Only two years ago, Carmen Gonzalez-Enriquez, senior analyst with Spain’s Elcano Royal Institute, claimed the country was “immune to the appeal of right-wing populism” that had been sweeping Europe [The Spanish Exception: Unemployment, inequality and immigration, but no right-wing populist parties, Zurich Center for Security Studies, February 14, 2017] Not anymore. In the April 28 election, the immigration patriot Vox party won 10.3 percent of the vote and broke into Spain’s lower house of parliament, seating 24 representatives. This pattern of populists conquering Establishment complacency has now been seen in Finland, Sweden, Germany, Britain…and, of course, in the U.S. It’s a thing.
Here’s how the votes broke down for the other four major parties:
[Spain’s socialists beat a divided right but without a clear majority William Chislett, Elcano Royal Institute, Apr. 29, 2019.]
Vox is a right-wing nationalist party formed by refugees from the Partido Popular and led by Santiago Abascal. Significantly, Partido Popular, the conventional right-wing party, went downhill from the last election, apparently losing votes to Ciudadanos on its left and Vox on the right.
Seats in the lower house [Congreso de los Diputados] are a major step forward for Vox. In the elections of 2015 and 2016, Vox pulled a combined 105,296 votes. But this time, they received more than 25 times that total: 2.67 million votes.
Vox—Latin for “voice”— is a centralizing nationalist party, opposed to all secession (Catalan, Basque, Galician, etc.), socially conservative, proposing replacing same-sex “marriage” with civil unions, and “anti-Islamic,” meaning it doesn’t support importing millions of Muslims.
Indeed, in a conference in the Canary Islands (in the Atlantic but part of Spain), party leader Abascal has even said he would prefer Latin American immigrants to Muslims:
An immigrant from a brother Hispano-American country, with the same culture, the same language, with the same world view, is not the same as the immigration coming from the Islamic countries.” Santiago Abascal, president of Vox, opened up against immigration, with scant concessions to what is called politically correct—of which he also complained—in a conference … before an audience composed of followers of that extreme right-wing party, including some children.
[Abascal (Vox): ‘No es lo mismo un inmigrante hispanoamericano que la inmigración de los países islámicos’ (A Hispanic American immigrant is not the same as immigration from Islamic countries), by Carlos Sosa, eldiario.es, April 17, 2018.]
Of course, this shocked Spain’s media. Must innocent children hear such things?!
In fact, Abascal thinks Spain doesn’t need more immigrants at all and said as much at the same conference.
And Abascal complained about “hate speech” becoming a “hate crime":
Some speak of freedom … and they want to punish what they call hate crimes?... If you talk about immigration, because you believe a country has to have controlled borders, they call it xenophobia. They immediately call you xenophobe, racist, they call you everything. And not only that, they want to prohibit this type of talk.
Vox appeals to traditional Spanish culture and history, to what Abraham Lincoln (also a centralizer) called the “mystic chords of memory,” Vox even calls its movement the Reconquista, a reference not to Mexico taking back the Southwest but to the centuries-long struggle in which Spaniards heroically fought to drive the Muslims out of Spain, ending with Ferdinand and Isabella’s defeat of the Nasrid dynasty at Granada in 1491.
At Covadonga, Abascal said he intended to debate “the very existence of Spain, whose liberties are attacked by progressives, Islamists and communists” [Abascal inicia en Covadonga su particular “reconquista” de España (Abascal initiates in Covadonga his particular “reconquest” of Spain), La Vanguardia, April 13, 2019]
That carries a lot of emotional resonance and, happily enough, offended progressives, Islamists, and communists. That’s probably why Abascal opened his victory speech with the same theme (Video here, translations by me):
This is only the beginning. …I said we would start a Reconquista, and this is just what we’ve done. A Reconquista and a voice in Congress [the lower house of Parliament]. Now there will be a voice in Congress [the lower house]. A voice that wasn’t there before. A political force that has gone, in 3 years, from having 40,000 votes in all of Spain to having 2 and a half million votes.
Abascal positioned Vox as the authentic voice of conservatives by addressing the conventional conservative party, the Partido Popular, which was holding its post-election event not far away:
I also want to launch a warning to those that are not far up the street [Partido Popular] who are now trying to blame us for their inabilities, their disloyalty, their betrayals and of their fears.
Next he utilized a catchy expression:
And we say to those of the derechita cobarde who have begun through their spokesmen to blame Vox for their failure.
“Derechita cobarde” is an example of how the language of Cervantes produces such witty expressions. Its literal meaning is “the Cowardly Little Right”. Abascal defended Vox against the charge of taking the Cowardly Little Right’s votes, and flatly said Partido Popular failed to fight:
And here the only responsibility are those who had 186 seats and were not able to oppose the Left. It’s the responsibility of those who delivered the television, the media, and the education to the Left and to the dictadura progre.
Sounds very familiar—just like Conservatism Inc. in the U.S.
So Abascal is acutely aware that the Left controls the media/entertainment complex and educational system—not just in Spain but across the West. While the Right can sometimes win elections, it’s the Left that is driving the culture. That Spanish expression dictadura progre, the “progressive dictatorship,” is part of the title of a book by Pablo Molina, published in 2006, La dictadura progre. Apuntes de un reaccionario. [“The Progressive Dictatorship. Notes of a Reactionary.”]
Abascal offered a near-poetic litany of how the 24 representatives will change things. They “will defend our sovereignty” They will oppose the Catalan secession and defend Spanish sovereignty from the European Union. They “will say that our borders must be defended from illegal immigration and those who enter illegally into our house have to be expelled.” They “will defend the freedom of education of the parents so that our children will not be indoctrinated by the progres [progressives].
Abascal also appealed to the more conservative rural vote: VOX “will defend the interests and the concerns of the empty Spain [the less populated areas] and of the rural world—bullfighting, Holy Week, hunting.”
Allowing for cultural and situational differences, one might see a resemblance to the Trump movement. Indeed 2016, Vox’s slogan was "Hacer España grande otra vez”—Make Spain Great Again!
But the party is coy about it. Back in 2016, Vox’s Rocio Monasterio was asked if the party had copied Trump. She replied:
We are not copying Trump because we do not want to make America great, we aspire to make Spain great…. What’s wrong with wanting the best for Spain?”
Medios internacionales se hacen eco del eslogan de VOX, VoxEspana.es, June 9, 2016
And Abascal said this just recently:
Interviewer: What impact has Steve Bannon, who was Trump’s political adviser, had on your success?
Santiago Abascal: "No descarto que el PP se disuelva tras el 28-A, como la UCD, by Javier G. Negre, El Mundo, April 22, 2019
But in fact, Vox has had contact with Bannon. According to Pablo Pardo, writing in Foreign Policy, it was Vox who first reached out to Steve Bannon, to get help with social media, and some party leaders have met with Bannon. [Make Spain Great Again , April 27, 2019]
OK, we understand, Trump is unpopular in Spain. So Vox is not going to emphasize that.
But Bannon, Pardo noted, called Vox “one of the most important and interesting political parties in Europe.”
Bannon is right. Vox is firmly grounded in traditional Spanish culture, with its particular centralizing politics, while at the same time dealing with common problems of the Western world. Isn’t that what having a distinctive culture is about?
The very existence of such a patriot party can have a great effect, on Spain and on the West. Vox is definitely a party to keep an eye on.
American citizen Allan Wall (email him) moved back to the U.S.A. in 2008 after many years residing in Mexico. Allan's wife is Mexican, and their two sons are bilingual. In 2005, Allan served a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his Mexidata.info articles are archived here; his News With Views columns are archived here; and his website is here.