Increasing polarization in Ecuador
As the Ecuadorian election draws closer, it is unclear who will become the next president. Incumbent President Lenin Moreno will not be seeking reelection, facing approval ratings below 10%. To understand the Ecuadorian populace, scholars may turn to the traditional indicators such as SES, occupation, etc. However, some authors argue another indicator should be correismo: “anti-Correa or pro-Correa”. This suggests that the populist ex-President Rafael Correa continues to influence Ecuadorian politics (after his presidency). Will the same be true for President Donald Trump in the american context?
People see polarization in the U.S. today and attribute it to party politics. But what happens when the label is tied to a political leader, not a party? I argue that this, a political label attached to a politician as opposed to a party, may be a greater threat to democracy. Within a party, there is room for greater accountability and control; a party platform requires some degree of consensus, even if most party members are not involved. This does not hold true when a populus identifies with a single political leader instead of a consensus-driven platform.
Even outside office, such political leaders may continue to exercise influence. In the U.S., Joe Biden won the presidency. But with 74,111,419 votes, no one is under the illusion that Trumpism has died or will die in the near future. The election may have been a recall on Donald Trump but his ideology remains with us. In Ecuador, President Rafael Correa was able to choose his predecessor after completing three terms in office; he may exercise the ability to choose the winner of this presidential election as well.
Populist rhetoric outlasts presidency
Both President Trump and President Correa utilized populist rhetoric to enhance their influence and grow their political base. Their discourse was defined by anti-elitist language and a conception of political morality in terms of work and corruption: the people are pure and hard workers, while the elites are corrupt and self-interested (Muller). Correa’s political message drew a clear link with elites and political corruption, appealing to “Ecuadorians of all backgrounds who felt disenfranchised by the political system.”
A bad sign for Trump?
While President Correa found success in choosing his predecessor, his supporters found little success in elections at other levels. “Correa’s inability to always transfer his popularity to his candidates, and the absence of a successor in a hyper-personalized populist movement, led his supporters to promote changes in the constitution to allow Correa to run again for the presidency in 2017.” It seems like Correismo is, to some extent, tied to Correa himself when considering the success of his opponents in other races and the failure of candidates that shared his ideology.
It is unclear whether this phenomenon will hold true for Trump. While he did not win reelection, his support and endorsement helped other Republicans get elected. The question at hand becomes: how much of this can be attributed to Trump directly? It may have to do with the existence of a strong two-party system in the U.S. This does not hold true in Ecuador, where there are currently 16 presidential candidates on the ballot from 16 different parties.
One key example is the media coverage of Correa’s (and potentially his party’s candidates) ban from Ecuador’s impending presidential election. A controversial move, the action by the election committee has warranted the following: (1) a response from leaders across Latin America and (2) a call for international agencies. It is unclear whether or not the case is substantiated; however, the limited media coverage is surprising and perhaps a symptom of polarization. The media, with good reason, may not be especially sensitive to threats against democracy when the victim is Correa and his party. It can be attributed to the media censorship under his administration. (source) The threat of polarization and populist rhetoric becomes apparent when the legitimacy of the media is called into question.
Hi Evelyn, I thought your article was great and raised some really interesting points. I really liked the example you used of Correa and Trump. I wasn’t familiar with Correa’s presidency and was shocked by some of the allegations against him. You do a great job of pointing out the similarities between Correa and Trump particularly in their rhetoric. I think that past elections have shown that Trump is able to translate his popularity into support for down ballot candidates to varying degrees of success. I think that Trump’s brand as an outsider doesn’t translate as well to down ballot candidates and especially not after he is out of office. The biggest variable to Trump’s continued political relevance is if he is prosecuted once he leaves office in January. If he is involved in a number of potentially criminal cases then his ability to influence elections will significantly decrease. Hopefully this leads to more elected officials who prioritize playing by the rules of democracy.
Evelyn, I think your post brings really interesting points! The first think you reminded me of when reading correismo was how it all started in Venezuela in 1998: Chavismo. This term was created by President Hugo Chavez himself and has played a massive role even today in Venezuelan policies. Currently, under the dictatorial rule of Nicolas Maduro, there are many discussions as to whom should be part of the transition government. There are actors like Exiled Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz and Rafael Ramirez (Chavez’s oil minister which is currently in exile in Italy) known as Chavistas, while the more radical leaders like Padrino Lopez (current minister of defense) and Diosdado Cabello (leader of the constituent assembly) as Maduristas. The term has not only shaped Venezuelan politics but has left an impact on how Venezuelans turn to the opposition when looking for a way out. In relation to Trump, Trumpism has just begun to take ground across the United States and will become a form of resistance against the presidency, especially due to the strong ties it had with populists. (It’s important to note these labels generally occur amongst populists leaders like Chavez, Correa, Maduro, and Trump). How they will affect U.S politics in the future will vary, but many politicians will begin to identify themselves under this label in order to retain the 74 million that voted for Trump in this election.