Mexicans are mad as hell at a system they see as self-dealing, under-performing and corrupt. That should sound familiar to Americans — not to mention Italians, Britons, and those in every other nation swamped by the populist tide. In Mexico’s case, they’re largely right.
.. Enrique Peña Nieto, the outgoing incumbent, came to office promising to cut the crime rate in half. Instead, Mexico suffered more than 25,000 murders last year, a modern record. He promised an end to corruption. His administration is suspected of spying on anti-graft investigators, and his wife was caught buying a $7 million mansion from a government contractor. He promised economic growth of 6 percent a year. It hardly ever got above 3 percent. The average wage fell by about $1,000 during the Great Recession and hasn’t recovered since.
.. American president, who is also on record saying he couldn’t care less whether his policies hurt them. If AMLO wins, Trump will deserve him.
.. AMLO’s popularity rests on the belief that he will end corruption, bring down crime, and redistribute ill-gotten gains to the people. How, exactly? Just as Trump declared at the 2016 Republican convention that he “alone” could fix a broken system, AMLO seems to have convinced his base that he can just make things happen. “Everything I am saying will be done” is how he punctuates his pledge
.. It’s the way of demagogues everywhere.
.. Trump promises to build border walls, win trade wars, keep us safe from terrorism, and end Obamacare, all at the snap of a finger
.. AMLO promises to fix social inequities that date back 500 years in a single six-year term.
.. compares himself to Benito Juárez, Mexico’s answer to Abraham Lincoln.
.. The idea of steady improvement and gradual amelioration isn’t for him. In Mexico’s current anger he seems at last to have found his moment.
.. it isn’t clear whether the softer rhetoric is anything more than an attempt to allay the fear (which factored heavily in his previous defeats) that he’s a Mexican Hugo Chávez.
.. It especially doesn’t work out well when populist policies collapse (as they generally do) on contact with reality. What typically follows isn’t a course correction by the leader or disillusionment among his followers. It’s an increasingly aggressive hunt for scapegoats: greedy speculators, the deep state, foreign interlopers, dishonest journalists, saboteurs, fifth columnists, and so on.
That’s been the pattern in one populist government after another, from Viktor Orban’s Hungary to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey to, well, Trump’s America. Now Mexico risks being next.
The Gaza Violence: How Extremism Corrupts
As you know, everybody sees the Middle East through his or her own narrative. Conservatives see it through the “front line in the war on terror” narrative and defend Israel’s actions on the Gaza border fence this week. Progressives see it through the “continued colonialist oppression” narrative and condemn those actions.
.. sometime in the 1990s, a mental shift occurred. Extremism grew on the Israeli side, exemplified by the ultranationalist who murdered Rabin, but it exploded on the Palestinian side. Palestinian extremism took on many of the shapes recognizable in extremism everywhere.
.. First, the question shifted from “What to do?” to “Whom to blame?” The debates were less about how to take steps toward a livable future and more about who is responsible for the sins of the past.
.. Second, the dream of total victory became the only acceptable dream.
.. extremists stop trying to win partial victories, insisting that someday they will get everything they want — that someday the other side will magically disappear.
.. Third, extremists over time replace strategic thinking with theatrical thinking. Strategic thinking is about the relation of means to ends: How do we use what we have to get to where we want to go? Theatrical thinking is both more cynical and more messianic: How do we create a martyrdom performance that will show the world how oppressed we are?
.. If you read the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s April 30 speech or much of the commentary published over the past week, it’s clear that some powerful Palestinians now believe that the creation of the state of Israel is the wrong that needs to be addressed, not the expansion and occupation.
.. They rejected incrementalism. After Israel withdrew from its settlements in Gaza, the Palestinians could have declared a new opening, taking advantage of the influx of humanitarian aid. Instead, they elected Hamas, an organization that lists the extermination of the state of Israel as an existential goal. They expended resources that could have improved infrastructure to fund missiles and terrorist tunnels.
.. Yasir Arafat was once a terrorist, but at least he used terror to win practical concessions. The actions today — the knife attacks, the manipulation of protesters to rush the border fence — are of little military or strategic value. They are ventures in suicidal theater.
