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How to Beat AMLO: 5 Tips for the Mexican Opposition

México: 5 claves para la narrativa opositora

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Today, Mexico is 748 days away from the next presidential elections. If the ruling party wins the presidency, López Obrador and his allies will have a free hand to consolidate an authoritarian regime that will last for decades and reduce the opposition to a mere testimonial role or to institutionalized complicity.

Now, considering the dismal results of the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in terms of the economy, insecurity, and poverty, one would think that the opponents are playing with the field in their favor and that they would have everything to win the 2024 elections, but this is not the case.

The fact is that, at this stage of the game, the vast majority of Mexicans (including millions who backed AMLO in 2018) know that the president reneged on his promises and is not a fit leader, but they continue to back him because they like him and because he has a narrative that makes sense to them.

What narrative? The one that the white, rich, lazy, and smug high class made an alliance with the technocrat politicians, to steal from the good and humble people.

On the contrary, the opposition alliance Va por México lacks a solid narrative that goes beyond “López Obrador is bad, corrupt and inept” which is enough to mobilize approximately 37% of the population, but nothing more. In a few words, either the opposition builds a narrative that allows them to transcend mere anti-Obradorism, or they will have no chance to win the presidency of the republic…and time is running out, so I share here 5 keys to achieve it.

Think Beyond AMLO

The opposition narrative needs an enemy that goes beyond López Obrador. During these years the repudiation of López Obrador’s figure has been the primary link that keeps the opposition alliance united. However, in 2024, the president will not appear on the ballot (although it will be his regime that will be at stake). Therefore, the opposition needs to consolidate as “enemy” a concept that includes the president along with the rest of its political alliance.

It can be “the regime” “the officialism,” “the Government.” To end soon, the opposition needs to find the equivalent of the “high-class and conservatives” that play the role of villains in the Obradorist narrative.

Don’t Forget About Ordinary, Everyday People

It’s also imperative to focus on what ordinary people are losing due to the bungling, mistakes and corruption of the Obradorista government. So far, the opposition has focused on too abstract concepts: “Defend INE”, defend the separation of powers, and protect the rule of law. However, hardly anyone would take to the streets to vote, to challenge the regime (and even less to risk their lives) to “defend INE”

5 keys
The opposition narrative must go beyond condemning Obrador. (Image: EFE, Isaac Esquivel)

Expand Your Messaging

The opposition needs to find more grounded banners, and already managed to do so on a small scale, for example, when they emphasized that Obrador’s electric reform implied poisoning Mexican families with polluting thermoelectric plants. They need similar banners for other issues, particularly insecurity and bad jobs. It is about making it clear that, instead of punishing the corruption of the past, López Obrador’s regime is stealing the opportunities and the future of ordinary families and especially of those who have the least.

Protect Jobs

It must rely not only on the future but on traditional certainty. In the 2018 elections, one of the worst mistakes of the technocratic candidates was to bet everything on the concept of “future.” Anaya (PAN) and Meade (PRI) positioned themselves as the ones who were going to lead Mexico into an environment of technology and automation. The problem? For millions of families that future means a threat because, in that new world, which they do not understand and do not want, they would lose their jobs and relevance.

For those families, the Obradorist narrative focused on the virtues of an understandable past, is very attractive. The opposition needs to understand that most Mexicans do not feel included in a vision of artificial intelligence, renewable energy, and automated vehicles. Millions yearn for the certainties of the Mexico that was, and to win their support the opposition needs to find within that past some emotional levers that they can link to the rest of their proposal.

Learn From Your Mistakes

It’s necessary to have deep self-criticism or, at least, a clear sign that they are aware and repentant of their previous misdeeds. There is an underlying problem for any proposal and any candidate that may be launched by the opposition alliance: the governments headed for decades by those who today oppose López Obrador were also marked by corruption, incompetence, and cynicism. And people do not forget that.

The opposition narrative needs to integrate into its message the conscience and repentance regarding the history of corruption that stains the opposition parties. There is no time to build new brands or leaderships free of sin; we have to work with what we have, but that does not mean that the opposition can get away with proposing a wonderful Mexico as if everything they did wrong had not happened.

It needs, above all, to stop being so high-class. Both in the advertising of the opposition parties and in the messages of the opposition groups emerging from civil society, it is all too evident that the perspectives, leadership, and vision of the country are projected from the intellectual and business “high society,” especially in Mexico City. No matter how much they try to disguise it and disguise themselves as populists, the opponents and their campaigns end up sounding rather arrogant in the eyes of normal people.

A good Cubero rule of thumb: if your campaign and your political message sound like something out of a “social conscience” class taught at Ibero Santa Fe, Anahuac or Tec de Monterrey by a “prof” with a Starbucks latte in hand, then you have to start from scratch. Get out of your bubble in the CEN of the PAN, in the cafecitos of the Condesa, in the spaces of Twitter and in the pages of Reforma. Go out to the street, listen to the people and build a message that is not condescending.

An extra tip as a gift: stop hiring the same failed political consultants who devised and designed the disastrous presidential campaigns of the last few years. Stop buying smoke and mirrors from the South American and Spanish gurus. Get rid of that boring, false, fatuous, and predictable little script in which you have been stuck for the last 20 years.

A starting point for the opposition narrative

What, then, might the oppositional narrative be? Here is a (very basic) first draft.

For years, the political parties and their intellectual allies acted corruptly and arrogantly, building a country where only they ruled, so people got fed up and voted for López Obrador. Once in power, Obrador betrayed the people, surrounding himself with the worst of the old politics and making capricious decisions that swell his power in exchange for destroying the opportunities of working Mexicans, who today face more insecurity and more corruption than ever.

To defeat this traitor, Mexicans will use the opposition parties. Not because they will forgive them, but because they are the only politically viable path in the short term. Once the election is over and Obradorism is defeated, the opposition parties will disintegrate and will give space to new options that, now yes, emerge from the people, respond to the people, are transparent, and choose their candidates based on capacity and honesty, instead of defining them by their family social connections or corruption agreements.

This is an initial version, necessarily coarse and perfectible, but that is the direction the opposition narrative should take. The alternative is that the opponents repeat the mistakes of 2018, that they lose the presidency again, and that Mexico loses the 21st century. Literally.

Gerardo Garibay Camarena, is a doctor of law, writer and political analyst with experience in the public and private sectors. His new book is "How to Play Chess Without Craps: A Guide to Reading Politics and Understanding Politicians" // Gerardo Garibay Camarena es doctor en derecho, escritor y analista político con experiencia en el sector público y privado. Su nuevo libro es “Cómo jugar al ajedrez Sin dados: Una guía para leer la política y entender a los políticos”

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