Saturday, July 28, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Other Disrupters

Donald Trump and his government are not the only global political
disrupters attempting to alter the international economic power
status quo.

There is at least one rival disrupter on a worldwide scale, and two
national entities attempting to alter their regional circumstances.

Each has its own interests and style of disruption, and each
attempts to restore their country’s earlier empire.

General Secretary Xi Jinping of China represents a culmination
of his nation’s re-emergence on the world stage that began with
the communist takeover of the mainland in 1949. Not only are the
Chinese actively pursuing its “Belt and Road” policy in central
Asia as a strategy to contain the influence of the world’s only other
billion-persons-plus nation of India, it is aggressively asserting its
claims in the South China Sea, and also single-mindedly building
dependency relationships in undeveloped countries in Africa and
South America.   There can be little doubt now, if there ever was,
that Secretary Xi and his colleagues want China to become the
dominant superpower of the 21st century, eventually replacing the
United States. The turning point for this strategy was the adoption
of a capitalist-style economic structure while preserving the
Marxist totalitarian state. This hybrid is what Mr. Xi and his
colleagues are trying to sell to a disrupted world community. His
critics point out that such a hybrid is doomed to failure in an age
of such remarkable communications technology, but with less
bravado and leverage than Mr. Trump’s, the Chinese agenda is
moving inexorably forward.

Historically, China existed as a major empire for about three
millennia. Three of its many imperial dynasties stand out --- the
Han Dynasty from 220 B.C. for the next 400 years; the Tang
Dynasty from 600 A.D. for the next 300 years; and the Qing
Dynasty from 1644 A.D. until it was overthrown in 1912. The
latter dynasty, despite its feckless demise, actually earlier
defined modern Chinese power and hegemony over its region.

President Vladimir Putin came to power after the revolution that
toppled the totalitarian Soviet regime (1917-91) that had played
such a central role in 20th century global politics. A communist
empire had replaced the imperial czarist empire (1611-1917)
stretching from eastern Europe to the Pacific Ocean. When the
Soviet Union broke up, many of its component parts declared
their independence, including Ukraine, Byelorussia, Kazakhstan,
Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldove, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan,
Turkmenistan and Kyrgystan. Now nominally a capitalist
democracy, the new Russian Federation struggled for years to
adjust from its past. Retiring from the presidency after two
elected terms (but not from power), Mr. Putin returned to be
elected chief of state in 2012, and subsequently was reelected for
six years in 2018. His nationalist policies increasingly assumed
influence over most of its former member republics, reoccupied
Crimea which it had returned to Ukraine in 1954, confronted the
latter, as well as Poland and the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania
and Estonia --- all of which at one time had been part of the
Russian empire.

President Hassan Rouhani leads a group of Islamic ayatollahs
in Iran that is attempting to dominate the Middle East as did the
nation’s forerunner Persian Empire which ruled over a large area
from 550 B.C. to 651 A.D. In that earlier period, the main religion
was Zoroastrian. From about 700 A.D., the smaller empire
was Islamic under a series of kings and shahs who had reduced
influence in the region. A religious revolution replaced Shah Reza
Pahlevi with an Islamic republic and elected religious presidents.
Asserting its enmity to Israel, Iran has embarked on a program
to build nuclear weapons, now supposedly suspended, but it
continues to cast a menacing shadow over other nations in the
region, and not just Israel. For decades, the Middle East has been
a headlined world trouble spot, and since it became a major
exporter of oil in the 20th century, a global economic disrupter.

Of the four disruptions cited above, the Chinese activity would
seem to have the most sustained and long-term impact on the
existing world order. The U.S. effort to counter or contain it is
simply too recent and as yet undefined to be properly evaluated.
The other mega-nation, India, has nuclear weapons and a
growing global economic impact, but its internal problems and,
so far, weak leadership have delayed its potential key influence
on the complicated world political drama now taking place.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Waving Red, Blue Or White Flags, But No Wind Yet

The media, political operatives and interest groups are each trying
to hoist red, blue or white flags for the outcome of the 2018 national
mid-term elections, but no wind yet exists to make these flags wave.

The primary season is almost over, and both major parties have
results to cheer about, but there is no solid evidence of any imminent
“wave” election, or even a decisive result for one side or the other.

In the U.S. house elections, Democrats are optimistic they will not
only make notable gains, but might win back control. Part of their
success in the primaries was in fielding moderate liberals in
battleground districts held by Republicans. At the same time,
however, in other districts, they fielded far left or radical candidates
who are unlikely to win in November. Overall, the political
mathematics favors the liberal party, but economic conditions
continue to favor the conservative party.

