Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has built a powerful political and social project based on the notion of the people. Do something for them, speak on their behalf, seek their approval and support. On his part, those who criticize him, intellectuals, the media and opposition politicians, turn civil society into an eagerness for his concerns and sleeplessness. Do something for her, speak on her behalf, seek her approval and support.
The moral legitimacy that they attribute to each other derives from the conviction that they are speaking on behalf of something more important than themselves: the people or civil society, depending on the faction in question.
In a strict sense it is assumed that they would be talking about the same thing; that is to say, of society as a whole, all Mexicans or the majority of them, of those who are not the protagonists of power. But it’s not like that. And precisely because it is not like that, due to the fact that they are talking about different things, the chances of understanding each other are slim.
According to the same RAE, the word town refers to three meanings: a group of people from a place, a country with an independent government, and common and humble people from a population. Lopez Obrador usually uses it in the latter sense.
The two notions offer nuances, but ultimately they could coincide and overlap in one element: civil society and the people are concepts that refer to ordinary people, the ordinary citizen, one who is not a protagonist or member of the political powers or organized economics. And yet, the way each of the parties interprets it is so different that they become oil and water.
In Lopez Obrador’s definition of the people, the common people are the humble population: popular sectors, lower middle classes; that is, Mexicans with deficiencies, lack of opportunities, victims of social injustice. For his critics and opponents, civil society is a kind of spoken portrait that invokes, although they do not make it explicit, a kind of middle class supposedly representative of Mexicans.
Two weeks ago, in this space, I questioned the Mexico Colectivo organization, which presented itself as a plural group interested in building alternatives to the Obrador movement from the perspective of civil society. Regarding them, I pointed out that perhaps in Europe, where the term comes from, civil society is equivalent to what they understand. But in Mexico the majority of the population are the popular sectors, that is to say, those that Lopez Obrador refers to, those who crowd the Metro, bricklayers and street vendors, more than half of the Mexicans who live in poverty and social classes. low stockings that struggle to reach the fortnight.
Both interpretations fall short, in my opinion. They do not fit all Mexicans. And this is a problem to the extent that the spokesmen for one conception or the other consider themselves prophets and sole interpreters of the people or of the civil society they speak of. They and the entity they represent become one. To differ with Lopez Obrador is equivalent to sacrilege, since it goes against the interests of the people. But his opponents play on a very similar field; questioning the organizations that emanate from civil society is a crime against institutions that worked very well for that prosperous third, but very little for the Mexico that went deeper and deeper. “Democratic advances” constitutes an abstract notion or one that is not very welcome for those who saw their minimum wage frozen or had to leave wet to feed their children.
And yet, between the two risks, at least by pendulum logic it seems to me that at this moment the notion of Lopez Obrador is much more relevant. First for arithmetic reasons; their “definition” of ordinary citizens is broader than that of his rivals. Something that is clearly observed in the reiteration of a number: 57% of workers work in the informal economy, the poor and lower middle classes exceed 60%, the same figure as the president’s approval levels. By contrast, the civil society envisioned by its rivals actually concerns a minority that could not be enlarged.
And then there are the moral reasons. “Those who were left behind” is not an allegorical expression. Twenty million people lack internet because where they live there are no profitability or economies of scale for commercial service. The notion that refers to civil society assumes them as an anomaly and a bad afternoon for them; their children will grow up condemned to repeat the endless cycle of disadvantage and lack of opportunity. It is their “fault” for not belonging to civil society. On the contrary, the notion of people, despite the limitations of the obradorista interpretation, makes them a priority. I don’t know if the 4T will be able to provide all of them with a “signal” between now and the end of the six-year term, but the enormous effort that is underway to try it seems admirable to me.