In July of 1914, a month before WWI broke out, none of the protagonists of what would be a grisly conflagration had any idea of what was to come or, as Christopher Clark writes, they were sleepwalking toward the precipice. On reading that and other accounts on the initiation of that sanguinary conflict it is impossible not to think about the way in which President López Obrador proceeds to configure his chessmen in terms of the 2024 succession, that is, as if the country were presently experiencing a glorious milk-and-honey moment. During recent weeks, he organized the Morena Congress to boost his candidate and exclude all other aspirants, he has attempted to divide -destroy is a more accurate term- the entire opposition, and he is readying himself to underwrite his desires through the inherent beatitude to his burgeoning waiver of power to the Mexican Army.
The “Great War,” as the First World War is known, was violent, horrific for those who lived through long periods (or died) in the trenches, submitted by firearms heretofore unknown such as machine guns and, eventually, tanks that could riddle an entire regiment with bullets in a question of minutes. The means, says Paul Fussell,* are always “melodramatically disproportionate” to the ends that are pursued. That is what appears to be the approach of the president in this process.
Morena has been gaining ground, in part because of the disillusionment that has distinguished the electorate at least since 1997 during which, nearly systematically, it has voted against the incumbent party at every level. Little by little, with the enormous aid (in many cases illicit) of President Lopez Obrador, the candidates of his party have won governorships, displacing the traditional political parties, the latter seemingly lost at present in the opposition. The project is clairvoyant: control, destruction of the enemy (the correct characterization these days) and integral submission.
The problem is the project. A hopeful narrative that polarizes and alienates the resentment is useful for control, but sooner or later it starts to take on water. Now that the president has entered the administration’s subsiding stage, the project is, and increasingly will be, ever more vacuous and irrelevant. Thus reflect the morning narratives, which have lost the edge -and impact- of the early days of the government. The president tells of the day-to-day happenings as if he were a mere spectator and not the leading actor. This allows him to fabricate the guilty, assign the blame and adjudicate those responsible, but the Mexican is too accustomed to hardships to cede their personal and familial development in exchange for a fiction farther and farther away from the quotidian reality.
Our system of political parties is excessively inflexible to favor the realignment claimed by the reality, which has led to unholy alliances between dissimilar parties. In political systems such as that of France or Brazil, the old parties would have dissolved, or new political formations would compete for the vote. The ductility of those systems endorses the rapid adaptation of the changing realities, dismissing persons and parties no longer entertaining a raison d’être. In Mexico similar situations generate opportunities for political attacks and the paralyzing of politics. Today it is not clear where the opposition will end up in the upcoming political cycle, with the decimation of the PRI and the PAN’s lack of leadership. With it all and despite of this, those two entelechies were victorious in nine of the ten largest cities in the 2021 mid-term elections. What the parties cannot do is being done by the electorate: as illustrated by the recall referendum, a milestone of undiluted arrogance, only one half voted for the president’s permanence that elevated him in 2018. The population is not foolish and the wager on the narrative is pure and simple illusion.
Citizen opposition is there; the question is who or what can capture it to convert it into an unstoppable force. There are two elements in this equation: one is the political parties or the party alliance; the other the candidate, whether male or female. To date, none of those elements is resolved. Whosoever aspires to the candidacy would have to be suicidal to stand in the line of fire of the presidential morning rants in this moment, because the destructive capacity of that instrument is ruthless, the reason why that element of the opposition will have to manifest itself in a year’s time. On their side, no candidate can carry the day if they cannot count on an organizational structure that permits them to draw near the citizen, present their proposals and promote the vote. The opposition, as it currently stands, is incapable of organizing a national election, with a reasonable degree of probability of winning it, especially when the true competitor is the President of the Republic and all the accoutrements he has at hand.
Perhaps the great point-at-issue is whether the opposition understands itself as such, ranging from the PRI to Movimiento Ciudadano, passing through the PAN and the PRD. Unite or die. All perish If they continue to cower and, with them, Mexico.
The challenge confronting the president is for the control to be sufficient in the face of the choppy waters coming from the North; for the opposition, all as one, the challenge is to be, as it were, the latter…
*The Great War and Modern Memory