Thread Reader
David Frum

David Frum

Feb 23
20 tweets

For Americans to understand what happened tonight in Mexico ... Through most of the 20th century, Mexican elections were run by officials answerable to the Mexican president. The president told the officials the result he wanted. They delivered it. 1/x

That system of presidential control of Mexican elections came unstuck in the 1990s. An independent agency was created to run elections. It started small, but it grew. By the 2000s, Mexican elections were as fair and honest as any in the world. All this was the achievement 2/x
... the achievement of the body known since 2014 as the National Electoral Institute: INE. Mexican President Lopez Obrador hates the INE - partly because of petty personal grudges, but mostly because he wants to revert to the bad old days of presidentially directed elections. 3/x
Lopez Obrador has tried different schemes to pervert honest elections. The law he crammed through the Mexican Senate tonight effectively destroys INE's local presence in Mexico's ~900 polling places. The effect of this law - it's grotesque to call it a "reform" - 4/x
will be to put presidentially dependent local officials back in charge, as in the bad old days of the Mexican one-party state. President Lopez Obrador probably won't dare try re-election for himself in 2024, that taboo is probably too strong even for him to defy. 5/x
But he will want a compliant successor, and now he has the means to ensure one: presidential control of the elections machinery. Then, once he has installed a complaint successor, he has two further weapons of control over that person. 6/x
First, he has amended the Mexican constitution to enable recall elections if a tiny number of citizens sign a petition requesting one. This is a threat a popular ex-president can hold over a dependent new president. 7/x
Second, he has redirected much of the Mexican economy into the hands of the military - including that corruption vortex, the customs services. There are a lot of generals and admirals who will owe their fortunes to Lopez Obrador - and over whom he will hold dirty secrets. 8/x
Almost every Mexican president since Plutarco Calles in the 1920s has aspired to extend his power beyond his legal term. Lopez Obrador has found a method to do so. Given the weakness of other Mexican institutions, continued control of the presidency means 9/x
continued control of the Mexican state. But here's the alarm for all North Americans: the Mexican state is disintegrating. Lopez Obrador's bid for extended power will discredit his designated successor. The power of the state will weaken further. 10/x
The nightmare to fear in Mexico is autocracy at the center - surrounded by anarchy and violence in hinterlands where criminal syndicates have replaced the state as the true government: collecting protection money instead of taxes, providing thug security instead of law. 11/x
This is not just a Mexican problem! It's a route to a failed state just a few minutes drive from California, Texas, and Arizona. 12/x
Two requests of Americans who might be reading this thread tonight. First, pay attention. The United States has not always been a good neighbor to Mexico, and American intentions are often distrusted - for good reason. But American care and concern matters, and a lot. 13/x
Second, please delete the habit of referring to some authoritarians as "left wing" and some as "right wing." The excuses for authoritarian rule may be ideologically seasoned, but the mechanics of authoritarian rule are not. Don't let sympathy (if any) for AMLO's rhetoric 14/x
distract you from the realities of AMLO's power and that power's goals. AMLO = Orban, Orban = AMLO. The targets of their demagoguery may differ; their project is the same. 15/x
Under Trump and now under Biden, the United States has taken a highly transactional approach to Lopez Obrador. The US listed deliverables; Lopez Obrador has often delivered. In return, the US has looked away as Lopez Obrador has subverted democracy and corrupted the state. 16/x
The transactional approach is now dangerously failing. The supreme US interest is a stable, peaceful, prosperous Mexico. Everything else is secondary - important also, but not a substitute for the supreme goal of the success of Mexican state and society. 17/x
It would be unwise to overstate what the US can immediately do. Overt American hostility to his rule will provide a resource for the wily and still-popular Lopez Obrador to exploit for his own sinister ends. The US should not let itself become the story here. 18/x
But neither can the US be indifferent. The two societies interpenetrate in so many ways, more so now than ever before. Mexico's troubles are America's troubles, inescapably and intimately. Both democracies are being tested, severely. They need to support each other. END
After you've read the thread above, a rebuttal to the claim by Lopez Obrador and his supporters that they are attacking independent elections because the elections authority is "too expensive." This claim is misleading and intentionally misleading ....
David Frum

David Frum

Read more at and at Reach me via
Follow on Twitter
Missing some tweets in this thread? Or failed to load images or videos? You can try to .