From television studios, solemn newspaper columns, websites written with the help of TV news, reports on foreign media and research papers that pretend to be academic an interpretation of what happened this week in Tucumán has emerged: in the north of the country, politics is determined by a patronage system in which unscrupulous politicians take advantage of the needs of the poorest Argentines. These humble members of society, the thinking goes, suddenly find themselves placed in a position between the immorality of selling their vote to those who give them a social welfare plan and lack thought or ability to compare options. So they end up giving their support to leaders who hurt them.
That thesis, generally uttered from a trendy Buenos Aires City neighbourhood, attributes humble Northern voters the same intellectual capacity of a machine. In contrast to this barbarianism, there is a sophisticated, well-informed citizenry which supports candidates based not only on self-interest but also principles. Opposition lawmaker Elisa Carrió has been saying it clearly: “The urban middle classes must save the country’s poor.”
A basic historical review though, proves that this interpretation is problematic. One of the greatest political and moral failures of democracy happened to be born in the capital: the government of the Alianza, led by Fernando de la Rúa, which fell during the 2001 economic collapse. Almost all of the central leaders of the Alianza — Radicals, Peronists and Socialists who liked to participate in international meetings of “social democrats” — had built their career in the federal capital. Curiously, the ethical and intellectual superiority espoused by those who now scorn the Tucumán vote failed to raise the alarm about what was about to happen.
There’s hardly a shortage of historic examples of the urban middle class approving of failed elections, and that’s without including the enthusiasm for coups d’etat that ended in immense tragedies. It’s worth noting, therefore, that the vote of the poorest sectors of society is far more complex than what many may believe, in which a patronage system built on the needs of the humblest citizens surely plays a role but is far from the only factor.
One of the many variables is the alternatives that exist to Peronist governments that have a high level of corruption and little respect for the republic that contribute to a degraded democracy. In Tucumán, the main electoral option for two decades was the Republican Force (Fuerza Republicana) founded by the late military repressor Antonio Domingo Bussi, sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity (the alliance led by the UCR includes leaders who emigrated from Bussi’s front).
Full Article: The quality of the vote – BuenosAiresHerald.com.