What will happen to Morena when AMLO disappears?

Antonio Salgado Borge

The interruption of the last tour of the president for health reasons made a good part of the members of his party tremble, and on the opposite side rejoice. It’s no less. Andres Manuel López Obrador is indispensable for Morena and the Fourth Transformation as they currently exist.

Let what happened serve as a reminder of a possibility that, however embarrassing and delicate, is rarely discussed openly: the possibility that AMLO, a man in his mid-70s who, like many people of that age, has . . dies in the short or medium term.

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At a very rudimentary level – at the level of the grid – this possibility clearly relates to political groups in Moraine. In the end, they will have to continue their bickering path without the presence and power of the president.

On another level of analysis, much more transcendent and interesting, the possible absence of AMLO will force Morena to decide whether to keep the shape carved by the president.

In much of the press, this form is often associated with the so-called “radical left”. But this term is inappropriate. And this is because in the politics of the Fourth Transformation, not only are there very few radicals – and probably very few leftists – but a radical transformation from the left has been prevented. And this is so, because continuing the shape carved by the President implies the preservation of the populist model on which AMLO and 4T are installed as we know it.

03/18/2023 Supporters of Mexican President Andrés López Obrador and 4T gathered in the Zócalo to mark the 85th anniversary of the oil expropriation. Photo: Photolaboratory

The president’s supporters often protest when he is called a populist. Some argue that the term does not apply to AMLO; Others argue that “populist” means being close to the people and that there is therefore nothing wrong with being a populist.

But these lines of defense last only a few seconds. To understand why, it is necessary to take into account that in modern political theory, “populism” does not mean “closeness to the people”, but a vision of society as two opposing groups: “clean people”, on the one hand, and “corrupt elite”, on the other.

While one can argue about what are the necessary and sufficient conditions for being a populist in this sense, there are some generally accepted elements: (1) that “pure people” are a homogeneous group called “the people”, (2) that this group has a moral high ground, (3) a preference for direct democracy over democratic institutions and systems, (4) a deep anti-intellectualism in the form of a rejection of experts or science in general, and (5) the belief that there are only two kinds of press: that which is loyal to the leader, and one that is true to the elites. Of course, the populist approach has serious costs. One is that under populist regimes, respect for the law and institutions tends to erode. The other is that plurality, and hence the rights of minorities, are often discarded in favor of a mass that is erroneously considered homogeneous.

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It is easy to see that the pattern created by AMLO satisfies at least the five elements associated with contemporary populism discussed above. To say that this form is not something populist, or to play with different ways of understanding this term throughout history, is tantamount to wanting to cover the sun with one finger. Consequently, the only intellectually honest defense that can be put forward by the so-called “radical left” in favor of the populist model is that it was successful in the elections and that the end justifies the means (or, to put it in lamentable language, “it was like was”).

For Morena, the post-AMLO populist approach opens up a double problem. Firstly, the success of populism largely depends on the presence of a charismatic figure capable of captivating, intriguing and mobilizing massively. And, apart from AMLO, there is currently no one who would meet such conditions. Second, the populist form does not distinguish between left and right; that is, if Morena insists on continuing to feed him, eventually the opponent’s piece, which is truly subservient to them, may unexpectedly occupy it.

But there is another roadmap that this movement can take in the absence of a president. Morena could well have abandoned the populist model and adopted a left-liberal approach.

On 04/18/2023, Mario Delgado, the leader of Morena, said that he hopes that the TEPJF resolution to invalidate his leadership will not be adopted until next year. Photo: Photolaboratory

I know that many of those who advocate the populist path tend to simply equate the term “liberal” with the term “right” or a not radical enough version of the left.

But the answer to this is that the identification of “liberal” and “right” has neither a head nor a tail. The idea that the left cannot be liberal lacks historical and conceptual support, so I won’t dwell on it. It also makes no sense to say that the liberal left cannot be transformative or radical enough. In fact, such an approach could result in Morena fulfilling a significant portion of the debt under the current government.

It is that such an approach would make it possible to carry out radical structural transformations that populism does not allow and, therefore, have not taken place. For example, instead of choosing who pays taxes or who is covered by the law in favor of the leader or his project, the liberal left approach involves updating these systems so that they always work legitimately and fairly; regardless of which party or person is in power.

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This is how we could, once and for all, bring about progressive tax reform that allows more resources to be redistributed to those who need them most, education reform that allows for the formation of emancipated people, and a true administration of justice without distinction.

Opening up to liberalism, Morena could also accept, without forgetting the poorest, causes that concern the middle class and are blocked by populist anti-intellectualism. Examples of this are environmental protection, social mobility or the development of culture and science.

25.04.2023 Voting of the Morena parliamentary group at the regular session of the Chamber of Deputies. Photo: Photolaboratory

Finally, by leaving the populist model behind, Mexico’s main left-wing party could also make room for left-wing ideas that have hitherto been excluded by the concept of “the people” as a homogeneous mass; for example, the right of women to control their own bodies, the rights of indigenous peoples, the rights of the LGBTI + community.

Based on a populist model, Morena achieved an unprecedented electoral triumph and enormous legitimacy four years ago. This is undeniable. But in this article, I have argued that this model is unlikely to be viable without AMLO and that populism is a handbrake when it comes to implementing the major radical changes expected from the left party. Given that no man lasts forever, no matter how hard it is, Morena would do the right thing if she began to consider a new path, a liberal one, that would lead her to surpass the president.

Source: Aristegui Noticias