“I’m not here to guide the deer; I’m here to awaken lions. I want to hear them roar, long fucking live freedom!”. This was probably Javier Milei’s most imposing phrase during his campaign as a pre-candidate for a seat in the Argentine Congress.
In Latin America, Milei has been a well-known phenomenon for several years. He is an economist, teacher, lecturer and, soon, he could become a national congressman. On September 12, the leader of La Libertad Avanza, the political space that Milei heads together with Victoria Villarruel, became the third political force in Buenos Aires after the economist exceeded 13% of the votes in the primary elections known as PASO, surpassing the expectations of opponents and allies.
The victory of Javier Milei, who, based on the PASO results, could have a guaranteed seat in the November elections, coincides with the fall of Kirchnerism, Peronism and the ruling party in almost all Argentina, even in historically leftist regions such as the Patagonian Santa Cruz. The triumph also coincides with the good elections of the liberal referents José Luis Espert and Ricardo López Murphy, results that show the growth of liberalism in the South American country.
Javier Milei, a liberal, is a referent of the right wing in the region. He supported, for example, former President Donald Trump in the November 2020 elections. Basically, the ballot box dealt a preemptive blow to Argentine progressivism by positioning a libertarian, with some conservative ideas on social issues such as abortion, as a serious threat to challenge the political system from within.
The various facets of Javier Milei
Milei is the closest thing to a rockstar in Latin American politics. He has, mainly, three facets for which he is known. First, he is a “polemic” (for the left) economist, being a self-confessed liberal-libertarian who advocates the deep reduction of the State and public spending, low taxes, ending subsidies and shutting down the Central Bank of Argentina in a region where most economists are statist.
Javier Milei’s other facet —for which he became quite famous throughout the region, by the way— is his disruptive rhetoric. In interviews and television debates, Milei was always a direct and tough speaker. The economist never shied away from clearly stating his political ideas and, on some occasions, he would sometimes go out of his way to point the finger at those who, for him, destroyed Argentina’s economy and development: Kirchnerism, Peronism and Argentina’s social democratic “opposition”, represented in Juntos por el Cambio (Together for Change).
Milei’s last facet is that of libertarian outsider. He is a pre-candidate for congressman and mass agitator in a country where the left has been governing for seven decades, through Peronism, Kirchnerism and the lukewarm social democracy of Macrism, and where most of the traditional press is sympathetic to progressive and statist ideas. Universities, such as the University of Buenos Aires (UBA), are practically centers of progressive indoctrination. The economist became a real threat to Argentina’s traditional political class.
A pushback against leftism
The disruptive and renowned economist could not have done better in his first elections as a candidate for public office. Not only was he the third most voted candidate in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital city, but he drew big numbers in Argentina’s working class areas, managing to capitalize on what is already an evident discontent of the lower and middle class with the ruling party.
“Milei is the best exponent of how to wage the cultural battle since he entered politics,” Argentine lawyer Martin Litwak, who is close to Milei and is based in Miami and specializes in estate planning, told The American. Litwak explained that Milei’s victory comes at an important moment, as the political discourse was too far to the left and, with the good elections of liberalism, Argentina is warning that it will not necessarily follow a radical leftist path as it did in countries such as Venezuela.
Beyond what will happen with Argentina and the actions that the ruling party will take after this debacle, Milei’s great achievement is to take liberalism out of library fundamentalism. That is to say, to take “the ideas of freedom”, as the economist himself calls them, to the Argentine neighborhoods fed up with insecurity and unemployment; to the middle class tired of inflation and how their money is worth less and less; to the entrepreneurs completely overwhelmed by the thousand and one tax burdens imposed by the Argentine state.
Seeing Javier Milei walking through the slums, being welcomed by the common people, is a symptom that libertarian ideas are taking hold in a sector of Argentine society, especially when the authorities are focused on issues such as gender ideology or feminism, foreign issues that do not serve to solve the most urgent issues of the common Argentine. To get an idea, today, with the exception of Venezuela, Argentina is the country with the worst economic performance in the region. Poverty is above 40%, child malnutrition is advancing dangerously, the private sector was destroyed due to the pandemic, draconian government health measures, state regulations and high taxes.
Clearly, people are upset, and many not only with the government, but also with the social-democratic and centrist “opposition”, which is also criticized by Milei. After knowing his great results, the economist wrote a thread on Twitter criticizing the officialism and also the “doves who want to negotiate” with the government headed by Alberto Fernández and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
“While we are happy about the result, we know that there is nothing to celebrate. Runaway inflation, unemployment and poverty force us to redouble our efforts so that the ideas of freedom can give hope back to Argentines,” Milei wrote. “Yesterday we Argentines expressed our weariness with a collectivist political caste that has been ruining our lives for more than seventy years. We said enough to Kirchnerism; and we also said enough to those who want to negotiate with the K’s.”
Therein lies Milei’s main difference with respect to the rest of the Argentine opposition politicians. The change that the economist seeks is a change of system, a political project that does not aspire to continuity, but, on the contrary, to lay new economic foundations for a depressed country. An ambitious project that goes against the traditional political caste, the media and the Argentine pop culture; an outsider in every sense of the word.
Milei has a long way to go, his political career is just beginning and the elections will not change much the decisions and laws emanating from the Argentine Congress, however, he took an important and remarkable first step showing himself as a real option to change the rules of the game in a country plagued by leftism and progressivism.
“They are afraid, the lefties are afraid”, was one of Javier Milei’s phrases to explain that the Argentine establishment is trembling because a libertarian managed, in a few months, to bring his ideas down to earth, to reach the neighborhoods and the middle class with an openly right-wing discourse, liberal in economic matters and conservative in some social issues. Will Javier Milei be the one to defeat the Argentine political caste? We will have to closely follow the evolution of the potential deputy to find out.