The vast majority of the Greek people embrace and share some values. When they see the Greek flag waving, for example, they rejoice and are moved. They do not think, “He must be a fascist to have raised it.” When they see an island or a neighborhood of Athens falling apart due to the problem of illegal migration, they feel the pain of those who took risks to escape from their hell, but they also feel the anger of the local residents very strongly. Again, they do not think, “If they’re shouting, they must be fascists.”
This understanding concerns many issues. From the need to enforce law and order without violating human rights and the aversion to spray-painted and looted university buildings, to the need to strengthen the Hellenic Armed Forces because they face a constant and escalating threat. I think it does not matter if one is left, center or right-wing. These basic and obvious views unite most Greeks. Along with the will not to open old historical wounds with a revanchist mood. Greeks respect history but not as an excuse for fanatical attitudes in 2020.
SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras managed to charm many of these Greek voters in the name of the anti-bailout struggle. People were angry, tired and justifiably felt betrayed. They did not concern themselves with and did not understand the views of SYRIZA when it hovered around the 3 percent approval rate. In the face of Tsipras, they saw a new Andreas Papandreou who would take his revenge on Greece’s lenders and restore the country’s dignity. They were satisfied that they had punished the old political system. The rest belongs to history.
Today, Tsipras is trapped between the need to prove he can govern and the extremism and ideological purity expressed by the old SYRIZA. Here lies another trap. Some people confuse the world of social media with society. Fanaticism and targeted hatred do win some political battles in this artificial world, but it is by no means certain that they win in society. A classic example of that is what happened when Greece responded decisively to the weaponization of refugees and migrants in the border region of Evros. Those SYRIZA officials who want to govern again implied that they would react as the current administration did, while the rest of the party spoke like a marginal NGO.
Whoever wants to rule the country can only speak in a language that is understandable to the average Greek. If SYRIZA makes the mistake of sticking to the old anti-systemic recipe, it will end up in the political margins, because there may be “customers” for this rhetoric but they will look elsewhere for the authentic anti-systemic views. And that is a dangerous thing.