Lately, it hurts to talk to Ciudadanos’ militants. With those who have endured the pull, challenging the press and the elements until Rivera has taken his step, and also with those who have gotten out of the car tired. Since the Catalan elections, the orange ones have lost a lot of thrust. But his current illness was a long announced problem.
When Ciudadanos approached territorial expansion, it faced a serious difficulty: the massive entry of people with their own ideas and interests and an agenda different from that of the “founders” and custodians of the essences. It became a “flood” match, and they didn’t like the experience.
Ciudadanos is a political formation with a mission, and it seems that its leaders decided to protect it. So they changed the statutes and regulations, reduced internal democracy, and created, in fact, a system of practically watertight castes.
The lower one is made up of ordinary members, who are at the information tables and can be seen on the street. Those who campaign, auditors, those who put their faces in bars, offices and social networks, those who fill buses, and those who appear as councilors in their town. They are allowed to choose a “board of directors” to coordinate, but they have no real decision power over anything.
The ruling caste is elected directly from above, by designation —or frequently, by invitation, when “talent is captured” away from home. Leaders can control who accesses the bodies that make the decisions, prepare the electoral lists —with their “official” head of electoral lists—, and propose them to the board of directors, hire the advisors, or carry out the programs. They are the ones that enjoy visibility in the media. They are what they are. Among them, the Organisation area is the one that really holds the power.
The party has made the mistake made by Stalinism and enlightened despotism
This is reinforced because the party really believes that the essential thing to win elections does not happen by having a presence in the street and civil society, but in television and national media. It is assumed that it is the spokesmen who drag others to success, instead of relying on them. So it’s easy to forget them. They are not what matters. They are much better quiet, unless told otherwise.
Ciudadanos has made the mistake of Stalinism and enlightened despotism. “Everything for the people but without the people”, and the five-year plans in the hands of the commissioner. In other words, it does not constitute a democratic party nor does it serve internal talent. It is done what they send the above, and everything else is an illusion. Affiliates —possibly even the group with the greatest reformist motivation in the country, and more qualified— do not contribute anything to the decision making process.
As in all regimes of this type, the thing can work if the leaders are very good. But history shows that conformism is rewarded and is silenced to the one who points out that the emperor is naked. That he hears a lot of taxes and little feedback. Or that the candidate is stained from his passage through the People’s Party (PP), as in León.
Too often, they end up appointing apparátchiks, more attentive to complying with management indicators than to develop and integrate talent, and completely disconnected from the priorities of militancy. Even when they are not, they are rarely the best of the party or have the support of affiliates.
The inevitable result consists of clashes between the militant Jacobins —Ciudadanos was a very ideological party, with a very high level of idealism— and the leading apparátchiks —more concerned with strategies than ideals, and more attentive to the convenience of the organization than to its supposed objectives. And the outcome, disappointment and resignation.
The structure of Ciudadanos is, by design, a tool that allows its Management to make decisions with agility and control the brand and the message. Also, a recipe to demotivate the idealists, the competent and the ambitious. Even those who have been named as part of the ruling caste.
An organization that only works from top to bottom, and not vice versa, wastes most of its potential. When you are a child, it can be a smart choice. When you aspire to rule, suicide.
The alternative is to assume its own program and its mantras on internal democracy —will Rivera know to what extent it bothers its affiliates to say in public that it is the most democratic party in Spain?. Also for releasing the lists of managerial influences. Audit the electoral machinery. Re-elect the top five positions of the candidates (or all). Take militancy seriously, and let talent and ideas emerge, without depending on being identified from above. And all that before the party finishes becoming another box of followers and flatterers, instead of a team of activists wanting to change the world.
Of course, Ciudadanos presents other external problems. The most visible, the communication campaign that the traditional parties —and the “establishment” denounced by Rivera— permanently direct against its foundations and that, in the long run, makes a dent in a disconnected and disoriented militancy.
Perhaps, the time has come to address the root problem and reorganize the inner workings of the formation, killing two birds with one stone. If Ciudadanos really wants to grow and become a government party, they must stop having muddy feet. And eliminate that crack that makes it vulnerable.