Winning back the desperate
Even if Golden Dawn does suffer a major drop in popularity following the murder of musician Pavlos Fyssas by one of its purported members, the problem of the party will not go away. There will still be a very large number of Greeks who are beyond angry and beyond reason, and they are sitting ducks for anyone who wants to cover their need of expression with facile answers to the crisis. It may be a party that is purely in favor of returning to the drachma, it may be a mutation of Golden Dawn, it may be anyone at all.
New Democracy and PASOK should not give up on these voters. Golden Dawn emerged and grew right under the unsuspecting nose of the political system, as the people saw every concept of law and order lost from the streets and neighborhoods and watched their salaries and pensions being slashed. The nonchalant, elitist attitude of those who brushed off the people who were becoming scared and angry was a huge mistake.
The political system needs to build new bridges to connect itself with the angry masses. There is nothing easy about this. In fact, a seasoned politician I was talking to recently told me that he thought it futile, because so many of these people no longer trust the media and prefer to get their information from the “most outlandish sources.”
The truth is that a big part of the political system and the media did its very best to push voters into the Golden Dawn camp. Even metropolitan bishops, who now express regret, openly sided with the far-right party, and numerous commentators sang its praises after jumping on the bandwagon of claims that Greece was under occupation by the forces of the memorandum.
The first step toward winning them back would be for politicians and certain media personalities to stop worrying about ratings and to hold back on the oil that they pour on the flames of public discourse.
The biggest mistake that the political system, and New Democracy in particular, can make now is to start playing up to Golden Dawn and taking a more right-wing stance. There are those who advocate New Democracy shifting closer to Golden Dawn, but they are clearly comfortable in a very particular political niche and by extension quite happy with a very small percentage of the vote.
Should their proposals be adopted, not only will Golden Dawn’s supporters fail to be wowed, but those who brought Antonis Samaras to power in the second of last year’s elections will turn away from ND. The crux of the matter entails addressing the two issues that made Golden Dawn popular. On the law and order front, Public Order Minister has been doing a good job, which means is it crucial that tackling unemployment should be the absolute top priority for the government over the next few months. There is no worse council than despair and the idea that even if the country collapses, things can’t possibly get worse for each one of us.