I visited Mexico City this past May and encountered an air of both expectancy and resignation in relation to the July 1st presidential election. It was evident that the public was faced with choices that made little sense.
Two out of the three major candidates were sponsored by parties and groups that had already failed the country when they were previously elected to govern. One of them, the Partido de la Revolucion Institucional (PRI) that is currently in power, was so embarrassed by its obvious corruption that it brought a politician from outside the Party to run for president.
That did not work as Jose Antonio Meade, a technocrat and candidate for the PRI came in last. The others led by Ricardo Anaya Cortez of the Partido de Accion Nacional (PAN) actually offered a weird coalition made up of the right-wing PAN and the leftist Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD).
The people saw through all of that and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), the leader of a relatively new Party called MORENA won in a landslide. His successful campaign represents the closing of a circle.
Mexico possesses a long history of idealistic aspirations based on the Conservative and Liberal traditions. In the early days of nationhood, Mexico vacillated between these two extremes, a tendency that appears to now afflict the United States.
Mexican presidents sometimes lasted only days or months and mostly did not finish their elected terms. It was not until Benito Juarez came into power in 1858 under the Liberal Constitution of 1857 that Mexican identity with a political ideology became more permanent.
Yet, Juarez faced major stability challenges including the French installation of Emperor Maximilian I who was forced on the Mexican people in 1863 and executed by Juarez in 1867. Juarez died in office in 1872, but was able to establish a lasting political tradition of emphasizing the importance of the common citizen, the poor and the indigenous communities.
The Mexican Revolution of 1910 was all about those concepts and its success advanced that ideology as well as created a stable environment that allowed Mexico to face the modern challenges associated with industrialization, jobs and relations with a northern neighbor that had taken half of its territory.
The PRI and its predecessors ruled Mexico from 1929 to 2000 when Vicente Fox of the PAN was elected President. Throughout that period, the PRI changed its ideology depending on the president and the needs of the country.
The PRI lost its left wing in 1988 when it appeared to move too far away from its roots and the values originated by Juarez and the Mexican Revolution. That wing became the PRD headed by Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, the son of Lazaro Cardenas, a general in the Mexican Revolution and President elected in 1938.
Cardenas ran for President in 1988 against Carlos Salinas of the PRI and appeared to be winning until the computers went down at a most critical moment. When the system came up again, it was discovered that Carlos Salinas and the PRI had won.
That attempt to bring Mexico’s political community back to its roots also included AMLO as a major activist that later went on to become the Mayor of Mexico City in 2000. He served 5 out-of-a 6-year term and resigned to go on the political journey that ended with his victory on July 1st.
The election of AMLO completes the ideological circle initiated by Juarez in 1857. The question is, are these ideals still timely and relevant?