This week I was quite impressed with the news that a relatively young party (11 months old) – Podemos – was leading the polls in Spain.
There are a couple of observations I’d like to make regarding these events.
First, there is a growing discontent with the political system (specially among young people). I think that is the case in Europe but I am assuming it is happening across the world as well. What is even more striking is the inability of the current political forces to fulfill the aspirations of the people. It all feels a bit like the incumbent political parties are facing some sort of Innovator’s Dilemma: they are not reacting fast enough to the changes that are undergoing in the political landscape, smaller parties are noticing those changes and developing new ways to communicate and address the needs of the population, these new parties start with a smaller subset of the population (that does not seem to be interesting enough for the incumbents) and then, almost by surprise they undertake the incumbents.
I don’t believe that the economic crisis is all to blame for the decaying importance of these political actors (if anything, I believe it just helped to exacerbate it). Apart from the “Innovators Dilemma” I think that their processes of self implosion are also playing a large part in their current malaise. By processes of self implosion I mean corruption scandals, negligence, incompetence, inadequate policies, etc. Sometimes it feels like these parties are their own worst opposition.
Second, I mentioned earlier that I had a thesis that some social movements that took place in the past years did not translate into meaningful change because they lacked the structure to exert pressure in the political system. It is interesting to see that the Podemos party was created out of such need and that it is being somehow successful with its approach. It is also interesting to see how the web is empowering such movements. Podemos uses social media to engage with supporters (it has more online fans that any other political party in Spain), it’s support comes through crowdfunding and they used Agora Voting to choose their EMPs.
Third, I’m sure that in the coming years the political landscape will change (at least in Europe). Movements of all sorts (from far right to far left) are capitalizing on the tectonic shift that is moving right below everyone’s feet. I think apathy is the worst response we can have to such changes. We can no longer keep waiting for an extraordinary event to happen and suddenly solve things. If we want to live in an healthier democracy and in a better planet we’ll just have to roll up sleeves and contribute.
When Ben Franklin was carried from the constitutional convention in
September of 1787, he was stopped in the street by a woman who said,
“Mr. Franklin, what have you wrought?” Franklin said, “A republic,
madam, if you can keep it.” A republic. A representative democracy. A
government dependent upon the people alone. We have lost that
republic. All of us have to act to get it back. – Lawrence