Befuddlement in Catalonia
I am neither in favor of nor against Catalonia's independence. The recent turn of elections, where the independentistas won a majority of seats in the parliament, has proven nothing. What does remain is an absolute amazement at the incompetence of Iberian government on all sides at all levels. Aggravating this are remarkable levels of fake news.
Before one addresses the recent elections, which the independentistas won, we should start in June of 2017, when the Catalan government itself ran a poll. The result showed a then embarrassing drop in support for independence, down to a mere 41.1%. The link to the original poll on the government site has been "conveniently" taken down, but we know the results.
[T]he percentage of people supporting a Catalan independent state dropped to 41.1 percent in June  from 44.3 percent in March.
Beneath all the hype, the independentistas did not have a clear majority as late as six months ago, and their own polls showed that support was decreasing at that time. That the Catalan authorities even bothered to stage an election in October was beyond all reason, unless they planned to engineer results.
The central Madrid government declared the election illegal when it could have avoided a problem by declaring it merely pointless. To be sure, Madrid's violent actions to suppress the elections were thuggish and counterproductive.
A mere four months from the June poll that showed 41.1% approval, suddenly, the "approval" for independence jumped to an astounding 92% overall in October, if you can believe it. Apparently, approval for independence had more than doubled in just four months. Incredible! The Catalan government sold the election results to the world as a truly democratic expression of the will of the Catalan people. One is amazed at how many people bought that line.
Clearly, what happened is that only one side showed up to vote in October, with the pro-Madrid electorate preferring to obey Madrid's prohibition on voting in an illegal election.
This is not to favor Madrid. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's Partido Popular (Popular Party) has a reputation for quasi-fascist sympathies.
Over the past decade, The Partido Popular has intervened through lawsuits and legal trickery to suppress expressions of Catalan autonomy, in a manner the Catalans rightly considered unconstitutional. By 2010, the Catalans had had enough, and the drive for independence started with a massive rally in Barcelona.
This much can be seen in this video of the 2010 rally:
Along the way, Madrid authorities handed down positively obscene rulings like overturning a Catalan ban on bullfighting.
One gets a sense of provocations from the central Madrid authorities akin to the Intolerable Acts that led to the American Revolution.
But there the similarities end.
Contrary to what is told in popular American history, our forefathers laid strong groundwork to gain popular support. The ratio of one third in favor of the Revolution, one third against, and one third neutral is based on an unreliable quote, attributed to John Adams, but without merit. Adams's quote actually referred to American sympathies with the French Revolution.
In reality, the popularity of the American Revolution was much stronger, and while Tories were a problem, they were a clear minority.
There is evidence a large part of the population supported independence before the reluctant leaders in the Congress would vote upon or commit that sentiment to paper.
... Recent historians of the Loyalists, such as William Nelson, have estimated them at no more than a sixth of the population.
The Founders would never have started the Revolution with the low support base seen in Catalonia. The American Revolution was a bottom-up operation, where the leaders reflected the will of the people. Barcelona was a top-down fiasco, where the leaders tried to engineer a false majority.
The pro-independence parties did not, however, win the popular vote, failing once again to secure a share of more than 50%.
The secessionist parties defied consistent poll predictions of a hung parliament to secure an absolute majority of 70 seats out of 135, and 47.5 percent of the popular vote. Meanwhile the unionist bloc took 57 seats, with 43.4 percent of the vote[.]
The independentistas won a razor-thin majority in the Catalan parliament, but only because the results were tilted by district-apportioning that favored the more Catalan rural districts. Barcelona itself is not as secessionist as the rest of Catalonia, and the independentistas know it.
Madrid-supporters have used that anomaly to call for Tabarnia (a coastal region including Barcelona) to secede from Catalonia. Moreover, Franco purposefully planted Spaniards in Catalonia to frustrate Catalonian designs. They are a large group today. Britain tried the same stunt in Ireland by planting British settlers in Ulster, but the unionists remained a rather small minority for most of the period of British rule, which led to the gerrymandering of Ulster to create an artificial local majority. Franco was more thorough. Catalan unionists are a rather large segment at 43.4%. The independentistas have not won them over.
Worse yet, the independentistas have relied on Muslim immigrants educated in Catalan, with no attachment to Madrid, to fortify their vote. They use outsiders no less than Franco.
So what we see is popular support for independence at 41.1% in June, 92% in October, and then back down to 47.5% in December. Look at those numbers! Do they look stable? If anything, it is the October vote that is the most unreliable. This is not the way to win a revolution.
The amount of corruption in both Madrid and Barcelona is appalling, and this crisis is being manipulated by both sides to hide it.
Both the ruling PP party and Catalonia's independentists are using the national question to whitewash their own history of corruption and enthusiasm for austerity.
The incompetence of Barcelona is perfectly matched by Prime Minister Rajoy, who must have been out of his mind to order another election and to expect better results.
Prime Minister Rajoy's People's Party (Partido Popular) lost most of its seats in the Thursday election, dropping from 11 to three.
Probably in recognition of its failure, Madrid has ordered withdrawal of Spanish police.
What Spain will do now is anybody's guess. The independentistas have won a "questionable" victory, but not a mandate. Prime Minister Rajoy has suffered a major defeat. Neither side has a true appreciation for democracy; rather, both show a willingness to manipulate results.
What we see is a European tendency for leaders to manipulate the electorate rather than lead the stirrings of popular will.
No side is correct in Catalonia. The independentistas should have waited for another generation of language education to take hold so that the unionists could have been won over to a Catalan sensibility. Catalan use is growing, but it is often a second language still.
Beneath all of this is the fake press. European news sources are incredibly biased one way or the other. It is astounding to see how this Euro paper or that Euro news site delivers only half the story with no substantial explanation.
Catalonia is a mess, in every sense of the word. Both sides are manipulative and corrupt. These elections prove nothing except that European "democracy" has never even risen to the level of Tammany Hall. Tammany, at least, knew how to sense the public mood and knew when to back off.
Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who wishes he had availed himself more fully of the opportunity to learn Spanish better in high school, lo those many decades ago. He runs a website about the Arab community in South America at http://latinarabia.com and a website about small computers at http://thetinydesktop.com.