Sunday, March 14, 2004

civics lesson from hell
Slaughter is transient, but politics is eternal. The initial squeamishness about speculating on the political consequences of the Madrid bombings inevitably subsides under electoral pressure. The typical calculus allocates votes to responsibility. If the bombings were the work of Eta, then more of Aznar and the hard line. If it was Al Qaeda, then voters will punish Aznar for getting them involved in Iraq and so painting a big, bright target on their collective foreheads.

I don’t think responsibility for the bombings will in itself do much to change the way people vote. It doesn’t seem likely, for instance, that conservative Spaniards who preferred the Pope’s position on Iraq to Aznar’s will therefore vote socialist. Spain was a target anyway, potentially, along with the rest of the West. It’s more the fact that we’re voting that puts us at risk rather than who we’re voting for.

What may make a difference is if the electorate think that Aznar and co have manipulated news of the bombings to ensure electoral success. There may be signs of that, but it’s probably too soon for people to have made up their minds on that subject (if it was Blair, that would be another issue entirely, given the general level of distrust in which he is held).

All we can say right now, as of Sunday afternoon, is that the bombings have increased people’s determination to vote. The disillusioned and cynical both left and right seem impelled to make a more general statement of faith in their society, along with all the true believers. So the result may depend on whether there are more disillusioned lefties around than rightists, or vice versa.

update: truly insightful blogging about Spain from Edward Hugh at a Fistful of Euros