In the U.S. senate elections, Republicans are optimistic they can
enlarge significantly their very narrow current majority. In the
primaries so far, the GOP has seemed to field its strongest
nominees, avoiding their missteps in recent past midterm
elections when flawed candidates were chosen. Even in the two
most vulnerable GOP incumbent seats (Arizona and Nevada), the
Democrats have not seemed to choose strong challengers. Further,
the upcoming Supreme Court nominee confirmation vote has put
several Democratic incumbent and vulnerable senators on the
spot, especially the five in states carried heavily by President
Trump in 2016.  Just as the Democrats seem likely to make at
least some gains in the U.S. house, it appears likely that
Republicans will make at last some gains in the U.S. senate,
especially with both the political mathematics and economic
conditions favoring them.

Republicans dominate state governorships and the most
legislatures, so Democratic gains are expected. But the
dimensions of those gains will be controlled more by local
conditions and quality of candidates than by any national
trend or purported wave.

Although no clear trend is yet visible, there is adequate time
for either a wave or, to a lesser degree, a  surge to develop. An
outcome in which the Democrats make large U.S. house gains,
even taking back control, and the Republicans simultaneously
enlarge their majority by 3-5 seats is also quite possible. That
would be, in reality, a white flag election.

Most pundit predictions now are being made on the basis of
a plethora of  contradictory and premature polls, many of
which are mostly hype. Fundraising for the primary season
does not yet tell us fundraising capability in a general
election. Finally, and I have repeated this many times,
individual candidates matter a great deal, especially in
competitive contests.

I don’t think anything useful will be evident until well after
Labor Day. Prior to that, it’s almost all wishful thinking.

A recipe isn’t a successful dish until it’s cooked.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Primary Season 2018: What's Left?

There are 19 states which have yet to hold their 2018 primary elections;
six of them are of special interest because of their implications in the
national mid-term voting that will determine which party will control
the two houses of  Congress and some key governorships during the
2020 redistricting.

With  most of the state primaries occurring earlier, a number of states
wait until August and September to give political party voters the
final opportunity to pick their nominees for the November election.

None take place in July, but many, including the six of special interest,
are scheduled for August.

On August 7, Michigan and Missouri will hold their primaries.  In
Michigan, incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow is
expected to be re-elected, but this state which voted for Donald
Trump in 2016 is enough of a battleground that the GOP senate
nominee might be important. The race for governor could be close.
Republican state Attorney General Bill Schuette and Democratic
State Senator Gretchen Whitmer are the frontrunners.

Also on August 7, Missouri will hold its primaries. Incumbent
Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill and state Attorney General
Josh Hawley will be the nominees in a bitter race that is considered a
prime possibility for a GOP senate pick-up.

One week later, on August 14, neighboring Wisconsin and Minnesota
hold their primaries. Wisconsin is nominating gubernatorial and
senatorial candidates. Incumbent GOP Governor Scott Walker is now
favored to win re-election, but incumbent Democratic Senator Tammy
Baldwin’s favorability poll numbers are quite low. A heated and close
race to be her GOP opponent is taking place between state legislator
Leah Vukmer and former Democrat Kevin Williamson. Depending on
who the Republicans nominate, this race could be competitive in

On the same day, Minnesota holds some of the most interesting
primaries of the year in both parties for governor, two U.S. senate
seats, and in five of the state’s eight congressional districts. I have
written about these already, and will again just before primary day.

Two weeks later, on August 28, Florida and Arizona hold key
primaries involving governor, a U.S. senate seat and some of its
congressional seats. Incumbent GOP Governor Doug Ducey is
favored to win his primary and the general election, but the U.S.
senate seated being vacated by retiring GOP Senator Jeff Flake is
considered a toss-up. Democratic Congresswoman Krysten Sinema
and Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally are expected to
win their primaries, and face each other in a very competitive race
in which the liberal party hopes to pick up a conservative party seat.

The same day, Florida will also hold key primaries for governor,
U.S. senator, and several competitive U.S. house seats. Incumbent
Democratic Senator Bill Nelson is facing a very serious challenge
from retiring Republican Governor Rick Scott in one of the most-
watched 2018 senate races. The race to succeed Scott has turned
into a fascinating contest, especially in the GOP primary where the
endorsed candidate now trails his major challenger.

