Foreign Policy Blogs

How the Left was Won and Lost

How the Left was Won and Lost

The last 15 years has seen the creation of some of the most polarized media to ever exist in the last half century. The difference in perspective and truthiness from one media outlet to another is so divided that it has produced a narrative that can only exist in the solitudes of those who have a similar perspective. The common theme for all media and politically aligned parties is that their truth works against the elite.

Gaining a political foothold requires convincing  a polarized media and their supporters that the real stories are being hidden by some monolith of power, changing depending on who the elite of those opponents tend to be and their position of power in society. Both sides of the political spectrum have defined the battlefield of ideas that often do not exist as real societal issues.

If there is no single truth, lies can become powerful tools in an election. If lies can be legitimized, actions against opponents may go beyond simple media debates, shielding the application of justice and human rights if a criminal act can be silenced or validated.

The individual who wins the elections in the United States, France or Germany may be the one who can show not to associate with elites, even if they are some of the most wealthy and influential people to exist in those communities. A danger comes from over-reacting to someone who is the anti-elite as it turns simple media accounts into a mind numbing morass of phraseology and vitriol. The anti-elites put debaters in the position of being seen as defending an elite that works in the shadows against the interests of the general public.

This message might not resonate with the average citizen, but when their lives are directly affected or threatened, responses from either camp that tamp down discussions can promote grassroots support in the community against the ruling party at the time. Trends begin to play a more important role than policy as the latter fails to meet a certain standard of societal expectations. Those who last are those who are new to the game, and have been able to not use their power to corrupt or oppress. The left in Latin America, once considered a movement that would change North American dominance in the region, fell on their own sword for many of these reasons.

Brazil’s economic miracle was successful even before the rise in commodity prices wedded to a Chinese economic boom. Economic policy initially implemented under the former center right government before the electoral dynasty of the Worker’s Party (PT)  kept social policy in the forefront of the country’s agenda, while managing a balanced debt reduction strategy. Keeping the public debt under control and combining it with social programs placed Brazil to take full advantage of a commodities boom.

In recent years, the negative response to elitist international sporting events and the corruption that flowed between the PT and business elites has tarnished the party’s image and an confidence in President Rousseff’s government: her approval rates fluctuate around 10%. A citizen’s movement buoyed by an assertive judicial branch has gone beyond party politics in an effort to weed out corruption. Even former President Lula may be face criminal charges, and there is a strong popular movement to impeach President Rousseff.

Argentina was rocked by the death of a prosecutor investigating the former government’s tampering of information about an attack on the Jewish community. When he was found dead, documents revealed that he was on the verge of indicting President Cristina Kirchner herself, the populist leader of Argentina. In recent years, she had increasing difficulties to maintain her popular support and legitimize her socially-oriented, but fiscally irresponsible policy decrees. Her party recently lost an election to Macri, a pro-business candidate, with many in Argentina reorienting their distaste for an elite against the very government that routinely denounced the abuses of the high society.

Venezuela’s opposition gained a great deal of recent support aChavismo and President Maduro lost the public’s trust. Despite an intensive media campaign in Venezuela promoting the populist government, the degrading state of Venezuela’s economy, standard of living and several violent actions taken against opposition politicians threatened to rob Chavismo of its political legitimacy. It is not possible to promote a narrative in Venezuela that no longer reflects the real issues in society, and while Maduro is still President, he could be the last supporter of Chavez’s revolution to hold power in the country.

2015 represents the beginning of the fall of those alleged elites, whether or not they are truly those in power. Often, political campaigning places those elites into power, but corruption scandals and the subsequent investigations and monitoring may put pressure on leaders to take actions to the benefit of society. Corruption tends to have deep roots, so while the mainstream media chooses sides, hopefully an intelligent community and assertive judicial community will push against elites from both political camps.



Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration