What American Conservatives Can Learn From Spain’s Culture War

COMMENTARY Conservatism

What American Conservatives Can Learn From Spain’s Culture War

Aug 1, 2023 4 min read
Mike Gonzalez

Angeles T. Arredondo E Pluribus Unum Senior Fellow

Mike is the Angeles T. Arredondo E Pluribus Unum Senior Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
Thousands of people from the LGTBIQ+ collective take to the streets of Barcelona during the celebration of Pride Bcn 2023, in Barcelona, Spain, on July 15, 2023. NurPhoto / Contributor / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

What does all this mean for America? Could something similar happen here in 2024? Some argue it did already in 2022.

Spain has peculiarities that set it apart.

It is up to those of us who recognize the importance of addressing cultural matters to frustrate a media always ready to sabotage conservative messaging.

It is always difficult to discern what lessons political events in one country have for another. But when Spain holds elections that demonstrate it’s a 50-50 country, with a conservative side itself deeply divided over how to respond to the Left’s cultural advances, Americans should take note.

Considering that everyone expected Spain’s conservatives to win elections on July 23, but now it looks like the radical Left might gain more power instead, Republicans should be attentive. In America, too, conservatives are all too often split over how to address racial, sexual, and climate issues that the woke Left uses unrelentingly to accumulate power.

All of this came to the fore after elections on Sunday, July 23, produced messy results. All the polls had pointed to the center-Right Partido Popular (PP) winning the most votes, with many forecasting close to 150 seats in Spain’s 350-seat lower chamber, approaching the coveted 176-seat majority.

That goal would be reached by adding the 35 seats that the further-Right Vox party was expected to get. All the conversations in Madrid's political backrooms and restaurants revolved around how the very centrist PP would be able to get along with a Vox intent on raising cultural matters.

That may no longer be a problem. The PP did indeed win more votes than any other party, but only 136 seats. Vox won 33. So together, they add up to only 169. Centrist parties in Navarre in the Northeast, and in the Canary Islands, could possibly add up to 172. But that’s it.

The Socialist Party of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez not only avoided the 107-seat collapse polls had expected, but ended up performing better than the last election, held in 2019. Sanchez’s Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) netted 122 seats, or two more than it holds at the moment.

Together with the 31 seats won by the communists of the Sumar Party, his current coalition partner, Sanchez, got 153 seats. The additional 23 seats would have to be gained by striking deals with separatists and, in the case of Bildu in the Basque Country, a party long associated with the terrorist ETA organization. Of course, the final tally could change somewhat as overseas votes come in.

Spaniards call such a coalition government of socialists, communists, separatists, anti-monarchists, and terrorist adjacents “el gobierno Frankenstein.”

But this monster coalition could very well take power after King Philip VI meets with party leaders in August and picks one to take a first crack at forming a coalition. One of many wrinkles is that one of the separatist parties in the region of Catalonia demands a referendum on secession as the price for its coveted seven seats.

What does all this mean for America? Could something similar happen here in 2024? Some argue it did already in 2022.

To answer these questions, let’s first look at the differences between our two societies.

Spain has peculiarities that set it apart. As the demands of the Catalan “Junts” party make clear, Spain has regional challenges that the United States simply does not. Whereas American conservatives generally like federalist subsidiarity—allowing the 50 states the greatest leeway possible—Spanish conservatives must always be leery of national breakup. 

The Basque, Catalan, and Galician regions have their own languages and fierce historic pride. Other regions also have their languages and dialects, spoken to greater and lesser degrees. Spanish regional nationalism has a separatist tinge that is absent in, say, France or Germany, and has contributed to civil wars in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Worse than its history might be its present. Spain is now a modern West European country, which means that larger segments of its population than in the U.S. have accepted the radical ideologies which are the stock in trade of the Left. Some 82% of Spaniards believe that climate change is the greatest threat that society confronts this century. That is four points higher than the percentage of American Democrats who believe that climate change is a challenge at all. Overall, just 54% of Americans believe that climate change is a threat.

Polls also show that Spaniards have come to accept many of the changes on transgenderism that PSOE governments have implemented in the past 20 years, such as allowing minors from 16 on to change their identity on the civil registry.

Which brings us to the PP-Vox rift, which might contain lessons for Americans. 

Vox complains, not without reason, that the PP spent the election demonizing its indispensable coalition partner because Vox insists on rolling back the Left’s cultural changes. Last month, PP leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo underlined the PP’s support for the “trans collective,” adding that, “if Vox doesn’t like it, that will be its problem.”

Of course, it’s also important that a party address these potent issues in a way that connects with voters who might prefer to accept cultural upheavals and move on.

In the U.S., too, we see this rift. Some of the current GOP candidates for president have, for example, criticized the actions taken by the state of Florida against woke corporations and schools. Many Republicans seem preternaturally scared of cultural issues, especially when they relate to sex and race.

It is hard to see, however, how any party on either side of the Atlantic can fix the ills that afflict the West by simply proposing good stewardship of the economy—family and culture be damned. If these wars are not waged, the Left will change society and win.

It is up to those of us who recognize the importance of addressing cultural matters to frustrate a media always ready to sabotage conservative messaging—on both sides of the Pond.

This piece originally appeared in The Washington Examiner

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