At issue in most of these primaries in August are the basic divisions
now existing in both major parties. On the Democratic side, the
emerging major shift to the left, led nationally by U.S Senator Bernie
Sanders and his allies are attempting to oust may traditional liberal
office holders and candidates. This was begun in earlier primaries
and now continues. On the Republican side, the impact of President
Trump is being felt in may primary races, as it has already been in
earlier primaries,

Only in September, two months from election day, will a full picture
of the mid-term season be visible. With control of Congress in the
final two years of the first term of President Donald Trump and the
make-up of the 2020 redistricting environment at stake, that picture
of possible waves, surges, stand-offs or surprises should be rather
curious to see.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 16, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Trump's Petty Blunder

I have, after initially dismissing him as a candidate, tried to be
fair to now-President Donald Trump. His political achievement
in 2016 was historic and undeniable. Since his inauguration, he
has enjoyed a series of political and diplomatic successes, some
of them in spite of his disruptive manner and others because of

His public relations skills, denounced by most in the media and
approximately half the voters, are, like him or not, extraordinary.

There is also a certain and occasional pettiness which erupts
from the man. I publicly and strongly criticized his petty tweets
about such figures as John McCain and Tom Ridge during the
campaign, I have not liked nor defended a particular
diminishment of language that appears in his public speech
improvisations (but not, it should be noted, when he sticks to his
prepared remarks).

I have agreed with many of his policies, including the tax bill,
removing unnecessary regulations, putting the U.S. embassy in
Jerusalem, and daring to take diplomatic initiatives where
previous presidents of both parties failed to act.

His efforts to rebalance U.S. relationships with its friends,
allies and trading partners are, in the short term, disruptive and
uncomfortable --- but they are overdue and make sense in the
long term.

President Trump’s performance in Helsinki, however, particularly
in a press conference with President Vladimir Putin of Russia,
was simply and inexcusably a blunder.

Yes, the media has hounded him. Yes, his opponents have
personally attacked his family. But these do not justify or excuse
the mistake of putting down his own country and its interests to
spite his opponents and vent his grievances, real or imagined.

Russia might not be the “enemy” it was during the Cold War, but
it remains a rival and competitor with its own interests. Although
there is no real evidence yet of collusion, there can be little doubt
that Russians “hacked” into the U.S presidential campaign in
2016. Officials of the Trump administration agree. Both Russia
and the U.S. spy on each other. In fact, every major nation on
earth does espionage --- military, commercial and political. Why
pretend they don’t?

Donald Trump made a serious unforced error in Helsinki. He
needs to repair it, as some of his most supportive friends have
publicly said, and repair it promptly.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 13, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Minnewisowa, 2018

When I first identified and named the political megastate of
Minnewisowa (Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa) in 2004, it
was in the context of the presidential election in which it
cast as many electoral votes as several larger states. Because
these three contiguous states have so many demographic,
economic and historical elements in common, and tend to
vote politically alike, I came back to them in 2008 and 2012
when each voted for Barack Obama, and in 2016 when Iowa
and Wisconsin voted for Donald Trump, and Minnesota
voters. to almost everyone’s surprise, gave Hillary Clinton
only a few thousand votes more than they did for Mr. Trump.

Minnewisowa as a political entity is thus always quite
interesting to observe in presidential politics, but what about
the megastate in a mid-term election which has no electoral
votes? Although the 2010 and 2014 mid-terms produced some
dramatic results nationally, the components of Minnewisowa
saw relatively few surprises.

In 2018, this is not likely to be true. I have already written about
what a remarkable battleground state Minnesota is, with its
very competitive open race for governor, two U.S. senate seats
(one of which could be very close), and four very competitive
congressional races, half the state’s total congressional

But there are some very interesting races in neighboring Iowa
and Wisconsin as well.

With the longest serving U.S. governor, Terry Branstad, now the
nation’s ambassador to China, Iowa Democrats are making a
serious effort to regain the state executive branch in Des Moines
this year. Their nominee is businessman Fred Hubbell. He will
challenge GOP Governor Kim Reynolds who, as lt. governor,
became governor when Branstad resigned. This will thus be
her first race for governor, and although this midwestern farm
state has been moving to the right in recent years, the race for
governor could be competitive. Two congressional seats now
held by Republicans are considered in play in 2018, IA-1 and
IA-3. Incumbent GOP Congressman Rod Blum in the 1st
district is considered quite vulnerable in a mid-term election
when the party out of power often makes big gains. The
liberals’ goal of taking back control of the U.S. house could be
much helped if they could take back one or two of these seats.

