Saturday, August 07, 2010

More on the center in Latin America

Michael Shifter writes in Foreign Policy about Latin America's shift to the center:

Latin American Barometer, a comparative public opinion survey that has tracked political attitudes since 1995, reveals that if anything, the region has made a marked shift toward the center. In 2002, 29 percent of Latin Americans identified themselves as centrists; by 2008, that number had jumped to 42 percent.

I agree, but I think his argument needs more explanation.  The "shift" should be viewed in a long-term, historical context as a gradual recovery from the Cold War.  In other words, that "jump" is better understood as part of a slow process rather than a sudden phenomenon.  But this is the sort of analysis we need, rather than the ideologically-driven arguments about the region moving left or right.

It's not surprising, given the region's history, that some measure of political moderation should have taken over in more prosperous times.

Actually, I disagree with that.  It is notable that so many countries remain fairly moderate even in times of economic crisis, especially if you expand the analysis to the entire post-Cold War era.

It might just be that I am tired of reading analyses that suggest Latin American politics is like a ping-pong match that jerks each direction every few years.  (Boz writes about Shifter's article too, though as with Shifter I  agree with him only partially--left and right does matter, just not as much as many claim).


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