It’s the ideas, stupid

Political parties are no strangers to defeat – even election debacles. These days New Democracy has the sad privilege of humiliating itself simply by launching a procedure for the nomination of a new party leader. The vengeful stance of conservative cadres against former Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is not doing the party any good either. But the battle for succession is being fought on the wrong battlefield because it’s focusing on the people and not the ideas around which the new ND will be built. The fact is that all the present candidates are greatly inferior to Karamanlis, who succeeded in restoring unity to an ideologically fragmented party and led an army of officials to successive election victories in 2004 and 2007. The next ND leader will hopefully have a unifying effect, but unity seems quite elusive right now, as there seems to be no ideology strong enough to override personal rivalries. Some candidates say there is no reason to reaffirm the party’s identity. But this is typical of the intellectual idleness dogging the party of late. The Greek quasi-provincial political system has watched the rise of the big Western leaders without really examining the reasons behind their success. The reason why a mediocre Hollywood actor, Ronald Reagan, went on to become US president or why Margaret Thatcher, the daughter of a middle-class grocer, left her mark on Britain was not because they had a soft spot for Armani. Their rise and success was due to new ideas – ideas that were shaped by others but which they expressed in a populist yet passionate fashion. These politicians did not adapt to the political, economic or cultural establishment of their country. They fought it, overturned it and created a new ruling class. The ideas of Reagan and Thatcher are out, but after first having transformed politics on a global level. Today ND must return to the heart of conservative ideals before injecting them with new meaning.