Today fall has really kicked in. It’s getting colder and damper and darker and just the right moment to talk about politics. It’s not me. Really. The conditions warrant it.
The Spanish political system stirs interest in me in part because of its youth. This is ironic considering how long Spain has been around as one nation…if we had to pin a date down on it, the most likely choice would be, let me see, can’t remember, and I should know this because I’m a History major, hold on, WIKIPEDIA!!!!!! Help!!!!!…
There we go, 1469, when Isabella and Ferdinand married. It was a union that joined more than two bodies; it brought together their respective kingdoms of Castile and Aragon. Up until then, Spain was a conglomerate of kingdoms, principalities and counties, and it was a big mess. And in a sense, it remained that way for some time, but we can say that the seeds of a nation were planted then. But it’s all very confusing so I ain’t going there. There’s that spellchecker underlining “ain’t” in red again. But it’s spelled correctly. Oh, I get it. They want us to pretend it ain’t a word. That’s mature. It accepts “y’all” for example. Go figure.
Now you understand why I am not a political writer.
Anyway, from there the monarchs went on to discover America. Not bad for a term in office. Still, they didn’t think much of the average citizen. They ousted all non-Christians during their reign and certainly had no affinity for universal suffrage. Nor would any of the successive monarchs for that matter. In fact, up until the year people started lining up to see Star Wars, Spain had offered little in the way of an open democracy. It became a republic for the first time in the 1870s, but the stint lasted a pitiful 22 months. They tried again with the Second Republic in 1931, and though it managed to survive 7 years, it ended up leaving the country in shambles, led to a bloody civil war followed by 40 years of dictatorship. I would give it a low rating on performance.
When Franco died in 1975, the newly crowned King Juan Carlos I appointed a well-known former Francoist, Adolfo Suárez, to take over as prime minister for the interim. Suárez proceeded to introduce major political reforms, probably the most notable of which was the call for free elections. They were held in 1977, and it was Suárez’s middle-of-the-road Union of the Democratic Center Party which stood victorious at the end of the day. Suárez’s tenure in power was a rocky one, but that was because the country was about as stable as a raw egg spinning on a marble table. Though he has eventually gone down in history as one the of key figures in making the political transition relatively smooth and is one of the most respected politicians in the history of Spain’s modern democracy, he took a lot of punches from all sides while in office. The pressure and chaos must have been brutal. Eventually, as he felt that he was no longer being effective as a leader, he resigned, which is something you don’t find many leaders anywhere doing. I think it says a lot for him. Basically he realized he was in over his head and not able to lead anymore. His final words before departing were: “I don’t want this democratic process to be yet another pause in the history of Spain.” Yeap, man. You said it.
Irrefutable evidence that Spain was far from where it wanted to be surfaced when members of the military tried to take over the government in 1981. Yes, that’s right. That’s 1981. Western Europe. The United States had just sworn in its fortieth president, and this country was still struggling with the concept of letting its own people determine its own future. On the other hand, we had just elected an intellectually-challenged B-actor from California, so maybe they had a right to cast some doubt on allowing the general public to have a say in these matters.
Jokes aside, because it was no laughing matter. February 22, 1981 was a rough day for Spain. But the perpetrators gave up after they realized they didn’t have the proper support. After the coup was put down and the Socialist party took over, the country entered a new phase.
All right. I’ll tell you more about it later; but don’t tell anyone I’m talking politics.