Saturday, November 29, 2014

"Pink Tide" is a Useless Term

This article in the Christian Science Monitor disappointed me because I thought we were finally leaving behind the "pink tide" label. It refers to leftist or center-left government elected since Hugo Chávez was first elected in 1998. Those who use the term generally see these governments as a bloc, or nearly so. So the question is whether "they" will last, with the assumption there is a "they."

The article ignores cases where the left is not winning (e.g. Colombia and Mexico) where voters have been gone back and forth (e.g. Chile and Guatemala) or elections where the right very nearly defeated a leftist incumbent (e.g. Brazil and Venezuela). It also ignores the vast differences between "leftist" governments.

Ultimately, we'd be better served by breaking out of the left/right dichotomy, which is really locked in the Cold War. For all of the talk from Venezuela, capitalism won. This means so-called "leftist" governments combine greater attention to social welfare with kowtowing to foreign investors. Ask Peruvians who live around mines what they think of Ollanta Humala (who, incidentally, says he is not left or right, but "below").

It also means they talk socialist and govern capitalist. Michelle Bachelet, after all, is a "socialist" while carefully protecting the most capitalist economy in the hemisphere. Criticisms of her come more from her words than from her policies, which are typically much less radical.

I know "left" and "right" are deeply embedded terms that won't go away. But can we at least retire "pink tide"?


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