In Wisconsin, the key races are for governor and U.S. senator.
Incumbent GOP Governor Scott Walker has previously upset
Wisconsin Democrats and their union allies in Madison, and
they would like nothing better than to turn him out of office.
Mr. Walker looked more vulnerable earlier in the year, but he
has seemed to regain much of his popularity. Even so, this
could become quite competitive if a “blue wave” came to the
Badger State. Incumbent Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin
has been considered vulnerable this cycle. Her poll numbers
continue to be weak (a recent Marquette poll had her at only 41
favorable against 43 unfavorable), but so far, the Republicans
have not come up with a “star” challenger. The upcoming
Wisconsin primary on August 14 will decide if that opponent
will be party-endorsed (and Walker ally) State Senator Leah
Vukmer or the more conservative Kevin Williamson. After
the primary, this race could become quite interesting. The
very liberal Ms. Baldwin has already broken with national
Democrats on the demand to abolish I.C.E. --- a nod to the fact
that Donald Trump is still popular in this state. The president is
likely to make a campaign appearance in Wisconsin if the senate
race is close.

Mr. Trump has already campaigned in Minnesota’s 8th district
where likely GOP nominee Pete Stauber is considered the
favorite to pick up the Democratic (DFL) seat now held by the
retiring Rick Nolan (who is a candidate for lt. governor). Less
likely, but still rated a good chance to pick up another DFL seat,
is GOP party-endorsed Tom Hagedorn in the state’s 1st District
where DFL incumbent Congressman Tim Walz is retiring to run
for governor. But first, Hagedorn must win the August 15 primary
after an energetic challenge from GOP State Senator Carla
Nelson. The GOP winner of that primary must then defeat DFLer
Dan Feehan. The DFL hopes to pick up Republican seats in the
2nd and 3rd Districts. DFL challenger Angie Craig has a serious
chance to win in MN-2. DFL Senator Tina Smith was appointed
to replace Al Franken who resigned at the end of 2017, but is not
well-known statewide, and will likely face GOP State Senator
Karin Housely. Smith now has a strong financial advantage, but
Housely might be the stronger campaigner, and President Trump
might play a role in this race as he already has in MN-8. Finally,
the open governor’s race looks like a probable donnybrook.
Former two-term GOP Governor Tim Pawlenty is back after an
eight-year absence from St. Paul, and is the early favorite to win
the primary against the party-endorsed Jeff Johnson. On the
DFL side, two challengers to that party’s endorsed candidate for
governor, very liberal State Senator Erin Murphy, are retiring
Congressman Walz and retiring State Treasurer Lori Swanson.
The latter two challengers are leading Murphy in an early poll.
Although the Pawlenty-Johnson GOP gubernatorial race is now
heating up. there seems to be more disruption in the DFL
primaries this year, especially in the emergence of so many
radical urban candidates, and this could affect November

So Minnewisowa is very much in play in 2018, with likely bitter
contests just ahead that could  have big impact not only in the
mid-terms, but also could provide clues to what lies ahead in
2020 when Minnewisowa’s electoral votes will again be counted.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The World In Recalibration

Only in a very tiny duration of time has the planet earth and its
human civilizations been truly interconnected, and to some
degree, interdependent.

The first true “world” war was the European-based Seven
Years War (1756-63), but although it reached peoples in far-away
places, it did not involve some very large and populous nations. 
The Napoleonic imperial period (1804-15) also touched distant
lands on other continents, but it wasn’t until World War I
(1914-18) and World War II (1939-45) that the effects of military
and economic actions in one place were truly felt worldwide.
After World War II, global warfare models were replaced by
global economic and trade models. Smaller and localized wars
occurred, but the dire consequences of a World War III, and the
use of nuclear weapons, has inhibited  aggressive actions to
mainly political and propaganda competitions such as the Cold
War (1946-90).

The Allied (primarily the U.S., Great Britain and the Soviet
Union) victory in World War II was followed by a unique period
of reconstruction of not only the war ravages suffered by the
victors, but of the defeated Axis  powers (primarily Germany and
Japan) as well. Since the intention of the U.S. and Great Britain
(and most of their allies) was to create a  worldwide democratic and
capitalistic trade system, the Soviet Union, as a totalitarian and
communist regime, did not participate. but chose instead to try
to create a competing system. The latter’s ultimate failure was
not military, but it was economic.

This led to a short period of U.S. domination of political, military,
economic, trade and even cultural global affairs --- although
mainland China and India, the two most populous nations, as
well as several totalitarian and neo-Marxist nations emerged,
refusing to accept U.S. dominance.

