Unity vs. Unanimity

                                      Luis Rubio

The world is living through an era of animosity and Mexico is not the exception. The presidential strategy of dividing and polarizing has been utilized by leaders around the world during these convulsive times, as illustrated by Trump, Narendra Modi in India, Bolsonaro in Brazil and Orban in Hungary. Some leaders have been subtler in their ways, less strident, but equally divisive in their strategies, as was Obama. The point is that, during the last decade, polarization has become an instrument for conducting politics. Everything in the Mexican public space -the Presidency, the Congress, the Supreme Court and the electoral processes- acquired calamitous dimensions as if in each vote, decision or sentence the future of the country was at stake.  The question that seems pertinent to me is whether, considering the upcoming electoral contest, the country can return to a schema of unity, which is not the same as unanimity.

The point of departure is that Mexico is not a homogeneous nor an egalitarian country where social, economic, political or economic differences are any the lesser. In fact, the opposite has happened: Mexican society has evolved in the direction of a growing diversity that, of course, is not new, because a mosaic has long characterized Mexicans, with the ensuing differences, divisions and conflicting perspectives. If one observes the world, it is natural for heterogeneity to exist in all orders of society. That is, disagreement on matters that are fundamental for development and the future is inherent and inevitable in a free society. Thus, the question of the possibility of achieving agreements on the future is relevant.

Pierre Manent* argues that in a free and therefore diverse society, unity does not mean thinking alike, unity means acting together. Manent suggests that nations count on common anchors that define them in terms of nationality, history and cultural foundations, all of which implies that this is not about enemies to the death, but instead about persons who, plain and simple, think distinctly and that, thus, the political task should consist of finding the spaces under which everyone can participate without that implying coinciding in everything. Under that premise, an effective leadership would procure uniting efforts to a greater degree than imposing a particular vision.

Unfortunately, Mexican politics has been polarized for many years, a situation that has been exacerbated in this government, essentially because everything has been organized and structured, intentionally or not, around the disagreements that exist more than on the coincidences. This, intrinsic as it is in the processes of political rivalry, does not contribute to the building of agreements during non-electoral times and much less so when the express objective is that of honing the divisions.

In a political system with such level of concentration of power like Mexico’s,  the leadership ends up being crucial. A good leader can contribute to resolving problems and to paving the way for development, while a negative leader can undermine the sources of growth and limit the country’s long-term viability. It is that concentration of power that keeps Mexico permanently up in the air: with everything in the end depending on the person occupying the office of the presidency. Even great leadership that proves benign but that does not contribute to institutionalizing that power and to creating conditions for unity in the previously mentioned sense, ends up being insufficient for truly attending to the enormous challenges that the country faces.

In sum, we Mexicans have two very distinct but complementary challenges: one is that of creating the conditions to unify the efforts of the entire society for the sake of advancing toward greater development, and, in the political ambit, peace and stability. The other is that of proceeding toward institutionalizing power to consolidate the efforts of the whole of society. This has to do with two distinct conduits, but ones that unite and end up in the same place: the capacity and disposition of the leadership to act on both fronts.

What is common, or at least frequent, in Mexican history is that presidents aim to bring together the citizenry for the country to prosper. That has been particularly perceptible during the past three decades during which an attempt was made to create general mechanisms where everyone who could fit -citizens in the electoral environment, entrepreneurs in investment, unions in the labor space and   politicians in the legislative sphere- would carry out their functions without having to resort to special favors or permissions at each corner. The present government has gone back to controlling all of the processes, not always successfully, but the very fact of attempting to do so has had the effect of limiting the potential for development.

What the country requires is moving on to the next stage: not only to general rules, ever more institutionalized rules and with mechanisms that transcend the capacity of a sole president, even of whoever promotes them, to alter the rules at will. Philip Wallach** says that majority rule is about “domesticating brute political force into a somewhat gentler form.” Whoever wins in 2024, the country requires a distinct government, one appropriate for the XXI century and the circumstances, such as nearshoring, which only come once in history.

*Democracy Without Nations? **Why Congress