After reading the coverage of yesterday’s election here in Argentina, I was surprised at the tone of what I read, especially on progressive blogs. Much of the coverage focused on the Cristina Kirchner’s populist style and socialist political leanings and what a great thing that was. Yes, she appeals to the masses in her speeches and her pro-union position and the trade protections that it infers are very”populist”. She promises to continue the trend of nationalizing utilities and transportation that her husband had begun, and says all the right things about education and healthcare. But Latin American socialism and populism is different from the high functioning socialism found in the Scandinavian countries. Socialism here is plagued by corruption and patronage. It was born of opportunistic fascists not a democracy asking the government take responsibility for its citizens. Everyone here is for hire: Voters, picketers, even a futbol fan. There is no transparency and the system does not work the way it is suppose to. So lets not sugarcoat it. This “progressive” leader is not likely to solve the systemic problems that exist here. I am not sure what will, certainly the US doesn’t have the answer and lets hope they stay out of it.
I also read about how amazing it was that even in what is perceived as a patriarchal society, a woman has emerged as the leader. Well first, I would argue that what I have seen in the Argentine home is the woman running the show. With or without machismo, women here have a lot of power: sexual, economic and familial. I think this is the truth pretty much anywhere where there is economic parity. Most woman work and many of them are mothers. So its not surprising that woman have been holding important political positions, both elected and appointed for the last 20 years. In fact, there were 14 candidates running for president and the top two vote getters, by a lot, were women.
A lot of the press and bloggers like drawing the Clinton comparison. I find this understandable, given their powerful husbands and the women’s respective strong personalities. I think many Americans would be surprised how adamantly Cristina denies this comparison and is quick to state that she had a political career many years before her husband became president and doesn’t seem to have any desire to cozy up to that political association. I think another important distinction is their campaign style. Cristina was all but invisible for most of this campaign season (take note US, it started in July, of this year!!!). She was not available for debates, to the press and only made a few highly organized appearances at large friendly, public events.
Well, I hope for the best, but like many Argentines (55%+/-)am prepared for the worst, or at least more of the same.