Thursday, June 7, 2012

Switching to AMLO

I've recently talked to a lot of acquaintances in Mexico who have made the same basic calculation--AMLO is better than Peña Nieto, and Vázquez Mota is a disaster. Therefore, they are planning to pull the lever for AMLO. For the most part, these are people who were staunch Calderón supporters, so to put it mildly, this was unexpected. It's a decision I think is logically flawed, for reasons I'll explain another time, but it's clearly something that is widespread, and there are some lessons (for me anyway) to be learned from AMLO's surge, even if it is unlikely to vault him to victory. Among them:
  • there remains a deep mistrust of the PRI among a huge sector of the country, and Peña Nieto didn't (or couldn't) do enough to assuage the latent fears of his party.
  • voters' memories are short, and a dedicated (though less than 100 percent consistent) effort to change one's image can wipe away past perceptions. I've spent the last several years referring to AMLO as the politician with the highest negative views in the country, and for good reason: indeed he was said figure. And while AMLO remains a highly controversial figure, the negative perceptions have largely been wiped away.
Also, Sergio Aguayo explains his vote for AMLO here.


Mexfiles said...

Hate to say "I told ya so", but... :-)

I expected AMLO to come up in the polls, and warned people that just calling the elections (before the campaigning even started) was a huge mistake. AMLO being a politician who has a track record of turning attacks on him to his advantage, as well as the popularity (and general success) of his administration of the Federal District and his record of protests (that post 2006 election protest wasn't as unpopular as some are led to believe) suggest his polling numbers may even go up more.

Can he win? I tend to doubt it (if for no other reason, the U.S. has interfered in elections before and the Obama administration certainly does not want a leftist government on its border, especially with their own election coming up), but I'd say it´s plausible that the left will be the main opposition party in the next legislature.

pc said...

I actually wrote this assuming that you would leave a comment with that very opening line. You did not disappoint.

I would only say that I don't think this is as much about AMLO as you think, and I also think that his track record is more of an albatross than you assume. You also say that he has turned attacks against him effectively in the past. I don't think that's the dynamic at play here; he's not doing much jiu jitsu-style campaigning (something along the lines of "They call me an extremist, and I say yes I am an extremist."), but rather tacking conspicuously against his previous persona, Lula-style.

Also, not being "as unpopular as some people are led to believe" is a pretty loose term, but it was certainly quite unpopular. Intervention is also a loose term, so it depends what you mean, but I don't think any accusation of US intervention to the degree of, say, Bolivia in 2002 holds up in Mexico, neither in 2006 nor thus far in 2012.

Mexfiles said...

Glad I lived up to your expectations! I thought your points were good, but I'd have to be the Dali Lama not to get in at least a small dig.

I agree this has less to do with AMLO than with being NOT the other guys (and gal)... sort of the way Obama (and Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, when I think about it) were able to capture the "not this sh*t again" voters in the U.S. The "voto util" argument Fox used to draw in the left (and that JVM TRIED to use in her own campaign) makes more sense being applied to AMLO ... which is where I disagree that voters don't have long memories. The "influencers" (if there is such a word — the elites who count when it comes to pushing a candidate)are likely to give less credence to political statements than to his record working with people like Carlos Slim and Cardinal Rivera on common interest and what's really only a Keynsian economic policy.

And, Mexicans are great ones for remembering their history... it's somewhat counter-intuitive, but AMLO is a throwback to an older style of politicing... appeals to Juarez, a sense of nationalism, Mexico against the world ... that his opponents' campaign staff hasn't used (maybe trying too hard to be like the gringos?, or haven't used as effectively as the PRI did back in the 1950s and 60s.

I don't think the U.S. needs to make any overt threats... they are the 1000 pound gorilla in the room, and frankly, a lot of the elites are just scared out of their wits at making any changes that would be SEEN as radical... and the temptation is always there to tweak the system to meet U.S. expectations (as in 1988, a better example than 2006: there was something really hinky about that vote, but that'll be something for historians to keep arguing about for the next 100 years).