The world is now 18 months into the Donald Trump era, and there is no doubt the U.S. president is making an impact, not only on the United States but on its trade partners as well. The U.S. media depict in alarming terms a country in a deepening state of social conflict, with polarized liberals and conservatives abusing one another in public and political candidates risking their careers by opposing the strongman in the White House. We’ll save the 1930s-Nazi-Germany parallels for the cantina but from our vantage point here in Mexico, the ongoing state of uncertainty in U.S. public policy is a real nuisance for North America across the board.
President Trump has been prolific in issuing executive orders, but he has not had nearly as much success when public policy proposals require the participation of other people. The Trump- initiated renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), for example, has stagnated with no end in sight. Despite the Republicans holding majorities in the House and Senate, legislation on immigration and the status of so-called “Dreamers,” as well as funding for the president’s pharaonic border wall, remains stalled due to lack of sufficient consensus. Mr. Trump has been successful in implementing import tariffs on certain goods from Canada, Mexico, Europe and China, but retaliatory tariffs from the affected parties are now beginning to sow discord among some otherwise solid supporters of the administration. Furthermore, deep disagreement over financing for the border wall threatens to revive the prospect of a U.S. government shutdown in early Fall. A couple months later, a lot could potentially change after the mid-term elections.
Here in Mexico, we have our own homegrown sources of uncertainty to worry about. Presumably there should be uncertainty over the outcome of our upcoming presidential election July 1, although the prevailing view is that leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) will obtain the most votes. The unknown, then, is not whether AMLO will get more votes, but whether the ruling PRI will try to rig the outcome of the election using extremely well tested methods of fraud to impose either their own candidate or the candidate currently running second in polls, Ricardo Anaya of the PAN-PRD coalition. If we opt to presume that AMLO will win the election and the PRI will lovingly curate a seamless democratic transition to his inauguration on December 1 (which would be out of character but hey we’re living in unusual times), then how far will AMLO go to undo the policies of the past two governments? Early on in the campaign, his stump blustering indicated he would cancel the energy reform, the education reform and the new Mexico City airport. More recently, however, with the presidency seemingly within reach, he has tempered his language to suggest that he will “review” these pillars of the current administration rather than necessarily cancel them outright. After two prior failed runs at the presidency, he’s come this far, he’s so close, and he doesn’t want to screw this up at the last minute. As for the voters, we really don’t know what we’ll be getting from an AMLO government, but it appears that enough people should be willing to take that risk to put “El Peje” over the top.
Ultimately, as Trump and López Obrador bray into the cameras, the near to medium term is filled with uncertainty. But one thing is certain enough for the average Mexican voter: Another six years of the corruption, organized crime and violence the country has endured under the past two administrations is too unbearable to contemplate. So if we’re going to get López Obrador and his band of dodgy disciples for the next six years, let’s just suck it up and get started.