No compass

Luis Rubio

In one of the final episodes of The Simpsons, the soporific and befuddled octogenarian Abe is recruited to cross the picket line and break a strike at a nuclear plant. His tactic: to confuse, if not to lull, the strikers by telling them stories that make no sense at all so as to exhaust them and, finally, to beat them. This is what the PRI governors look like before AMLO: overwhelmed, lost and defeated.

If something is evident after observing the way politics and business work for long periods this is that the ones who survive are those that have a clear sense of direction, understand the context and do not get lost among the trees. Those who understand the forest have the opportunity to overcome even the most powerful or the most incompetent because the alternative, being carried away by the current, always leads to bankruptcy or disappearance.

What is so obvious seems to elude the PRI governors who go blindly to the gorge that the Pied Piper of Hamelin, now resident of the National Palace, has marked to them with such skill.

The PRI has been the most important quarry of politics and politicians in the country. There’s virtually no person of power in Mexico that has not emerged from their ranks or was formed in their school of politics. For decades, that party was the vehicle -quite successful at that- for the construction of the country in the post-revolutionary era and it did so with the instruments and methods of the time: loyalty and corruption were not only prototypical characteristics but inherent and foundational. Its success was also the source of its growing erosion because everything works until it runs out.

In 2000 the citizens opted for another party and the PRI found itself, for the first time in its history, an orphan. In the following twelve years the PRI members played a fundamental role as responsible opposition and, in fact, made it possible to preserve the stability of the country; however, they did not use that time to transform themselves. In 2012, they returned to power under the banner of a “new” PRI, which brought nothing new but flagrant -and very visible- corruption and the arrogance of power, all incompatible with the era of social networks. Difficult to understand such a backward transformation, towards its origins, instead of responding to the demands of the 21st century. The citizenry’s verdict of 2018 says it all.

Now PRI members have two very simple and clear options: try to rebuild or succumb to the song of the Lopez Obrador sirens. There is no other choice: they either accept the path (or the trap) that AMLO has laid before the governors (probably in exchange for budgetary allocations) to join the “great transformation” that the president hoists in the form of the “4T,” or go back to the arduous task of rebuilding with the hope (because there is not much else) of creating a new party, one compatible with, and visionary for the national and world realities of this so convoluted and complex era in which we live.

It is easy to understand why the presidential appeal is so attractive to the governors. First of all, because it is a comfortable way out: why build something new if you can live grandly in the short term. Secondly, the easy exit does not involve confrontation while it does solve the problem of daily operation. If the Elías Calles or the Cárdenas of their time had thought like these low-life politicians, Mexico would probably have ended up like the fragile economies and societies of many Latin American nations.

Instead of debating the institutional reconstruction of the country, to which a transformed PRI could contribute so much, the PRI members are mired in an endless and useless conundrum about the number of militants that the party has which, it appears, they cannot get certified by the INE, the electoral authority. Without such certification, they could end up mired in an endless post electoral squabble, which would turn them into the laughingstock of the citizenry, justifying the scorn and contempt enjoyed by the party among a good part of the electorate. That is why the method they choose to pick their next leader is so important.

The method matters for three reasons: first, because they must achieve at least one objective forcefully: that there is no dispute about the result. Today there is certainty that an election not certified by the INE would lead to a dispute, which could arise from either the probable manipulation of the votes or from the vulnerability of an unreliable voter registry, potentially sanctionable by the INE. Second, what the PRI -and Mexico- require is a party that builds new institutions and becomes a credible contender for the future. A party subordinated to the president would hardly fulfill that task but that is what the governors are advancing. Finally, an indisputable method would confer legitimacy on a party that, because of its history and capacity, could be a future ruler but that, should it continue the way it´s going, it will face its demise.

The election this past June 2 showed the PAN as the big winner (or the least bad loser) because it has been consistent in its posture, thus becoming the stronghold of the opposition. There’s a lot that PRI members could learn from what citizens are observing and how they are behaving. As Jimmy Dean would have it, they “cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails.”