Set aside US politics and consider politics, Mexico style, and especially Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO in acronym). He narrowly lost the race for President of Mexico in 2006 and is trying again this year. The Mexican election is July 1.
AMLO holds a political science degree and one early job was organizing among indigenous communities in the state of Tabasco. “Some analysts called him messianic and populist” and his campaign platform included new programs for the poor while promising not to raise taxes. Two Mexican watchdog groups reported there wasn't enough government revenue to pay for all his promises.
Lopez Obrador failed in the 2006 Mexican race for president. He had a solid base among Mexican leftists and gave speeches that have been called “impassioned.” In 2012 AMLO's pledge is to reduce inequality in Mexico. AMLO wants government spending on “industrial schemes” to provide jobs.
AMLO's 2006 loss occurred, he claimed, because of voting fraud. When his opponent was declared the winner, he led protests in Mexico City (he was the mayor) that shut down the city for days. This experience with anarchy works against him now in the 2012 race. April polls show him 20 points behind the leader, PRI party nominee Enrique Peña Nieto. But he's closing.
Authors Luis de la Calle and Luis Rubio point to a different factor in Lopez Obrador's loss: he ran his 2006 campaign as though only the poor mattered. Middle class voters were wavering between AMLO and eventual victor Felipe Calderon according to polls. Rubio and de la Calle say AMLO did not understand that Mexico was becoming a nation where most citizens were part of the middle class. Lopez Obrador wasn't focused on how the help them, and that's why he lost.
We in the United States have a similar situation. We have a candidate for President who has difficulty staying focused on the needs of middle class Americans. This candidate, too, has a background in community organizing and gives very good speeches. Some see him, too, in a messianic light. He, too, promised not to raise taxes – at least on the middle class. He, too, focuses more on “inequality” than on encouraging job creation in the private sector.
The basic difference is that while Mexico's middle class may be growing, we in the United States have a president who did not place his primary focus on the problem of jobs. This imperils the middle class because unemployment checks aren't a lasting ticket to middle class security. And dropping out of the workforce because you can't find a job may lower the technical unemployment percent, but it doesn't help create a vibrant, growing economy.