No emotions, no democracy

The barometer of the CIS of February 2017 reconfirms politics and politicians as one of the main problems for the Spaniards. Behind it are unemployment, corruption or the economic situation. The disconnect between citizenship and political class is total and without emotion, there is no democracy.

For a large majority of Spaniards, politicians do not care about what people want but only seek their personal interests. This deep disaffection by politicians also translates into a deep disaffection for democracy. There is a lack of trust in institutions. These do not even get approved. The assessment of the political situation remains bad or very bad for more than 71% of the respondents.


Divorce between politicians and citizens


The disaffection of Spanish citizens by politicians is not very different from the disaffection they also feel for the elites of power. There has been a profound divorce between the established and the citizens. There are different causes but, without doubt, the most important are that the current society is subject to changes so deep and fast that make the foundations of ideas falter. Today’s society has questioned even the main emotional processes that a person has. The rupture between citizenship and politics has parallels with that which has occurred in the three main emotional processes. The lack of trust in politicians and institutions, as in a relationship, is the consequence of the lack of an emotional component in their relations with citizens.


The recovery of the emotional component


The current political situation in which four major parties compete for the electorate makes emotions a fundamental component. It must be taken into account when designing campaigns and recovering citizen support. This can be seen more prominently in the campaigns of the new formations, especially on the part of Podemos. This formation has used the emotional component of 15M to design all their campaigns. It can be seen in the campaign of the European Elections of 2014 and its motto was “When was the last time that you voted with hope?”. It is also present in the last campaign for the generals with the motto “The smile of a country”.

Likewise, Ciudadanos in their two campaigns to the general election has used the motto “Vote with hope”. This message distances them from their previous campaigns which were more traditional and had worse results. For its part, PSOE and PP have used the speech that appeals to the emotion of fear focusing on the new formations, especially against Podemos.


Emotional Democracy


The use of emotions helps judge the current world. It also helps to connect political institutions and representatives with the electorate. The human being lacks control over his emotions. This absence does not make them unthinking since they influence decisively in the decisions of the voters.

The search for support through emotional strategies is what is called Emotional Democracy. However, old and new parties must take into account the consequences of using this powerful tool. Enthusiastic emotions around political objects can have unexpected consequences. It is not the same to encourage the illusion that the fear or the love that the hatred. In this way, emotional democracy poses new challenges to politics. These are not just about emotions but about political objects where they are focused.


Without emotion there is no democracy


One of the first things that emotional democracy must take into account is that emotions focused on political leaders can trigger narcissism and selfishness. The followers of the leader become mere instruments for their own vainglory. This becomes an object of worship that must be worshiped. The promotion of the emotions towards the leader causes to suspend the own judgment. The decisions taken make it irrational what threatens the very meaning of democratic plurality. In this sense, Partido Popular and Podemos are the less personalistic parties in the campaigns. Both Ciudadanos and PSOE focus their campaign more on the candidate. In the last Galician and Basque elections, the face of Albert Rivera was omnipresent although this one did not appear in either election.

On the other hand, the object of the emotions in the emotional democracy can also be focused in reference to the ideological construction. Concepts little defined as homeland are associated with an emotion of pride. This encourages a great difference between patriots and unpatriotic. In the same way, other terms like town or class produce the same effects.

The emotional use of these terms generates polarization. This favors the parties at the extremes of the ideological scale. They make them gain support because it set out politics as a confrontation between two groups that emotionally arouse negativity.


Construct politics with emotions


Emotional construction is made of political objects to polarize politics. Also noteworthy are the relationships that are established between militants of different ideologies. Of special importance is the cultivation of emotion that generates political friendship in the face of enmity. Hence polarization arises. This essential component not only includes tolerance but also the health of the democratic system itself.

The attention of the new policy for Emotional Democracy is clear. This emotiveness can make the search for bridges between citizenship and politics be transformed. We run the risk of opening a gap even deeper than the current one. It will depend on the use of the politics of emotions. The question that arises now is what use is being given to emotions?