A functioning democracy can be defined by several key values, including electoral processes and the general functioning of the citizens as a governing body. A democracy, by definition, aims to protect and represent the civic well-being of the population of a nation. However, there are even more factors that can define an eroding democracy. These values include corruption, disproportionate representation, and a lack of trust in one’s government. For several centuries, Mexico has been referred to in a scholarly setting as a generally “flawed democracy”. Criticism from both the left and right occupy conversation regarding Mexico’s political relationship with the United States and other democracies. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador can be seen as present in many examples of modern-day democratic erosion, embodying the values of the Mexican left while failing to provide protection to those he represents.
With over 30 million votes, Andrés Manuel López Obrador was awarded the “highest vote count of any president in Mexico’s history”. His success may be considered unique in that he did not come from bipartisan politics, representing a left-leaning community that aimed to represent a broader and more inclusive demographic within the Mexican population. More specifically, AMLO’s anti-Trump-centered values and willingness to pursue values rooted in populism allowed him to succeed as an elected politican. As a whole, AMLO’s political party, MORENA, lacked electoral value. As represented in the 2006 and 2012 Mexican elections, he failed to gain a legitimate reputation in the political sphere. However, a less than 1% voter turnout allowed a manipulation of processes to take effect. To begin, the legitimacy of the ballots themselves were compromised. Wording such as “Would you support a better healthcare system?” was implemented, manipulating the public and representing values of demagoguery. Due to this manipulation, his proposed policies showed an over 90% approval rating, justifying the introduction of AMLO as Mexico’s new leader.
The election of Leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador represents a key event for many as he is the first leftist politician elected in more than three decades. In comparison, his predecessors, represented by the right-wing National Action Party (PAN) or leftist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), could be essentially considered centrists, lacking the appeal of the general middle class and failing to address nor acknowledge requests garneded by minority communities. López was ultimately able to represent over 50% of the vote, gaining large amounts of sympathy and general likeness from the Mexican public. AMLO’s current political party (National Regeneration Movement or MORENA), aims to represent and empower the less-represented communities of the Mexican population. MORENA largely is associated with the disillusionment and dissociation from bipartisen politics. As a result, those with more progressive values tend to gravitate towards AMLO’s anti-traditional tactics.
AMLO’s motives are clear; he aims to address the unacknowledged and promise reformation for the impoverished. To begin, he expresses his desires to call out high-level corruption among the Mexican elite. His ability to acknowledge the faults of the authoritarian entities allows him to gain trust among those who agree. Additionally, his preached values include those of empathy for the impoverished, mentioning the inequality present in modern-day economics within Mexico. He promises to empower those affected by elitist motives, gaining the respect and trust of Mexico’s targeted communities through populist motives. He pledges to reduce violence and corruption. While many of his motives appear to be generally progressive, the root of his values is the desire to rail against the country’s “mafia of power”, in addition to the nation’s political and business elite. He represents a generally ambitious, yet vague popular agenda in order to uphold his legitimacy within his reign. His claims are that of rather optimistic proportions, promising a budget for funding of communities he promised refurbishing and representation of. During his term as mayor of Mexico City, he was successfully able to uphold his promises while conforming to the budget and standards of the elite. Yet, amidst the election of his current presidency, Andrés Manuel López Obrador fails to provide direct plans of action regarding Mexico’s corruption and democratic backsliding present within the modern government. Mexico’s democracy as an entity is generally threatened by the weight of crime organizations present within the nation that act to undermine the democracy.
AMLO’s general course of action can be seen as a vague attempt to persuade the public. He fails to directly address representations of democratic backsliding, including corruption and violence (Mexico recently surpassed a record of 25,000 murders reported yearly). Due to the legislature present within modern Mexican democracy, AMLO is provided with a 6-month period in which he is unable to engage with general policies of presidential leadership. However, during this period, he was able to get ahead by implementing a series of policies he considered crucial to his values. AMLO also aims to appeal to the general Mexican public by representing values that challenge those of United States former President Donald J. Trump. His opposition to America’s right-wing extremist values, including those of the legislature in support of “building a wall” that separates the United States from the Northern Mexican border, gained much traction from the willingness of Mexican leftists who wished to vote in Mexico’s best interest. This tactic, included in his ability to appeal to the populist general public, allowed AMLO to gain responsibility and power within representing the nation of Mexico.
Hi Ruth! I found this blog interesting because much of the conversation surrounding populism has to do with right-wing populism. A critical look into left-wing populism is necessary to fully understand the motives and actions of populist leaders. It is also interesting that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador used populist rhetoric to vilify former President Trump, another populist. I think the commonality between these two leaders is the use of scapegoating to gain support. President Trump demonized Mexican immigrants, while President Obrador demonized President Trump in retaliation. Mexico’s political and democratic issues existed before President Trump became President, showing that resistance to him is not an effective political strategy in tangibly reducing harm for Mexico’s marginalized communities. These leaders also ran on platforms that were more in opposition to some “existential” threat, rather than towards a goal. Candidates that do not outline their political vision with tangible policy changes should race red flags among voters.
Hey Ruth, this was a fascinating blog post to read. When discussing populism, most of us tend to focus on right-wing examples. However, you did a fantastic job providing a thorough analysis of Obrador’s use of left-wing populism in Mexico. I found it interesting that, like many right-wing populists, Obrador also pitted the people against the elite while claiming to represent the interests of the former. Despite his open opposition to US President Donald Trump, you’ve shown that he’s utilized many of the same strategies that Trump had.
Moreover, I find it interesting that, despite guaranteeing to uphold the interests of the Mexican people, Obrador has thus far failed to follow through on his promise. In particular, you mentioned how he has not properly addressed substantial problems within the state such as corruption that threaten Mexico’s democratic status.