By Dan Post
Illustration by Holly Randall
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Here in America, it feels like President Bush and his Cabinet cronies get all of their news from Fox. Down in Mexico, it's the other way around: President Fox is watching Bush. Following the lead of the Republican Party's continual overreaching in the last six months, Vicente Fox is doing some overreaching of his own in Mexico City.
President Fox is behind the recent prosecution of Mexico City mayor and 2006 presidential favorite Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Obrador is accused of contempt of court for commissioning a road to be built against a judge's orders; it's a minor crime that is being prosecuted while the murders and disappearances of thousands of Mexicans by previous leaders go unpunished. As a result, Mexico City has found itself in the midst of a political uproar which is causing Obrador's political popularity to skyrocket.
Fox's decision to prosecute Obrador is a classic case of overreaching by a powerful political figure: Fox is the first president elected from an opposition party in Mexico since 1910; when he took office, his approval rating was a sky-high 79 percent. Now he finds himself in political turmoil due to his decision to prosecute Obrador. President Fox must have taken cues on this erroneous political move from the repeated overreaching in the last several months by his free-market allies to the north, U.S. Republicans.
In November, President Bush and the Republican Party declared a mandate based off their 3 percent steamrolling of the Democrats, and since then their policy decisions have reflected that sentiment. But they misjudged their true political dominance and their political decision making since the election has been unpopular and has commonly been considered to be overreaching.
The first such overindulgent political move was President Bush's attempt to overhaul Social Security. Although it did not take a prominent place in the president's campaign rhetoric, the potential Social Security overhaul was declared by party leaders as the chance for the administration to create its legacy. The only problem was that the so-called mandate was not really a mandate, and the proposed privatization of Social Security (though the details have been suppressed) was rejected by Americans across the political spectrum. Thanks to resistance from staunch Democratic opposition, the president's approval rating when it comes to handling Social Security is at an all-time low of 31 percent, according to the most recent ABC News/ Washington Post poll on the matter.
Another case of overreaching by the Republican "super majority" came in the Terri Schiavo case. We've all heard the details, but the political consequences have been quite averse for the president and company. Republicans went too far in the Schiavo dealings, and their leadership is beginning to show signs of cracking. In reaction to the decision of federal judges to let Terri Schiavo die, extremist republican leaders Bill Frist and Tom DeLay have taken divisive and hyperbolic positions on the separation of powers and the judiciary branch. On Sunday, Frist appeared in an evangelical video-cast claiming that Democrats are against faith; DeLay has more capriciously claimed that Congress should be able have direct power over the judicial branch. All the while, the president's overall job approval has sunk to all-time lows.
Despite the current political turmoil, the Republican Party in the United States probably won't go quietly into obscurity. But for Vicente Fox and his conservative and pro-business PAN party (National Activist Party), the political consequences may be far more devastating. After the Andrés Manuel López Obrador ordeal is all said and done, there might not be much left of the laissez-faire PAN.
The poverty rate in Mexico is around 40 percent. NAFTA has worsened working conditions and increased unemployment and underemployment - the evidence is in the increased emigration from Mexico to the United States since NAFTA took effect in 1994. Additionally, the country's government faces the pressure of a rebellion (750,000 protesters filled Mexico City's streets Sunday in a silent protest in support of Obrador). Obrador represents himself as a politician of the poor - one who as national president will fight for the rights of Mexico's economically disadvantaged. Unless Fox drops his smear campaign against him and stops overreaching, Obrador might be able to walk into office.
But maybe that is a good thing. Obrador, in recognition of the opportunity to pounce on his opposition's overreaching, has capitalized by successfully comparing himself to Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi. He wants to be represented as the victim of an overreaching political power. In the United States, many Democrats feel the same way about President Bush and the Republicans. If we don't say anything, maybe the Republicans will squander their power all by themselves by going too far, too fast.
Dan Post is an anthropology and ecology senior. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.