Gloomy as the mood vis-a-vis the leftist government may become in September, the opposition will still have a tough time cornering SYRIZA.
The administration has shown that it still has the ability to set the political agenda on its own terms. It can manipulate the discourse or stage fabricated arguments that eventually deflect public attention away from the hard stuff. It can be an unorthodox tactic. The government’s standard response, which is summed up in the phrase “We have seen what your governments achieved over 40 years,” is proving extremely resilient. The fact that the opposition is often represented by politicians and, most importantly, by ideas that have been discredited over the years makes it even harder to blow holes in the government’s rhetoric.
Opposition politicians also tend to fall into a trap when attempting to raise issues which may be very important and which should concern public opinion in a normal European country but don’t here because Greece is an odd country in terms of political culture. At the same time, Greek society has undergone an unprecedented crisis.
I am far from certain that passionate criticism about the violent crackdown on dissidents by Venezuela’s Maduro regime or the international conference on communist crimes in Estonia is something that strikes a chord with the average Greek voter. I’m not saying that these issues are not important. They are, because they concern institutions and respect for those institutions. But we should not make the mistake of thinking that such criticism resonates with the masses.
SYRIZA finally has yet another advantage that the opposition needs to deal with: that from its position in government it can draw votes from a very large catchment area. These are public servants who are worried about their future, low-income pensioners who are angry but who nevertheless believe they would have suffered more under an alternative government, the unemployed, those who are getting free electricity, those who receive benefits, who all together comprise a considerable pool of support.
New Democracy and PASOK’s latest reincarnation would make a huge mistake to turn their backs on this reservoir. But for the time being they are out of touch with these voters.
We are in for a tough autumn. It would be a good idea if the opposition were to set up “red teams,” along the lines of those ultilized by private businesses and government agencies in the US, comprising people who have the ability to view a problem from the perspective of their adversaries and plan accordingly.