Opinion
Text in which the author defends ideas and reaches conclusions based on his / her interpretation of facts and data

The right decision

The Socialist Party has learned from an earlier decision that proved to have been a mistake: choosing Zapatero in 2000.

This past weekend, in choosing a new leader, the Socialist Party (PSOE) has learned from past experience, rectifying an earlier decision that proved to have been a mistake. And what mistake was that? Well, choosing Zapatero in 2000.

Then, too, the party was in the dumps, having lost the elections by a landslide that gave the right a clear parliamentary majority. And, needing a new leader for the crossing of the desert, it had to choose between the solid continuity represented by José Bono, and the seductive general overhaul promised by an unknown Zapatero. Perhaps stunned by the hugeness of the defeat, it chose to wipe the slate clean and opt for the chancy overhaul. And that choice seemed to be a sound one at first, when Zapatero won the 2004 elections, failing to see that his victory was not really a victory. Then came the imprudent moves with the Catalans, and the other makeshifts that led the party to crushing defeat in 2011.

Well, the dilemma facing the 38th party convention the other day was closely analogous to the one in 2000. To climb out of the mire of election defeat there were two options. One was Rubalcaba, deficient in media appeal (short, old, ugly), who only represented the continuity of the oligarchic old guard. Against him was the cool Chacón, abounding in political correctness (young, feminist, Catalan), who offered an image of radical overhaul, and also enjoyed strong media clout both right (El Mundo) and left (Público): a candidate, let's say, as attractive as Esperanza Aguirre in her 2008 challenge to Mariano Rajoy, in circumstances strictly symmetrical for the right. So much so that many of us feared that Chacón might win, given the temptation many delegates would feel to bet on a recasting of the party, to bring back the spirit (or mirage) of 2000.

Fortunately, this did not happen. The party soundly decided to bet on the reality principle, avoiding another stumble. For a Socialist Party led by Chacón would have threatened to drift toward an ungovernability similar to that of the three-party regional government in Catalonia. This is why I say the PSOE has learned the lesson of the past, and rectified. And instead of adventure, it has opted for political realism. Because obviously - if we discount the media appeal factor, where Rubalcaba was a clear loser against his attractive rival - in terms of consistency and solidity of the candidates there was no possible doubt. The new Socialist leader is not just a first-class political animal, clearly superior to Chacón in terms of intelligence, preparation and oratory; he has also shown he has the grit necessary for the Herculean task ahead.

Indeed, when Zapatero committed political suicide (by submitting to the EU directorate in May 2010) and then did a vanishing act rather than face the voters, it was Rubalcaba who took the rap, saving him face by standing in for him. And he has also borne the cross of the deserved electoral defeat, paying with his own head the price of common political responsibility, being the propitiatory victim, as the only way of redeeming the party. Thus the fact that he is now to be the party's pathfinder in the long crossing of the desert has a certain poetic justice about it. He who endured vicarious crucifixion as the Messiah, has earned the right to be Moses for a while. And I say Moses, because it seems obvious that Rubalcaba cannot run again in general elections, and must delegate the candidacy to someone else.

Thus the PSOE has shown that it has sufficient sense to reject media adventures, and realistically elect the only leader capable of reorganizing it so as to merit public trust. Just as happened in the PP, which turned its back on the doubtful spell of Esperanza Aguirre to confide in the unglamorous common sense of Mariano Rajoy.

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