By the time of September 11, 2001 came, that brief period of U.S.
hegemony was already crumbling. Global terrorism, originating
in the Middle East, only hastened a worldwide re-ordering that
recalibrated the relationships between the still-significant old
world powers such as the U.S., the European Union (led by
Germany and France) the United Kingdom (much reduced, but
still a global force), a reconstituted Russia, and less powerful but
still important nations such as Brazil, Japan, Canada.

During the years of Barack Obama’s presidency (2009-17), U.S.
foreign and economic policies became increasingly passive as it
gradually ceded its previous leadership role. At the same time,
China and India, as well as Russia and Iran became more and
more aggressive in the global arena.

The world is constantly recalibrating its resources and
relationships, but some periods are more intense than others.
Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. has so far disrupted
the normal slow pace of these adjustments as he has insisted on
updating and renegotiating many post-World War II economic
and military institutions without some of the traditional
diplomatic niceties.

Many on all sides of the two major oceans are not pleased with
with Mr. Trump’s manner or demands, but he has, like him or
not, put the U.S. back into a central role in world affairs. As a
man of business, and not of politics, he has kept as pragmatic
an eye on the recalibration of trade and alliances as few, if any,
presidents have before him.

He is not alone in taking the initiative. President Xi of China has
his own national priorities in trade and geography. The European
Union, hitherto a third global economic force, is now beset by
internal crises and disputes, but still looms large. Economic
nationalism has been revived in many places.

Thinking in terms of only winners and losers in the global
recalibration might not be as useful and revealing as the
understanding of the terms and consequences of the global
political trading and positioning now taking place.

The bottom line is that there are new major players on the stage
of global economic trade and politics. The personalities making
up the casts of these players are inevitably of interest, but it is
always the weight of national strategic interests which ultimately
determines outcomes.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 6, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Going Deep Or Off The Deep End?

Young writers are advised to avoid using slang, cliches and other
informal language in their writing, and this is generally good
advice. But there are occasions when such language provides the
right words to convey the writer’s meaning.

This is the case with the headline above.

It was understandable right after the surprising 2016 presidential
election that most Democrats and some Republicans, too, would
be shocked and dismayed by the results --- particularly the election
of Donald Trump. He had been perhaps the most unlikely
candidate for president in modern history, seemed to break all of
the conventional rules, and was poised to disrupt the political
establishments of both parties.

Between election night and inauguration day, the shock was
transformed into feckless attempts to undo the election, and
since he took office, efforts have been aimed at hopeless plans
for impeachment or resignation through investigations, fake
news, innuendo, rumors and attacks on the White House staff
and appointments by the president’s enemies and a hostile media.

To date, none of this has been successful. In fact, the president
and his party have had some notable successes and (to be fair) a
few failures.

There was a second major disappointment for many Democrats
in the 2016 campaign, the failure of avowed socialist Senator
Bernie Sanders to win the liberal party’s presidential nomination.
After the fact, it became clear that the Democratic Party
establishment, in its eagerness to nominate Hillary Clinton, had
not always played fair with the Sanders campaign in the primary
season and before its national convention.

After Mrs. Clinton’s upset loss, the Sanders/Elizabeth Warren
wing of the party moved quickly to take over, and they have
succeeded in many, but not all, liberal strongholds.

It is not just a takeover by new personalities, it is a dramatic
move of the party’s policy positions, by U.S. standards, to a
much more radical-than-usual direction --- positions which,
even measured by most Democratic pollsters, are supported
only by a minority of all U.S. voters.

In baseball lingo, the new way to describe hitting a home run is
“going deep.” For left wing, “progressive” Democrats, most of
them located in the large U.S. cities, the new policy politics of
free universal college education, Medicare for all, high minimum
wages, sanctuary cities, closing down I.C.E. and opening all
borders to unlimited immigration are each home runs that go
deep with the electorate.

Conservatives, most independents and many moderate liberals
feel these views, far from high-scoring hits with the public, are
instead “going off the deep end” --- or exactly the opposite --- by
turning off rural, small town, exurban and suburban voters who,
taken together, make up a large majority of the electorate.

One sign, and there are many others, that the dissenters above
are closer to reality are the recent and increasing warnings
coming from many senior Democratic and liberal strategists,
office holders and pundits --- all suggesting that the personal
attacks on the president and the espousal of more and more
radical public policies are backfiring --- and actually helping
the president and his party.

With the liberal media egging them on, and even some
conservatives joining in, the “progressives” seem to be ignoring
all such warnings.

