse of the stage. It was an eclectic mix of ordinary people – not the usual band of squatters and anarchists I’m used to from European protests in the 90s. There was no obvious support for any particular party and it was the one place in town that I didn’t see the ubiquitous PP/PSOE campaign materials. Mostly, it seemed that people were just there to express their displeasure at the way democracy has evolved in their country.

So everyone’s mad at the Socialists for their handling of the crisis, but their competition, the Popular Party, are currently embroiled in a messy corruption scandal. Apparently, the PP politicians in Valencia were selling government contracts to unqualified companies for campaign contributions. So here’s your choice, gente amable de Espana, corrupt or incompetent, incompetent or corrupt.

The photo (by Christy Colcord) accompanying the account was revelatory too — I thought to myself, “If there was a Tea Party rally in Spain, this is what it would look like.” And then it struck me — hey, maybe this is a Tea Party rally in Spain!

Inspired, I quickly typed the following comment on the post:

“As the election results yesterday showed, and based on the photo and your description of the protesters — this is like the Spanish version of the Tea Party!

The parallels are very interesting. Just as in Spain, the Tea Party opposes the current socialist-leaning administration and its structural mishandling of economic principles (i.e. it’s not that the Obama administration and the Spanish Socialists are ‘incompetent,’ but rather that an economic slow-motion collapse is the natural correct result is their misguided policies.) On the other hand (and this is where most people have been misled by the media in the U.S.), the Tea Party opposes the corrupt old-school ‘checked-pant’ Republicans — the guys who sit around smoking cigars while making backroom deals.

Both the May 15th Movement and the Tea Party essentially have the same slogan: Prosperity through Austerity!

The Tea Party in the U.S. successfully booted out scores of corrupt old-school Republicans last election, and/or forced them to change their focus to fiscal responsibility. Many Tea Party candidates emerged and won elections. Unfortunately in Spain, the movement seems to be too new to have put forth any candidates which the populace could get behind. Maybe in a few years, let’s hope. Until then, they’ll have to be satisfied with putting the center-right PP back in power and pressuring them to become fiscal realists and not obsess over social issues.”

Until now, I had heard there were “protests” in Spain leading up to the elections, but no one ever described them as accurately as did this guest blogger, “Christy Colcord, Co-owner Lost Weekend Video.” So I’m basing my speculation on this one source. But it seems pretty accurate to me.

So: Is this the beginning of a Tea Party (Partido de Té? Nah) in Spain? Or just more people whining that they’ve lost their government handouts?