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Opinion
Liébano Sáenz
Liébano Sáenz Anti-Establishment Times Western democracy is experimenting with a growing presence of anti-establishment, radical-change proposals mounted on a wave of dissatisfaction with what the status quo
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For many people it is difficult to understand reality and even more so the reasons or causes that explain it. It is not a matter of left or right, or of local or regional phenomena. Western democracy is experimenting with a growing presence of anti-establishment, radical-change proposals mounted on a wave of dissatisfaction with what currently exists.

One of the most complete phenomena was the movement of the indignant (Indignados) in Spain, which would lead to the creation of two political coalitions that would challenge the dominance of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) and the Popular Party (PP) in the parliament. The Ciudadanos (Citizens) Party, with right-wing leanings and the Podemos (We Can) party, of the left, fractured the previous balance with enough parliamentary representation to disrupt successive governments since the time of the transition. Spain, precisely because of the expressions of this new manifest pluralism in the last elections of December 2015, is now forced to conduct new elections next month because neither one of the two historic forces could create a ruling coalition.

The Greek case with SYRIZA, a radical left-wing coalition, did form a government. Its own offer, however, soon proved imposible and would lead its country and the European Union to one of its greatest crises. The government had to give in to the financial demands imposed by external creditors. Voters tested that the limitations of popular will has limits when it comes to the economy. As happened in Mexico in the past, Greece had to yield to a reality imposed by a global world, where the rules of the game exceed the resolutions taken by nations.

The United States, England and France are other of the many examples in which rupturist proposals arise with popular support. There is a growing relevance to what is happening in the race for presidential nominations in the Republican party, with the incursion of Donald Trump, likely nominee, and Bernie Sanders, who will not be the candidate but who has mobilized a surprising and unexpected social proposal with the support of an important segment of voters.

The necessary reflection is to understand the reasons why Donald Trump’s radical, and in many senses anti-establishment proposal, has been successful. His electoral base it the lower working class, the Anglo-Saxon in particular, who feel displaced in their opportunities and benefits by illegal migration and, especially, by the manichean perception that the United States has been very complacent with its comercial partners. This new form of conservative nationalism has very concerning particularities for everyone, but especially for a country that has been an expression of cultural and ethnical integration, freedoms and democracy: intolerance, racism and prejudice. This is the negation of the extraordinary social ensemble that the United States represents.

In Mexico we have witnessed in the past the overwhelming success of the independent candidate for governor of the state of Nuevo León, Jaime Rodríguez, who overcame the state’s deep-seated bipartisanism. The candidate skillfully rode two waves: that of indignation of the middle and upper classes, that would later permeate the popular classes and the digital wave. The mandate of the election was not a model of government, not even a proposal to improve things. It was simply the election of the avenger of a sentiment of rejection against much of what existed. The outcome is meaningful because the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of Nuevo León achieved two major successes: leadership in economic growth and investment and resoundingly overcoming insecurity and violence. Despite these clear achievements, the party was defeated by the anti-establishment proposal.

Independent candidates have gained strong impulse precisely from the erosion of political parties, oftentimes being independent gives greater impulse than running for a minor party. The polls from the upcoming 12 state elections reveal that in many cases independent candidates could gain more than 5 percent, and more than half of them could reach over 10 percent of votes.

Another expression of the anti-establishment is the emergence of National Regeneration Movement (Morena). In 2015 the party reached 8.4 percent nationwide and 24 percent in Mexico City. As foreseen by various studies by the Strategic Communication Cabinet, seen with disbelief by experimented observers and pollsters, Morena maintains very relevant competitive ranges in many states facing elections, particularly in Zacatecas, where a mistake of the National Electoral Institute (INE) or electoral tribunal — choose for yourself — served to give impulse to the reinstated candidature of Morena’s nominee, in Veracruz where Morena’s candidate has received the votes that abandoned the candidate from the alliance between the National Action Party (PAN) and the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) in the roar of the battle, and in Oaxaca, where Morena’s candidate benefits from the rift of the PRD and the disenchantment with the coalition government. Up north, meanwhile, the independent candidates are making headway.

Due to the particular social mood in which a third of Mexicans are classified in the category of indignant, current times give an important electoral ground to the anti-establishment. This is the profound cause for the success of the independent candidates and of Morena. Even of the PAN and the PRI, when they take on that role and have the right candidate and a propitious environment. It is not superfluous to point out what gives the greatest impulse to indignation and makes it take root is the perception of corruption.

The political functionality of the anti-establishment is that they direct indignation through democratic means and especially through votes. But the same could be said about Hitler who reached power through popular vote. However, it is not the same to compete than to govern. The experience is there for all to see. All candidates are forced in smaller or greater measure to stretch the truth, and to extend commitment and expectations of voters beyond what is reasonable. So, in the moment of truth, which is to govern, today’s indignant vote could well be tomorrow’s increased frustration.

 

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