Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Latin American Voter Matters

Mark Weisbrot has an article in The Nation about how the Latin American left isn't going away. He's right, but for the wrong reasons. He frames the current political scene in Latin America as a titanic struggle between the left and the United States.

But don’t expect the current downturn in the region to repeat the lost decades of the late 20th century. That kind of long-term disaster generally happens when countries do not have sovereign control over their most important economic policies (as in the troubled eurozone countries today). For the past 15 years, Washington has soughtto get rid of Latin America’s left governments; but its efforts have really succeeded, so far, only in the poorest and weakest countries: Haiti (2004 and 2011), Honduras (2009), and Paraguay (2012). 
The Latin American left has led the region’s “second independence” in the 21st century, altering hemispheric economic and political relations, and — even including the economic losses of the recent downturn — presiding over historic economic and social changes that benefited hundreds of millions, especially the poor. Despite the electoral setback in Argentina and the current threat to democracy in Brazil, they are likely to remain the dominant force in the region for a long time to come.

Notice that Latin American voters, who are driving these changes, are absent from this analysis. It's far more accurate to frame Latin American political change as indicating shifts in voter preferences. There is ample empirical evidence to show that Latin Americans are pragmatic. They want solutions from their elected leaders, and make choices accordingly. Sometimes that is on the right and sometimes it is on the left. Pendulums swing. Chileans voted for Bachelet, then Piñera, then Bachelet. In the future Argentines will once again vote in a Peronist.

We need to start celebrating the Latin American voter. Notice that a number of countries are facing serious political crises, but that the military has largely (though not entirely) stayed out of things. Military leaders are looking to voters to adjudicate political cleavages.

Of course, voters don't determine impeachment hearings. But voters respond later and demonstrate whether they agreed or disagreed with the outcome. The impeachment process in Brazil has become a circus, but voters are paying attention.

So let's begin analyses of regional change not with ideology, which is less of a concern to the average Latin American than pundits (and many politicians) like to believe.


shah8 5:02 PM  

I have to scratch my head on this one. This is basically non-responsive to Weisbrot's point. He'd agree with you that Latin American voters are pragmatic. He's saying that their pragmatism is suffocated in the weakest of countries. As such, do you actually believe that in the weakest countries cited, that voters are allowed to exercise their pragmatism? I mean, the Haitian saga with Martelly refusing to leave (and the general election violence with him at the helm) is fairly illustrative, no?

The other, more exploratory point is that he believes right wing governments will create bad policies that ultimately undermines their legitimacy. Which is sort of your point...

Greg Weeks 12:04 PM  

I don't think Weisbrot would argue voters are pragmatic. I think he would argue that voters are ideological (e.g. and the shifts we see are based mostly on ideology rather than the actual performance of the government.

shah8 4:55 PM  

I don't want to troll you, but why are we talking about Weisbrot's earlier articles than the one you cited? If I had understood you to mean Weisbrot's attitude rather than what he wrote in The Nation, I would have written something different.

Greg Weeks 5:06 PM  

You wrote in your comment that he sees voters as pragmatic, asserting he agrees with me. I am telling you I do not believe that is accurate. He sees voters as ideological, NOT pragmatic, which is evident in this article and his past articles. That is fundamentally what I disagree with. The U.S. matters to him, not to the voters. The labels matter more to pundits than the voters.

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP