John McCain used to say that “it is always darkest before it turns pitch black.” The future is being built every day through the actions of millions of people, companies and governments in Mexico and around the world. Everything interacts and complements each other, giving shape and content to the future we will all be part of. In political matters, the great moment for the nation in the midterm is the electoral contest of next June. Every event, circumstance, rhetorical statement and action will help shape the outcome of that election.
What follows are elements and ingredients that we all observe daily and that will influence, in some way, the formation of the future:
• Acapulco will undoubtedly impact the political dynamics of the coming months, although it is not obvious that someone can benefit from it. After the first days of confusion, absurdities in the way of conducting government activity and the legitimate claims of the affected population, some governmental entities have begun to respond effectively. The CFE (the electricity utility) did an almost heroic job of restoring the electrical service (something not unusual in situations like this), the ministries of defense and navy worked to establish a framework of order, distribution of food and water and, a week after the hurricane, the complaints by the people have diminished as they begin to focus on reconstruction, as so many times in the past. It is possible that the (obvious) attempts to manipulate the distribution of provisions through boxes or bags with the effigy of the government’s candidate may influence some consciences, but it is doubtful that it will have a significant impact, especially in a state that has long been governed by the party in government and where the problems of governance and security are overwhelming and ubiquitous.
• The hurricane constitutes a great challenge for a President who wants to maintain control of all processes. Sometimes, his capacity for tactical action -like his daily morning “press conference”- yields extraordinary results in terms of popularity, but in others it creates deficits that only become evident sometime later. Nothing like the elimination of the FONDEN, the trust fund created decades ago precisely for situations like the one Acapulqueños are now experiencing: with the diversion of funds from key budget lines such as education, health and, in this case, natural disasters towards his favorite pet projects, the President finds himself faced with a severe dilemma that he has been trying to resolve with rhetoric against the media (as if they were guilty of what is happening in the Pacific port) or the civic organizations that immediately mobilized to gather supplies (the best of the Mexican citizenry). First the scapegoats and then let reality resolve itself.
• Most of the press has done a commendable job, exactly what it should do in these circumstances, by exhibiting the human tragedy that a catastrophe like this represents. Its function is precisely that: to give the news and it has done a good job as a natural counterweight.
• The phenomenon of social networks is something else: this new space for interaction constitutes, throughout the world, a great challenge to governance and democracy. Although it allows anyone to participate and give their opinion, it opens the door to radical positions, false information and confers credibility to outright lies, benefiting nobody.
• The paradox of the moment is that a hurricane -a natural phenomenon for which the usual “adversaries” cannot be blamed, no matter how hard the President tries- constitutes an extraordinary opportunity to achieve a “truce,” the possibility of introducing some civility to national politics. But no, better to polarize even what does not even remotely originates in the opposition.
• The President’s priority is only one: winning the presidential election. Everything is concentrated on this, and, from that perspective, the hurricane constitutes an unprecedented nuisance. How dare Otis mess with my project, which was going so well! Governing is not part of the catalog that the President deploys. His objective is power and crises, of any type or magnitude, are mere distractions that should be ignored because they do not contribute to the plan. What happens in the coming months -the hurricane, the economic performance, the ups and downs of the candidates and political parties and what happens in the rest of the world- will determine how likely it is that he will achieve his goal. What seems certain today may not materialize.
• The potential for a truly competitive race is enormous. Claudia Sheinbaum’s campaign is on track, but she is months away from landing. Xóchitl Gálvez’s campaign has not yet taken shape, but it faces a media and political siege administered directly by the President, a much more powerful contender than his candidate. The President’s popularity runs in favor of the former; The challenger might benefit from the reality that becomes more complicated every day.
For Gramsci, “The crisis consists precisely of that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum there appears a great variety of morbid symptoms.” In Acapulco the symptoms are evident. Same with next year’s election. The dice may be loaded, but the burden of reality also weighs.