Wednesday, June 27, 2018

it can happen here

AMLO is a close personal friend of mine.

If the initials do not mean anything to you, AMLO is Andrés Manuel López Obrador. And, unless some miracle (or catastrophe) happens between now and election day on 1 July, he will be Mexico's next president.

The "close personal friend" part is mainly my invention. But I do have empirical evidence that it could be true. AMLO and I have had daily telephone conversations about his campaign. Sometimes, twice a day.

I have asked him if he has seriously backed away from his earlier position of withdrawing from NAFTA. Or rescinding the petroleum investment agreements with non-Mexican companies. Or reversing the education reforms of the current administration.

I do a lot of talking. But, so does he. And he always says the same thing. How much he needs my vote. That, through him, there is hope for Mexico. These politicians are so robotic.

That is true here because my close personal friend uses a recorded message with robocalls. It does lack a bit of the personal touch.

This morning's poll shows AMLO almost 20% ahead of his nearest competitor. Those numbers look like the percentages racked up by PRI in its day of one-party dictatorship. Or, as its defenders would say: "strong leadership."

The only worrying factor for AMLO is the high number of undecided voters four days before the election. 22%. Thus, the incessant robocalls.

AMLO has run twice before for the presidency. As a fire-breathing leftist. If he had not scared away the middle class in the last election, he would probably have been elected.

But something odd happened this election cycle. AMLO has tuned down the rhetoric to almost sound like a center-right politician. His leftist programs of six years ago have been sugar-coated and dressed up as conservative solutions.

What has not changed is his basic instinct. He is a national populist who has racked up support by portraying himself as a man who will not let the world push Mexico around any more. His adoption of another presidential candidate's relying on baseball caps has not gone unnoticed.

He speaks of exorbitant tariffs on the corn that Mexico imports from the United States. He sells the old bromide that Mexico must be self-sufficient in growing its own food. And his money maker is reminding his audience that Mexican oil is for Mexicans. The only thing he has not done is to propose a wall on the Guatemala border.

I have a friend in Mexico City who has long been a supporter of Mexico's center-right PAN party. She detested AMLO in the past. This year, she (and a lot of her wealthier friends) are voting for AMLO. When I asked her why, she said: "We have tried everything else, why not give AMLO a chance. After all, you have a Trump; we will have a Trump."

One of the most interesting statistics in the polling is that AMLO leads by a large margin amongst all three income groups. But, his greatest lead is amongst the wealthiest voters. Like my friend in Mexico City.

On Tuesday, I had breakfast with an expatriate friend. She obtained her citizenship just after the 2012 election. While we were discussing that election, she told me she would have voted for AMLO.

I was not shocked. Her politics are garden variety leftist. She thought Hugo Chavez was good for Venezuela. That Daniel Ortega is a hero in the same category with the Castro boys. That Sunday was a great day for Turkey with the reelection of Erdogan. And that Jeremy Corbyn will be the best prime minister Britain has ever had. (Churchill, in her estimation, was one of the worst.)

So, I went way out on the plank when I said: "Let me guess. You are going to vote for AMLO on Sunday?"

"Of course, I am. There is no choice. And I hope his party takes control of Congress. The rich will learn that they no longer control Mexico."

"That surprises me just a bit. I would think that as a lesbian, you would find it distasteful to vote for a candidate who is opposed to abortion rights and gay marriage. You are far more flexible than I thought."

I wish I had just made up the part about abortion and gay marriage. I tend to do that to get reactions in political conversations. But it is true.

No one should be the least bit surprised that a Mexican leftist would hold those social views. Outside of Mexico City, the constituency for abortion rights and gay marriage could probably meet in a very small convention center. Catholicism and evangelicalism inform a majority of Mexican voters on social issues.

If AMLO were running for city council from Manhattan, he might have different views. But he is running for president of Mexico. At least, he will give some of my expatriate friends the opportunity to broaden their political credentials.

And it will give me more opportunities to spend time on the telephone with my new-found friend.

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