Virtual Voices

Spain's conservative movement gains influence

Europe

MADRID-Spain is not a place where you would expect to find much of a conservative movement. The country's prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero, is a member of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party, which is a party that-if you are a conservative-is as bad as it sounds. Under his administration, which began in 2004, he has legalized same-sex marriage, made abortion more accessible, withdrawn Spanish troops from the Iraq war, and negotiated with terrorist organizations.

But even the easy-going and left-leaning Spanish people are beginning to say, "enough is enough." Zapatero's policies have led to an economic and social disaster. Unemployment in the county is above 20 percent. Zapatero has said he will not stand for reelection in 2012. And the center-right opposition party, the Partido Popular (Popular Party), led by Mariano Rajoy, has gained seats in the national parliament. It currently has around 155 seats and needs only 170 for an outright majority. Many observers believe the PP will achieve that majority in 2012.

All of this is encouraging Spain's tiny but growing conservative movement, including Elio Gallego Garcia, director of the Instituto de Estudios de la Familia (Institute of Studies of the Family at the Universidad San Pablo, one of the few (relatively) conservative colleges in Spain.

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I am in the country this week and next (look for additional reports) and recently visited with Garcia at an outdoor café in downtown Madrid. He told me, "The people of Spain are more conservative than its leaders." He says one of the reasons for this political reality is that the Popular Party has no primary elections, so it is difficult for more conservative candidates and conservative ideas to get a fair hearing in the party. "The PP started out very conservative and has become more and more moderate," he said.

Nonetheless, the PP is beginning to win elections. Not only has it made gains in the national parliament, it is beginning to win or at least poll strongly in local elections, too. "The economic crisis is motivating many to realize that Zapatero's ideas are flawed," Garcia said.

All of this is motivating Garcia and other conservatives. A pro-life rally in 2009 attracted more than 1 million people to the streets of Madrid, making it one of the largest such rallies ever in Europe. It happened because of the cooperation of more than 200 pro-life groups across the Continent, spearheaded by unprecedented coordination by Spain's conservative groups.

"That event was important," Garcia said. "It told us that many people still care about these issues. It gave many conservatives hope that change was possible."

Indeed, in recent years, a wide variety of conservative and pro-family organizations have gained strength. Separate groups representing education choice, pro-family issues (including opposition to same-sex marriage), and economic liberty/free-market issues have begun to exert greater influence and are getting significant media attention.

"We don't have a Tea Party movement in Spain, and we have no media like Fox News, but we are slowly gaining strength at every level," Garcia said. "I would have to say that many in the conservative movement are hopeful."

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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