Speech fragmentation emerges in CFK's farewell

Julio Burdman

Peronism should pursue better rhetorical strategies.

Every morning, the communications department of Spain’s Popular Party (PP) sends an email to all its political leaders.

The newsletter contains the party’s official stances on the main political and economic issues of the day. And everybody gets the same message, from national Cabinet ministers to local activists, in the smallest villages of the most impoverished regions like Extremadura to the wealthiest ones like Navarra or Catalonia.

Everyone associated with the party must use the exact words cited, without changing a single comma, in order to engage in political debate and advance the party line. Uniformed speech is the most effective way of disseminating political ideas — you throw one line to party members and it replicates on a much larger scale.

Other political parties around the world share similar communicational tactics. Among us in Argentina, PRO is the party whose communication illustrates the modern concept of speech unification.

Journalist Werner Pertot, from Página/12, leaked some emails, attributed to Jaime Durán Barba and Marcos Peña, that tell “the team” — from Mauricio Macri all the way down — what to say during the political campaign. Those emails were criticized (and underestimated), but speech unification is actually the great strength of Macri’s team: it allowed Let’s Change to shift its ideological positioning in just one week, just after the narrow victory in the BA City runoff earlier this year.

On the other hand, Daniel Scioli and the Victory Front (FpV) suffers from speech fragmentation. The presidential candidate doesn’t have a monopoly on the ruling party’s speech — and he needs it to pursue a smart strategy against Macri’s discursive manouevres. When PRO claims “there is a campaign of fear,” Scioli’s allies respond differently, with answers ranging from a peace-and-love answer to an ideological all-or-nothing confrontational response.

So the FpV candidate has had to make a huge effort to differentiate himself and create his own personal identity. He therefore lacks the flexibility to introduce rapid changes to his positions.

Every day, discordant voices participate in the media arena — Salta Governor Juan Manuel Urtubey (a conservative), Interior Minister and former Scioli rival, Florencio Randazzo, the talkative, reckless Cabinet Chief Aníbal Fernández and others are not receiving such newsletters.

The FpV doesn’t have a communication “central command” — maybe there isn’t even a mailing list with all the party’s members on it.

Peronism and the PRO belong to two very different types of organizations. The first one is heterogeneous, broad, territorial, and spread all over the country. The second is homogeneous, smaller, and concentrated in the Buenos Aires region. PRO has therefore had an easier path to speech unification — add one Durán Barba to that, and you have a communication strategy.

Scioli also faces additional problems. For many years, the overwhelmingly dominat voice in the FpV was that of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Their leaders didn’t need newsletters because they had her speeches to follow. All they had to do was to repeat and disseminate her statements. Now, the ruling party faces some rhetorical orphancy, where CFK’s different voice also means different political goals and strategies.

However, over the last days there has been some spontaneous unification. The struggle against Macri’s growing momentum is pulling everybody into line behind Scioli’s voice. Once again, the Peronist tradition of verticality is helping to fill the blanks, but when the next time rolls around, the party should better think of more modern techniques.

Publicado en Buenos Aires Herald el 18 de noviembre de 2015. Versión publicada aquí.