A good day for democracy in Mexico

Vicente Fox backs down.

Vicente Fox has backed off, and Mexico’s progress from dictatorship to democracy continues. That’s the good news.

A Lopez Obrador victory next year seems almost inevitable, given the way the move to bar him from the ballot energized his supporters. As one observer remarked, “With enemies like these, who needs friends?”

The bad news is likely to be the actual operations of a Lopez Obrador presidency. I’ve seen no evidence that either Lopez Obrador personally or the PRD as an institution is capable of governing Mexico. Moreover, unless the PRD performs a political miracle, Lopez Obrador, like Vicente Fox before him, will face a Congress dominated by an opposition coalition.

No doubt President Lopez Obrador will remember that, when the chips were down, Bush Administration support for democracy turned out to be cheap talk. That won’t make U.S.-Mexican relations any easier, and it won’t give Lopez Obrador any special reason to avoid treading on U.S. corns. Still, no one has described him as a complete fool or a madman, and any intelligent and sane Mexican president will remember the identify of his country’s biggest trading partner and remittance source, and behave appropriately. That won’t, of course, prevent a bunch of anti-U.S. speeches and U.N. votes.

Overall, though, today has to count as a happy day. Bad policies are easier to reverse than the habit of cheating at election time.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com