.. The shift from the politics of Rabin and Shimon Peres to that of Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman is a move from pluralism to ethnocentrism, from relentless engagement to segregation. It’s a shift from tough realism to the magical thinking that Palestinians are somehow going to go away.
.. sometimes Israeli policies seem callously designed to guarantee an extremist response.
.. That’s the problem with extremism: It is a flight from reality. It makes you stupider. Instead of cleverly working to advance your own interest in a changing context, you end up shouting your own moral justifications into a whirlwind.
.. Extremism is naturally contagious. To fight it, whether at home or abroad, you have to answer the angry shout with the respectful offer. It feels unnatural. But it’s the only way.
How to Steal the Populists’ Clothes
The continued electoral success of populists in Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and in the United States shows that while their policy proposals may be fanciful, their mode of conducting politics is effective. To win at the ballot box, mainstream politicians should apply three lessons that populists have mastered.
.. Rather than complaining about populist successes, established political parties should take a page from the populist playbook. Three lessons, in particular, cry out for attention.
The first lesson is to connect to the people you wish to represent by learning about them and winning their trust.
.. The complacent assumption that people will always vote along party or class lines is obsolete.
.. After a decade of economic malaise, voters are skeptical of mainstream politicians who offer rote promises of growth and improved standards of living. In the eyes of disenchanted workers, those in power have simply been feathering their own nests. Even in many of the world’s strongest economies, workers are earning less in real terms than they did ten years ago.
.. the twin threats of automation and outsourcing have made employment more precarious, and sapped workers’ bargaining power.
.. Who is to blame for this state of affairs? Those who vote for populists clearly hold establishment politicians responsible
.. Contrary to popular belief, recent research finds that technology is not the primary driver of labor’s declining share of income. Rather, the worsening plight of workers is due to
- lost bargaining power and union density,
- welfare-state retrenchment,
- offshoring, and the
- growth of the financial sector as a share of the economy.
the effective tax rates “paid by the world’s 10 biggest public companies by market capitalization in each of nine sectors” have fallen by nearly one-third since 2000, from 34% to 24%.
since 2008, personal income-tax rates across all countries have increased by 6%, on average.
Against this backdrop, the emergence of populist parties and politicians should come as no surprise. When a majority of people becomes poorer, there will be stark consequences at the ballot box. And yet, in one country after another, the political establishment has been remarkably slow to recognize this.
.. Meanwhile, the populist presidential candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, proposes giving every Brazilian a gun so they can defend themselves. To the elites, this sounds (and is) preposterous. But for Brazilians who worry about their own safety, he is at least showing that he understands their top concern.
.. Before winning the French presidency and a parliamentary majority last year, Emmanuel Macron .. sent volunteers across the country to listen to voters’ concerns.
.. populists is to use simple, intuitive messaging to signal your goals. Yes, slogans like “I’ll protect your jobs” and “Make America great again” sound simplistic. But where are the sophisticated alternatives?
.. In the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum, the Remain campaign, phlegmatically led by then-Prime Minister David Cameron’s government, argued that leaving the European Union would result in lower GDP, lost trade, and disruption to the financial sector.
.. Such arguments completely missed what concerned most voters. By contrast, the Brexiteers promised to “take back control” of the UK’s borders and claimed – falsely – that the National Health Service would enjoy a windfall of £350 million ($490 million) per week.
.. Academics, pundits, and political, business, and civil-society leaders have been far too slow to articulate new economic and social policies that have broad-based appeal.
.. it takes a commitment of time and energy to understand the plight of the electorate and to frame solutions in a clear, simple way.
.. The third lesson from the populist playbook is to be bold.
.. people are seeking a transformational vision of the future, not slight improvements. After 30 years of pragmatism and incremental change, it is time for a new tone.
.. Recall that in 1945, Winston Churchill, having delivered victory for Britain in World War II, lost the general election.
The winner, Clement Attlee, promised what was effectively a new social contract for war-weary Britons still living under rations. His government went on to provide free universal health care, unemployment insurance, pensions, decent housing, and secure jobs in nationalized industries. And all this was done with the national debt still at 250% of GDP.