We won’t know who is right until election day next November.

I may be wrong, but I think the radicals are transforming what
might indeed have been a “blue wave” in 2018 into a hitherto
unexpected wave of another color in the visible spectrum.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Mexican Election

The discussion, so far, about the newly-elected Mexican president,
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (known popularly as “AMLO”) is
only accurate and useful to a point. The former leftist mayor of
Mexico City has always run against the Mexican political and
economic establishments, and employs the usual Latin American
populist rhetoric in his campaigns, but his political personality
has a certain complexity.

As mayor (2000 to 2005) of one of the world’s largest cities
(population believed now to be more than 21 million), Sr. Obrador
remained very popular despite failing to fulfill most of his
campaign promises --- and despite scandals involving many who
worked for him. He subsequently ran for president in 2006 and
2012, losing by narrow margins both times. In 2012, he declared
himself president-elect, but was overruled by the national
electoral commission. This year,  however, he won in a landslide
with more than 50% of the total vote. The two more conservative
Mexican major parties were severely reduced in their total of the
national vote. His Morena Party also won the majority seats in
the Mexican Congress.

The current ruling party, PRI., saw its support virtually collapse
as Mexican voters were fed up with the endemic corruption and
rising violence of recent Mexican public and private life. For most
of the previous century, following the Mexican revolution, the
PRI had ruled the nation claiming to be the revolutionary party,
but in reality, it became a party of Mexican special interests. In
2000, the most conservative party (PAN) finally wrested control
from the PRI, and it narrowly was re-elected in 2006 under Felipe
Calderon. When he failed to deliver on his promise of reform, the
PRI was returned to power in 2012.

From there, almost everything in Mexico got worse.

Lopez Obrador is perhaps most accurately described as an
economic nationalist. Curiously, in this he resembles President
Trump. Like Trump, Lopez Obrador is also a critic of NAFTA.
and demanded during the campaign that the NAFTA negotiations
with the U.S and Canada be suspended until after the elections.
Allegations of scandal have arisen during much of his career, but
Lopez Obrador’s supporters have continued to support him,
believing the allegations against him to be groundless and
politically motivated --- another similarity he has with the
American president. Both leaders are pragmatists, and also
anti-establishment in their respective countries

On the other hand, there are important differences between the
two presidents. Lopez Obrador grew up in poverty and has
spent much of his adult life in politics. His populism and leftism
is very much in the tradition of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez
and other Hispanic American caudillos. He has always identified
himself with the large segment of the Mexican population which
is rural and poor. He has publicly opposed building a wall
between the two nations.

Although it is not being reported widely in the U.S., Lopez
Obrador is unusual among south-of-the-border populists in that
he does not blame the United States as a primary cause of
current Mexican woes. Instead, his focus has been on the
corruption of the PRI, Mexican government bureaucracy and
domestic business interests. In his first campaign for president
in 2006, he openly proclaimed his willingness to work with U.S.
leaders. He has already had his first private conversation with
President Trump, and both reported it was convivial. Of course,
difficult negotiations are ahead, Sr. Lopez Obrador and Mr.
Trump have very different expectations, for example, in the
looming NAFTA renegotiations.

According to John Davidson in a recent article in The Federalist,
Lopez Obrador’s populist rhetoric means very little. Davidson
argues that any Mexican president today has little power to
control the corruption, drug cartels and violence that
overshadows contemporary Mexican public and private life.

Mexico’s greatest poet and essayist Octavio Paz wrote in his
landmark book (1945) The Labyrinths of Solitude that Mexico
has a unique character, that its population is primarily
composed of those whose culture was originally indigenous,
but had the Spanish imperial culture superimposed on it. The
indigenous Aztec empire was advanced but also oppressive, and
following the decade of the Mexican civil war in 1910, individual
Mexicans rejected both imperial legacies and retreated into the
modern consciousness of personal solitude in their own way,
often masking their suffering and problems with stoicism and
violence. [Those wishing to understand Mexico better should
read this short book, as well as the probably greatest Mexican
novel, Pedro Paramo, by Juan Rulfo --- which also reveals much
about the Mexican character.]

As Hispanic America’s newest charismatic and populist chief
of state, President Lopez Obrador is of special interest to those
north-of-the-border. In many ways, he comes from a familiar
tradition of recent leaders, but in some ways, as I have pointed
out, he also represents unconventional world views and

His term as president will likely be an extraordinary one, but
any prospects of his leadership resolving Mexico’s many
problems and challenges remain, at the outset of his taking
office in December, quite unclear.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.