Government or Revolution?
In the historical vision of the Left, the government was not the product of an election but rather as the result of a revolution or, in any case, as a takeover. The objective was power and the means for acquiring it were least in importance: assumption of power to change the world. The conduct of the Morena party in the Mexican Congress during recent months leads one to think that its contingents do not yet note a difference: for many of these groups (or tribes, as the they were known within PRD), what is important is to possess the power to effect a radical change and not that of governing for the entire citizenry, as would be expected of a government in a democratic system. The question is where this new government is to be found: in the democratic rules or in the revolutionary ones.
There are three angles that can be observed: first, the overwhelming victory and its implications for those who as of a month ago formally hold power; second, the inherent complexity in such a diverse coalition, so disperse and with opposite rationalities; and, finally, the most ambitious vision that President López Obrador has outlined for his government. Each of these elements entails its own dynamic that, when combined, as could be seen in the gasoline disaster, has a high propensity for producing great discord. The triumph of Morena was so overpowering that it surprised even its own adherents. Describing the composition of its bench at the San Lázaro Legislative Palace, a Morena delegate mentioned that they never imagined such a scenario, to the degree that many of the new representatives clearly were not suitable for their new responsibility. But beyond the persons themselves, the win has not been recognized by the Morena followers themselves as the fruit of a democratic vote: in fact, to date recognition has not come forth for the National Electoral Institute, for the Electoral Tribunal, or for the democratic procedures regarding this AMLO’s and Morena’s electoral triumph. For many of its members, it comprised not an election but the takeover of the government or, at best, a recognition of their power. The practical difference may appear to be insignificant, but, in reality, it is more than transcendent because it determines the nature of the political game: will it be a government that complies with the rules of the civilized political game or will it attempt to change the reality, sweeping away the whole political structure, imposing its law as if this were the Old West?
The coalition that Morena built will be without doubt the most complex part of the AMLO government. The coalition includes persons and retinues ranging from the Extreme Left to the Extreme Right, passing through former guerrillas, intellectuals, base groups, former members of PRI, PAN, and PRD, shock groups, businesspeople. Each of these coteries or tribes retains its own aims, and many are not only incompatible with the others, but also contradictory. For many, AMLO is a superior being, but for others, he is a mere instrument for advancing their agendas, with or without him. It is a rare day that some do not attack others from the rostra of the two legislative chambers. Administering the conflict inbred in this coalition will be as difficult and tedious as the properly enunciated governmental function.
In addition to the latter, AMLO and his cohorts seem to view last July’s election as an immoveable and immutable milestone: the 53 percent who voted for AMLO is point zero and everything after that is up. If one were to observe any country in the world, highs and lows are normal and, ever more frequently, the lows. We must remember that at the beginning of 2018 AMLO entertained only a 30 percent preference, suggesting that the additional 23 percent is more volatile than he imagines. Many citizens voted for AMLO because they saw no alternative or because they expected rapid and effective solutions; if the latter do not materialize, his support will begin to erode. The way AMLO makes decisions will not help him: should he pursue his current way of acting, his support will vanish, quickly.
All of this is only the jumping-off point. AMLO has proposed an extraordinarily zealous vision for the development of his government. The vision is not accompanied by a plan, but instead by a series of objectives or agendas of his own or of his group -many of these obsessions- which do not contribute to the construction of that vision, the very one that in many respects requires the reconstruction of an idyllic past that has in no case ever existed and one that is impossible to recreate. This implies that there would be many individual projects, some emanating from the Executive Branch, others from the Legislature, that would not be markedly coherent among themselves but that would respond to the objectives and agendas of particular groups or of ideological conceptions, without there being an evaluation to measure their consequences in terms of the growth of the economy or of their impact on the distribution of income, something easy to argue but very difficult to impact in practice.
AMLO was never a legislator and appears to view legislative power as a pure and simple rubber stamp; however, it is there that he will be confronting the complexity and dispersion of his own coalition. More importantly, by ignoring the opposition, he would incite confrontation, nearly sure to gnaw away at his own legitimacy. The paradox is that it may be in the legislative power that his government will consolidate or collapse.
The opinions 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