Now They’re Government

Luis Rubio

All governments blame their predecessors for the woes that they find or for those with which they cannot deal. No novelty here: this is not my problem, but that of my predecessor. AMLO is an exception to this in not reproaching a government, but instead an entire generation –three decades of presidents and functionaries- for what he does not like. His problem today is that, after a prolonged campaign to destroy whatever existed, he is now the one and, however much he finds faulty with others, the responsibility is his.

Candidates are measured by their promises and intentions; presidents are responsible for the results. AMLO vowed to change the reality and now finds himself confronted with the dilemma inevitably present in everyday affairs: from insecurity to economic growth. His electoral victory was due to that he focused his campaign on things that bothered the electorate –such as the corruption, the incompetence, the violence and the unequal economic performance- all of these matters that plagued his antecessors and that, it is evident, they did not resolve. Now AMLO, who is government, has no excuse: the ball is in his court.

The era we live in adds an additional level of complexity because of the inexorable tension that exists between the decisions of the electorate and the instruments within reach of a government to act in the real world, particularly in economic issues.  The voters responded to the pledges of the candidate and hoped that he would comply with them, but complying in the globalization era is highly intricate because it requires the support of the population as a whole.

By nature, candidates guarantee the moon and the stars: some do this with strident rhetoric, others with irreducible oaths; still others attack their antecedents and make the electorate believe that it’s all is a matter of will and conviction. But, in the last analysis, they all end up facing the same challenge: in the digital era, no government controls all of the variables and the performance of the economy because the world is interconnected, technology advances at the speed of sound and   provides access to all of the population to information sources that exceed the capacity of the government to control.   Worse yet, as much as a government amasses sources of control, centralizes power and imposes itself because of the diverse interests and power factors in its society, nothing ensures the favorable economic outcomes that are the most immediate parameter for measuring success or failure for the citizenry.

The dilemma is real and is not limited to Mexico: how to render compatible the population’s legitimate claim to see the problems afflicting them, that is, the reasons for which they voted for a determined candidate to solve, before a globalized, integrated and interdependent world in which decisions do not respond to the logic of the internal politics. This latter results in the fact that investment is, in the words of the lawyers, fungible: one can go to any part of the world and it’s the same whether one decides to live in Morelia, Shanghai or New York.

There are presidents who manage the dilemma and adapt in order to advance as much as possible, while others stubbornly cling to their positions, at whatever cost. The greater the obstinacy, the worse the results because promising is easy, but achieving results and satisfying voters is difficult. This phenomenon is magnified when the president creates and multiplies the number of enemies each morning.

The AMLO style of governing is not conducive to improvement. The time for acting jarringly, generating conflict and confrontation, culminated July 1st, 2018 for the simple reason that campaigns call for pettiness, but the exercise of the government demands acting equitably for all, in that only with the collaboration of everyone it is possible to go forward. However, AMLO is devoted to systematically increasing (and terrifying) those who appear on his black list of guilty parties and adversaries; discrediting members of his cabinet and ignoring his own advisors, in addition to exploiting resentments and frustrations, without building anything that could come to satisfy the population’s demands, protestations or necessities.

It is evident that only with actions likely to solve the existing problems would it be possible to respond to his base with results. He is not engaging in any of that.

What is important to the electorate –the same for his as for that of that he loathes as “conservative”- is the result of the daily operation of the government. As illustrated by the gradual diminution in the numbers of the President’s popularity, one thing is the election and another, very distinct, is the exercise of power. His quandary is whether to continue employing the pulpit to attack those branded as “adversaries” or to build with them to achieve results.

To win an election it is necessary to attack, but to exercise power generosity and competence is indispensable. In reference to Alan Greenspan, the central banker blamed for the 2008 crisis, a politician in his country summed up the dilemma bluntly, applicable at present to AMLO: “If you get credit for the sun, you can’t bitch when you get blamed for the rain.”