Friday, March 18, 2011

Modern Mexico and Post-Franco Spain

Jorge Chabat employed a clever historical example to explain the disappointment with the past 11 years in Mexico:
After the end of Francisco Franco's regime, there was a popular joke in Spain to say that everything was better "against Franco". The irony suggested that there was a sector of the opposition to Franco that simply couldn't get used to the new rules of democracy and that at the end of the day what they best knew how to do, after 36 years of Franquismo, was to be in the opposition.


On the one hand, it's evident that the PAN could not manage to conduct the democratic transition nimbly nor has it been able to dismantle the perverse incentives that, still today, continue to make it more profitable to behave as if the old regime's rules were in place rather than the democratic rules. On the other, the left also has not been able to come completely into the democratic discussion. It continues to think that it's enemy is the "right" and not authoritarian methods of exercising power. In that sense, the democratic transition has not managed to move the axes of political discussion: these continue to be right versus left, Mexican versus foreigner, state versus private initiative, church versus state, rich versus poor.
I also think it bears mentioning that inflated hopes from the general public, which you could take as the implication of the post-Franco joke, were also a major driver of this sensation. Look at those axes he names once more once more, and tell me if the US has managed to permanently resolve any of those. To expect democracy to succeed where authoritarianism failed on basic and perennial tensions in public life is to expect far too much of it. Related to that, I'd say that the disappointment with Fox and Calderón specifically and democracy generally is justifiable, but it is so often out of proportion. Disappointment with government is just a byproduct of being governed, but the sense you get from a lot of Mexican commentary is that they are being uniquely wronged by their governing class, which is not true.

No comments: