One wonders, though, How will they ever top the moral indignation they are currently attempting to engender through the rhetoric of "Muslim fascism" and images of mothers willing to blow up their own babies? Has the Right arrived at some sort of endgame?
I, for one, get the sense that people are tiring of the "Christian fascist" talking heads. Even people that I know used to sit for hours transfixed by the whiney drone of Bill O ´Reilly don't seem to take it all so seriously anymore. I try to refrain from saying, "I told you so," although of course they see it in my face when they, tentatively, complain about him, or (who says there is no God?) change channels mid sentence.
By contrast to the United States, where the Right has had its day and seems to be winding down, conservatism is only just now beginning to show its real face in Mexico. Politics there have been, until recently, relatively tranquil. The business-as-usual of buying and selling influence and elections has gone on for years, of course, but conducted with a kind of old-fashioned gentlemen's understanding-you let me rob the people here and I won't say anything when you rob them there.
But recently, partisan extremism has arrived in Mexico, too, undoubtedly under the influence of The American Experience up north, and, along with it, the inflammatory rhetoric and blatant hypocrisy that characterize today's political theater. I say theater, of course, because surely only the purest of heart, those most in denial, or the just plain stupid can any longer believe or pretend that such a thing as democracy, and its necessary corollary, public protest, exist anywhere, except perhaps in Europe.
In Mexico, the ruling party, known by its initials, PAN, just robbed the presidential election. Nothing new, right? Well, no, but still interesting. Because in the previous presidential election (2000) the ruling party actually lost. Indeed, it was the PAN itself, who, under Vicente Fox, fought assiduously for years against the previous ruling party, the PRI, first in state elections and then nationally. Promising change for the Mexican people, the PAN finally toppled the PRI. And Fox's victory was a change in that sense. It showed that the unthinkable-beating a ruling party in an election-was indeed possible in Mexico. But now that the PAN is the ruling party, its sense of doubt concerning Mexican elections has utterly vanished. An amnesia it has been called. The urgency for change has evaporated. Somehow feelings of outrage and indignation, and the great need for vigilance and suspicion over against the ruling party, has been replaced in PAN rhetoric by, almost incredulously, the need to respect institutions! In six years, we are supposed to believe, Mexico has been transformed into a model of democracy. The truth is, not surprisingly, that it has not. Instead, democracy has suffered the same fate there that it has been dealt here in the United States: it has morphed into a gleaming Right Wing fetish, a mere simulation of itself that is used to justify falsified elections, and the invasion of foreign sovereign states like Iraq (and Cuba and Iran?). And, as one reads over and over again on t-shirts, banners, and signs at LÃ³pez Obrador rallies, Fox himself, and the PAN, all the while accusing LÃ³pez Obrador of being a danger to Mexico, have themselves become traitors to Mexican democracy.
In spite of the PAN's slogan, "The Party of Change", things in Mexico have not changed in Fox's six years in office. Ordinary people are still ignored or worse, while Mexico's ruling elite and transnational companies prosper. Meanwhile, many Mexicans, still without the jobs that were sure to come to Mexico under the modern, "pro-business" regime introduced by Fox, are still forced to seek work in the United States. And now, Mexico's poor increasingly risk their lives by facing America's rising vigilante population at the border. To top it off, the PRI, previously PAN's great enemy (due, according to the PAN itself, to any number of unspeakable crimes committed against Mexico), is now its ally. Politics makes for strange bedfellows, they say. Indeed, the PRI even sold PAN votes to insure that the PAN candidate "won" the 2006 elections. A tape-recorded phone message catching one such transaction has been played repeatedly in Mexico since the election. And now, in Chiapas, the PAN has formed a coalition with the PRI, and the PAN candidate has withdrawn from an upcoming gubernatorial election there in order to help the PRI candidate win! All to stop the threat of a government, like that proposed by LÃ³pez Obrador, that might actually side with the people instead of corporate interests. The PRI, meanwhile, in a typically hypocritical and cynical effort to buy votes (so much for the sanctity of democracy), is handing out trinkets to the elderly-the same elderly, who according to the logic of the Right, should not be depending on the government to survive (shame on the elderly in Chiapas for not yet investing their retirement funds in the stock market).
And along came Andres Manuel LÃ³pez Obrador, former mayor of Mexico City and the friend of ordinary people. Well, already we can see his great crime. Friend of ordinary people?! Nothing like a little social justice to ruin a party. "For the good of all, but first the Poor"? Where does someone like that get off running for the presidency of a country? Well, you can just see the Right Wing foaming at the mouth. The rhetoric bursts forth (how could it be contained?): "Communist". "A danger to Mexico". Those wishing to be a little less transparent, like the Washington Post, navigate the semantic field more subtly: they call LÃ³pez Obrador "an ardent populist with a messianic touch", "charismatic". But the intent is clear: to instill a fear of LÃ³pez Obrador. And their cynicism is unbounded when they callously transform the movement of millions of Mexicans hoping for a responsive government into "the ambitions of one man"! Ah, the pen IS mightier than the sword. Imagine erasing so many people in one sentence.
Events, of course, and in spite of anyone's illusions of agency, necessarily unfold according to their own logic. Once challenged, for instance, the violence intrinsic to the Right's philosophy of throwing everyone to the slings and arrows of economic forces inevitably erupts. The gleaming surfaces of the buildings along the Paseo de la Reforma cannot contain it. Vicente Fox's thugs (aka the Mexican Military, the Special Preventive Police, and various other groups whose only function is to protect the government from the people), have already beaten and wounded elected representatives of the Mexican Congress when they attempted to establish protests in front of the legislative buildings. And now, tanks and water canons have been deployed to insure that Fox's sixth and final State of the Union address is not marred by dissent. In that address, undoubtedly, he will pretend that there is no crisis in Mexico and that the millions of Mexicans who see him as a traitor do not exist.
Fox and friends, ironically, have been complaining that LÃ³pez Obrador's popular demonstrations in Mexico City have been bad for the tourist industry. They complain that streets have been blocked. Does Fox not ask himself what sort of image is portrayed by the deployment of tanks in the capital? And when Fox blocks street, apparently, it is to help traffic? Or do Fox and friends really believe that tourists will feel safer knowing that Mexico City has been militarized? The frightening thing is, the PAN might actually believe that.
We should all be enormously grateful to Mexico these days: to Andres Manuel LÃ³pez Obrador, to his millions of supporters, to the Asamblea Popular del Pueblo de Oaxaca. These brave souls are doing what many of us would like to do, but do not have sufficient conviction to do. They are fighting the machine. More importantly, they are forcing its viciousness to the surface for all to look at. And they are pushing the Right further to the edge, and, inevitably, right over the edge. The day is coming when we can finally say "Adios" to the likes of Bush, Fox, and Blair and to the hate industries that support them.
Then perhaps we will all have a few years in which to live in relative peace until the next bunch of fear peddlers comes along.