This election is becoming clearer every day: the dispute, not in a rational but in a subliminal sense, is about two worlds, two perspectives on life and the role of government in development. Rather, it is about arrogance versus redemption. A large part of the citizenry is simply fed up with the status quo: insecurity, governmental arrogance, corruption, unfulfilled promises and the clash between political discourse (of all parties and candidates) and the harsh reality of everyday life. Against that, the offer of all candidates except one sounds frivolous, if not banal. There is no doubt that the vision implicit in that (mainstream) offer -of whichever candidate one prefers- is the one that Mexico needs, but to the average voter sounds false because it has been the same for decades.
The success of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the polls is due to the fact that he offers something radically different: a return to a quiet life where there is no more promise than that of redemption. As with Trump, he has managed to penetrate the subconscious of the citizenship because he does not operate in the real world but in that of the despondency that legitimately characterizes a good part of the citizenry. When those of us who pretend to live in the 21st century see him not answer questions, evade relevant matters or promise absurd things, we congratulate ourselves that he lives in another world and that, therefore, no one in his right mind would vote for him. But today’s numbers say something different: his messianic discourse has a redeeming effect and therein lies the reason for his success.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador has a great sense of himself and of his ability to, by his mere presence, transform reality. Under normal conditions -that is, in a context of social peace, economic progress and reasonable optimism about the future- his message and public presence would have no chance of prospering: everyone would see the absurdity of his proposal and, particularly, its lack of reality. But, as with Trump, a significant portion of the population sees it as a means, an instrument, to stick it to those who have been promising solutions for decades without resolving anything.
Lopez Obrador’s offer clashes with objective reality, but nobody cares about that because people are fed up and profoundly angry, so that anything different from the status quo seems better to many voters “on foot”. Whoever wants to see the numbers will recognize the enormous advances in quality of life, longevity, health, consumption and many other objective indicators, that has taken place but none of this is relevant when the electorate feels offended by the arrogance of the government, something not new, but incomparably superior in the current administration. Previous governments at least understood that Mexicans were anxious for improvement and thus devoted their rhetoric to mitigate their annoyance; the current one is so full of itself that it does not even have the capacity, let alone the humility, to understand that its attitude is the main source of the problem.
What sensible politician in the world would come up with a media campaign focused on complaining about the citizens? That is precisely what the current government has been doing throughout its term, first with its “stop complaining” campaign and now with a new one that says exactly the same: “let’s do the numbers.” With that obvious arrogance and indifference regarding the people’s sentiment, it is not difficult to understand the position AMLO holds in the polls. His mere presence says something different.
AMLO lives in a different world from the rest of the Mexicans. His programmatic proposal is a-historical and dangerous insofar as it consciously ignores the world of today; his opposition to the new Mexico City airport is revealing and, indeed, very similar to Trump’s wall, that is, it is a symbol. It is not that the saturation of the current airport isn’t obvious, but that, as with AMLO’s “to hell with your institutions,” his position on the airport constitutes an affront against those whom he has disqualified as the arrogant ones who promise but do not deliver and become rich at the expense of the rest. The position, and the strategy that lies behind, is impeccable.
It is significant that AMLO never refers to the citizenship because, in his vision, it does not exist. He embodies the “people” because only he understands it and represents it, ergo, his mere presence ends with corruption and the “mafia of power.” In his world, checks and balances are bad (and unnecessary), institutions serve as a means for the president to impose his vision and the almighty ruler is the only one who can decide. In other words, the essence of AMLO’s project lies in ending individual freedom, the market system, trade agreements, the independent press and social organizations (business, trade union, civil) because they all limit, in greater or lesser extent, the president’s ability to act as he pleases.
AMLO touches a very sensitive fiber that can only be countered with a truly transformative proposal, one that starts from the principle that the political status quo must be changed because that is where the obstacle to the development of the country lies. As long as that does not exist, the redemptive discourse will continue to be successful.