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.