Liberation Road

Angels and Devils — and México’s Upcoming Mid-Terms


February 17, 2021/ This week’s issue/ Meizhu Lui, for the editorial team

In the United States, we’ve just survived a blood-curdling electoral season. In México, folks are just gearing up for mid-term elections this July. Our US elections essentially mimicked a zombie movie. In a two-party system that had lost its tether to rationality, you either sat on the side of angels or let the devils take you. México doesn’t, of course, have our two-party system. But voters in México face a choice between political philosophies far starker.

For nearly a century, Mexicans faced what amounted to one-party rule. A corrupt and elitist government facilitated the impoverishment of vast swatches of the population. Then, in 2018, Mexicans voted for a radical change of direction. They gave Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his Morena party a landslide victory. Will the people now ask Morena candidates to continue down the path of transformational change?

US progressives have much to learn from watching Morena, an ongoing political experiment still only six years old. Morena came into being, in large part, as an electoral vehicle for AMLO’s presidential bid. The party still carries the imprint of his values and sense of moral mission, his confidence that “the better angels of our nature” guide us all — and will help Morena prevail in the upcoming elections. That leaves the day-to-day campaign worry to activists on the ground like Javier Bravo.

Bravo worries particularly about the internal Morena party rule that lets anyone, regardless of past political affiliation, seek office on the party’s ticket. Morena doesn’t vet candidates to make sure they’ll carry out the party’s program, that they’ll prioritize the poor and expand worker, indigenous, and human rights, that they’ll rein in corrupt functionaries and protect Mexican sovereignty from foreign interventions.

Morena’a internal rulebook reflects AMLO’s confidence that people can change and do the right thing. And that confidence can be charming. We all may indeed have better angels. But we also have devils on our shoulders, the reason why we need external guideposts, rules against doing harm, incentives for doing good. We want people who listen to their better angels to govern. But the devil is in the details.   

Historian Javier Bravo teaches at the University of Guanajuato. He’s been an activist with Morena since the party’s inception and also serves on the Coordinating Committee of the México Solidarity Project. We just explored with Bravo his progressive concerns about México’s upcoming elections this July, the first national balloting since Morena’s stunning 2018 election triumph.

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