Fear vs. Anger
Emotions are an inherent component in human nature, thus in electoral processes. When we say that a candidate “connects” with his audience we mean that he or she achieved establishing empathy with the latter that is, they captivate their public, convincing them to favor the candidate’s perspective of things. Psychological studies conducted on current surveys suggest that this election will be resolved within the fear vs. anger axis: anger against the status quo in the face of fear of losing what has been achieved or what a person has achieved during their lifetime.
The anger that arises against the status quo derives from the evidence of corruption, a system of self-absorbed government and a total disconnect between the citizenry and its governors. Clearly, the Mexican political system, born in the first decades of the past century, was not created to function in the era of social networks, which give free rein to the expression of grievances, only in turn to confront a closed and, in great measure impermeable government. The problem is the system, the starting point from which all political parties and candidates participate (today and always), thus the notion that a person can solve all of the problems with a magic wand, is as absurd as that of supposing that our problems are simple –instead of structural- and can be worked out by the determination of a single individual.
Fear derives from the enormous changes that the country has undergone in the last decades and that have engendered a platform of opportunities inconceivable some years ago. Having a home of one’s own, access to a vast diversity of consumer products of increasingly better quality and an institutional grid that, with all of its avatars and imperfections, allows to elect (rather than impose) those who govern us, all of which are not minor achievements that could be forfeited with a destructive politico-economic project. The risk of losing what has been attained is not a lesser one and explains the reticence of a wide-ranging percentage of the electorate on agreeing to be navigated by the call of the Sirens.
Some decades ago, Bertrand Russell –British philosopher and mathematician, awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, who was distinguished by his opposition to nuclear arms and the Vietnam War- wrote about the paradox of the elections in his country: a person is fed up with the Conservative Party and so elects the Labor Party, only to find that the things important to them do not change, therefore going back to vote conservative and so on successively. What Russell described at that time is not very distinct from what we have at present in Mexico: what is wrong is that the system of government is not suited to the current reality and does not possess the characteristics necessary to be able to operate in the XXI century. The key question for our upcoming presidential election is: which is the best, or the most likely, way to produce a political transformation that makes possible the social and economic renaissance the electorate plainly craves.
On one of his recent books,Francis Fukuyama describes to perfection the nature of our problem. Without referring to Mexico, he says that that there are three key components for the successful functioning of a country: a strong State, the Rule of Law and accountability. No country can be in running order if the government is weak and dysfunctional: to flourish, every nation requires a system of government capable of satisfying basic but crucial tasks, such as security, justice, a legal system and a regulatory framework for the working of the economy. While all three are indispensable, continues Fukuyama, order-of-appearance is fundamental: nations that were democratized prior to their having built the capacity to govern effectively ended up failing because democracy, though imperfect, exacerbates hardships and deprivations, eroding to an even greater degree the capacity to govern, the exercise of its authority and the channeling of demands emanating from the population.
It would be difficult to chance upon a better diagnosis than this of the problematic Mexico faces as a country because it reveals a challenge Mexicans have before them and that radically differs from the proposals the citizens hear in the present electoral contest. The citizenry is right to be angry with a system that not only does not favor the country’s development, but one that thwarts it with its structures of privilege and of contempt for what affects its daily life. Likewise, the fear of outstripping what has been gained should strike fear in the heart of anyone because it is not inconsequential: it should be enough to observe other nations in our midst in order to recognize that, first, there have been important advances and, second, that we could be infinitely worse off.
The problems we face should not only be solved, but it is entirely within the realm of feasibility to do so. The key lies in recognizing that Mexicans must continue to forge ahead with a project that constructs the country’s next stage of development, which can be no other than beginning with a profound reform of the power structures, something certainly impossible were we to return to a former stage that collapsed because it did not work and that produced the chaos that today justifiably begets such anger.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author.
About the Author
Mexico Institute Advisory Board Member & President; Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales (COMEXI); Chairman, Center for Research for Development (CIDAC), Mexico
The Mexico Institute seeks to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship. A binational Advisory Board, chaired by Luis Téllez and Earl Anthony Wayne, oversees the work of the Mexico Institute. Read more