Tuesday, March 24, 2020

How Long Can A Crazy President Stay Popular?

Mother Jones, not exactly a fan of Donald Trump, has an article explaining why AMLO is even worse when it comes to responding to the coronavirus. Trump seems to teeter between acceptance and denial, focused as always on whether he is being praised. AMLO is squarely in denial, even as his own executive branch takes actions. For AMLO, "phase 1" of the pandemic actually means "spread it even more!"

“Don’t stop going out—we’re still only in phase one,” López Obrador said. “If you have the means to do it, continue taking your family out to restaurants and diners. That’s what will strengthen the economy.” 
This brings me to a question I've had ever since he took office: how long can he stay popular? Misstep after misstep, combined with total obeisance to Trump, left me convinced that his high approval ratings were going to crash at some point. And yet here he is. The late February numbers clearly showed a decline, with 59% approval and 35% disapproving. Those numbers, of course, do not reflect the intensity of the crisis. But those aren't bad at all. A drop, yes, but keeping up at 70-80% is rare. In Latin America, staying above 50% is practically a miracle.

This is Teflon that even Ronald Reagan would be envious of. I won't even bother predicting what the March numbers will look like. I mean, Trump himself has solid approval for how he's handled the crisis despite a host of bad decisions and contradictions. We live in strange times.

UPDATE: literally minutes after publishing, here is a poll showing 37% approval vs. 45% disapproval for how AMLO is handling the crisis. That is not the same as overall approval--let's see if that crashed or not as a result.


shah8 3:04 AM  

The Mother Jones article starts off wrongly for me. Duque was basically dragged by the municipalities who were ignoring Duque's request to keep things going, in a very similar dynamic to Bolsonaro. Except Bolsonaro is just going to raise his voices over the pots and pans.

I've basically tuned out Mexican media discourse on AMLO, because it's so persistently and petty-hostile, and also doesn't map to popular sentiment.

AMLO has worked his way around the media to some degree, and he also makes a point of emphasizing that he is what his predecessors are not. Like that dangerous meet and greet.

One last thing, only the wealthy countries, and those who operate hard currency can properly do any sort of lockdown--because, well, you have to support a huge informal work force if you want any cooperation on any old shutdown. This is all before the whole "shutdowns are basically security theater" aspect. They work, but they're costly, and the pot of gold is the buildup of resources and ability to do widespread testing and contact tracing, and then vaccine. How feasible is it for Mexico to get there?

That is is going to be a major problem. Ineffectual, low support quarantines (like the comic example going on in Bolivia) are *definitely* worse than the disease even if only in the sense that you basically delay the peak for not much gain while putting great numbers of people in mortal peril because the state doesn't have the resources to support them to stay home. We may praise Peru NOW, but if the situation continues, we really might not be praise Peru, May 1st.

Hari 7:56 AM  

Wow, did not know that 50% of Americans approved Trump's handling of the coronavirus crisis... I suppose they are just pledging their support for Trump, rather than his handling of a crisis.

Also, on the comment above: One last thing, only the wealthy countries, and those who operate hard currency can properly do any sort of lockdown

Not true, India is not wealthy by any measure, and just yesterday went into a 21-day lockdown.

Carlos Ortega 11:07 PM  

It's important to follow his team rather than him. He has approved a presidential order which establishes that the health ministry will make the choices related to the coronavirus measures. Mexico cancelled classes almost two weeks ago, recommended home office to the entire private sector, will limit all federal government workers from going to work, plus there is a daily 1 hour conference open to reporters on the updates of the situation.

shah8 6:09 PM  


Hari 8:04 AM  

Excellent piece, the one you shared on Medium. Thanks. Incidentally, Alberto Diaz Cayeros was one of my professors at Stanford, and now heads the Center for Latin American studies there. Just sent him a note

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