Interview. Podemos founder Juan Carlos Monedero tells il manifesto that the unconventional party ran a conventional campaign, losing its connection to the streets.

Podemos’ mistake? Blending into the crowd

Juan Carlos Monedero, a professor of political science at the Complutense University of Madrid and writer, is one of the founders of Podemos. He and Pablo Iglesias are two of the original members of the party. Then Monedero abandoned the party after a rift with Iglesias and Errejon, the No. 1 and No. 2. Podemos took a blatantly electoral road, while Monedero thinks it should have kept its radicalism and newness.

The co-founder has remained close to the political party, however. He is always present, even on the stage, during the the important and decisive events. He uses his “freedom” from party positions to often be the opposing interlocutor to Iglesias. His role allows him to be critical of Podemos on one side, and on the other, to “suggest” possibilities to his former comrades.

Immediately after the disappointment of the elections on June 26, he reviewed on his blog the outcome of the vote and presented some very sharp criticism, but he also tried to emphasize the importance of gaining 71 deputies in the House, consolidating a political space that until recently did not even exist. Still a disappointment, but the result was relevant anyway.

Let’s start from the election result: You talked about childishness in Podemos because it relied too much on surveys.

There is more than one reason, of course. But the belief in surveys and believing to be ahead of the PSOE caused the campaign to focus on defending the votes they thought they had, rather than on winning new ones. All this within an electoral context in which there was a clear intent: to create “fear” to vote for Unidos Podemos in the voters. And who knows whether those polls made Podemos “annoying” to many potential voters, even causing it to lose a certain empathy with its voters. I spoke about empathy, because probably many potential voters have lost some esteem for a party that presented itself as different from others, but at the end blended in with the other parties in the electoral contest

Juan Carlos Monedero

A party that perhaps in the election campaign has lost touch with the “streets,” with civil society.

Yes, although I would point out that when I say that we have lost the “streets,” I do not mean just to go there, but to “be” in streets with the social strata to which we bear values ​​and solutions. We were born as a new ideological force, quite different from the old parties. But there was too little effort toward civil society, while there was a lot of purely parliamentary effort. This is good, but it is necessary to make a difference in practice, including during the election campaign. Symbolically, you cannot make a difference on TV, where the debates tend to unify style, actions, rules and so on. And even if you won’t do it in the election campaign if you define yourself as Social Democrat, praise Zapatero or when you say that the Catalan referendum is a red line. All these slogans need detailed, complex explanations, that require both time and a different approach. Otherwise they end up confusing those who may have even decided to vote for you, but feel the loss of a certain disruption.

Could the alliance with Izquierda Unida have been a problem with the vote, in light of the fact that basically it did not add to or multiply the votes obtained on Dec. 20 last year?

We can make several assumptions: I think that in the end, we not only missed the abstainers, but also the voters of Izquierda Unida. Let me explain: We were afraid that the most moderate voters might worry about the alliance with IU. Instead, I think the followers of IU did not like the alliance much. Just remember that the former secretary of Izquierda Unida Cayo Lara [the one whom Alberto Garzon replaced] at the last Congress had said that it was very hard for him having to vote Unidos Podemos. It is clear that we were born with a precise goal: to create something new on the left. Reinventing the left, right up against the logic of the traditional left, but of course dialoguing with the left. And perhaps for this reason, in order to create this wide front, you need more time. Furthermore, I think the party’s formula is outdated and now it needs to find other solutions.

What do you think of the loss of the million votes, as you wait for the results of the demographic analysis?

One part — as I said — we lacked the strong vote of Izquierda Unida. Another part, I think, went to the forces against change, mostly to the PSOE, and a very important part abstained. This is something that must be understood very well, because there are objective factors: the repeated elections, the weariness of the people against the elections, the fear stoking by the PP and PSOE. But the rest of the missing votes is completely our responsibility. We were not able to read the reality that was building around us. Our potential voters wanted something new and we are too blended with the rest, without marking our differences adequately. Besides, the analyses say one thing very clear: that the vote of those over 45, rural and with a lower level of education goes to the right. Those urban, young voters, with educational qualifications, they vote to the left. It is a very demanding electorate, which goes completely recovered. Being so close to the PSOE has weighed very much, to tend our hand so many times. If we continue on this road, it could possibly become a chronic problem.

Now what can happen inside Unidos Podemos? Is it possible to have an extraordinary congress?

I think not, but for sure it is necessary to open a broad debate. After all, we know the solutions. The conservatives advocate the usual solutions that we already know do not work: war, terrorism, migrants, public assets, we well know their solutions. We must open a discussion space to develop other solutions, take charge of the problems and choose which are the paths to follow, among people who are our reference. We have to open a discussion that extends the front but that is not, for once, an emergency, otherwise we know who will be short of breath.

Assuming a Rajoy government, does Podemos have the strength to stand in opposition?

We’ll see, because in the meantime when the right takes over power, it does not give it up so easily. This was in response to the hypothesis of a shaky government a couple of years ago … but for Podemos, the stage that opens is very attractive. As I said, you cannot win elections if you have not demonstrated the ability to govern. Now, we have the opportunity to make a fight, both parliamentary and social, and prove that we can be able to govern, by exploiting the municipalities where we do. It takes time though. We have to prove that we have the solutions and can be useful.

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