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October 24, 2021

The adviser

Liviu Dragnea donned a costume identical to his great-grandfather’s, a hajduk from Teleorman, and performed alongside some 10,000 people a dance specific to Runcu Salvei, Bistrita-Nasaud County. On the national Traditional Costume Day, a holiday officially introduced only 2 years ago at the initiative of some PSD lawmakers, the participants wanted to enter the Guinness Book with their high attendance numbers.

Obviously, the presence of the president of the largest ruling party did not go unnoticed. Without being present at the event, ex-minister Vasile Dancu also donned traditional clothes and posed among books and crucifixes in his personal study, uploading the photograph on his Facebook account. I

t must be pointed out that Dancu is born in the said Transylvanian locality and is attached to local folk culture. It’s very likely he was the one who suggested that the Lower Chamber Speaker should go to Runcu Salvei. It wouldn’t be at all out of the ordinary, because Vasile Dancu has been for years the adviser of many high-standing politicians. Starting with Adrian Nastase, for whom he also created a new ministry, the Public Relations Ministry.

Ioan Rus followed – fellow comrade in the party’s so-called ‘Cluj group’ –, Nastase’s successors – Mircea Geoana and Victor Ponta – but also former SRI Director George Maior and Gabriel Oprea. Vasile Dancu is, undeniably, an intellectual. Sociologist, head of polling institutes, professor (also at the SRI Academy), publicist (at the SRI Magazine too), press owner (in Cluj), essayist, he is one of PSD’s most cultivated leaders. In fact, the main post-communist Romanian party is hastily perceived as a simple mob of churls preoccupied with making fortunes and sometimes even unlettered and unmannered.

Wasn’t Adrian Nastase a collector of paintings and antiques and a skilled diplomat? Many intellectuals have supported the party over the years, even if it seemed to be a relationship meant to propel them to various offices. But the “salt” of the party are intellectuals like Dancu, not very many. In the West, they are called “spin doctors,” PR advisers capable of selling as best as possible politicians that are not necessarily very skilled in communication – euphemistic term that in fact represents the capacity to seduce the public, often with the sole intent of deceiving it. But this typology is a bit different in the Romanian case.

Firstly, Dancu is preoccupied with the culture of the secret services, his teaching and publishing being proof of it. Sebastian Ghita’s revelations concerned him too, but we can suspect his holiday alongside SRI leadership’s George Maior and Florian Coldea was not a simple holiday – special proof of more intimate relations. Likewise, the press also fascinated Dancu, but beyond vocation there lies the lucidity of the sociologist aware of the political value of such an instrument. At the same time, he was several times minister, on various positions, as well as parliamentarian, in Bucharest and Strasbourg. He wrote several books, some enjoying real success with the public, and even had extremely critical public stances toward some PSD leaders.

In other words, Vasile Dancu holds several significant political threads. And if the party has been dominating the Romanian political scene for so many years, natural fluctuations aside, this is also owed to his counselling. Without overstating his importance, we cannot help but notice that the type of intellectual he embodies explains some of the political developments of our era. An intellectual who has counselled the leaders of a party with many structural flaws – corruption, cronyism, excessive politicisation etc. – is not naïve. He is the promotor of a realpolitik that does not get lost in moral scruples and that some would call cynical. An intellectual who did not want to be an ideologist – in fact, a talented and exciting left-wing ideologist is completely absent in Romania.

He wanted to be the shadowy adviser and possibly to exercise certain prerogatives of power, but not the significant ones. A sociologist of political communication, skilled in the occult genesis of power and in the inevitable democratic mystifications.

Unlike the “Right’s” ideologists, who posed as apostles of saving society from the danger of etatism or as apologists of an authoritarian man like Traian Basescu, Dancu was much more discrete and skilful. And since he did not pose as a white knight, he did not experience the unpopularity reached by the “intellectuals” who disappointed – Emil Constantinescu, for instance. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to take this aspect into account too when we wonder why PSD is the most resilient (and sometimes blooming) Romanian party.

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