A significant number of our fellow citizens find themselves on the fringes of social and political life. They have been pushed there by the crisis and their anger at a political system that has not upheld its contract with them for decades. Up until a few years ago, many of these people belonged to the sturdy stem of the center-right. These are homeowners, conservatives who may have had some extreme views on a variety of social issues but never really deviated from the norms of liberal democracy. Among their ranks you would find military people, police officers, judges and merchants. New Democracy lost their support because many picked up on the party’s early anti-memorandum rhetoric and remained in that camp when leader Antonis Samaras made an about-face before being elected prime minister.
Now they are furious and have embraced a number of far-fetched conspiracy theories, which have replaced their value system to become the only tool through which they can comprehend the crisis. The younger members of this group get their information from websites that spin their own conspiracies and explain everything as being part of a diabolical scheme to hurt the Greeks. Anger and the certainty that they know what’s up has led many of these people to anti-memorandum mania.
The future of this country depends on winning these people back. Any politician or party who shuns or ridicules them is foolish and arrogant, because at the end of the day, the responsibility for our current circumstances lies mostly with our politicians.
Anyway, the right began its populist turn long before the memorandum, when certain high-ranking cadres decided that instead of following in the footsteps of the party’s biggest visionaries, ND needed to imitate early PASOK and to address a lower common denominator. They forgot that for a nation to move forward it needs ambitious goals; not complacency or persecution syndromes.
The solution does not lie in coming closer to the far-right. It lies in hard work, in dialogue and in the effort to convince voters that a regime of hate is not the way to go and that extreme nationalism is detrimental to the nation.
Everyone has a role to play in this effort: the state, which can start by imposing the law and order instead of being absent from our neighborhoods; the Church, which can address people’s souls; politicians, the media, community groups and every individual.
Many say that it is too late to win back the center-right that gravitated to the extremes because too much poison has been pumped into its veins. They may be right, but this does not mean that we should not put up a fight for them, that we should surrender them.