I recently learned more about the exact nature of Mexico's political turmoil. The recent presidential election in which liberal candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador lost to conservative candidate Felipe Calderon by a margin of roughly one percent has indeed caught the attention of much of the international community, especially the United States. While much of this focus is the result of the tumult of the 2000 election, we cannot draw an identical parallel to what happened in the U.S. six years ago because of one missing factor: violence.
Despite the protests and cries of malfeasance, the 2000 U.S. presidential election was not accompanied by violence. Even with the rarity of the incident and the incredible pressure exerted by both sides, neither resorted to any truly disreputable methods. In fact, compared to the current situation in Mexico the 2000 election is merely a blip on the radar screen. Most people accepted the ruling of the Supreme Court and Al Gore, much to his credit, eventually restored stability to the country by conceding defeat.
Apparently Obrador and his supporters don't share the mentality that governed U.S. politics in 2000. Not only will Obrador not concede defeat but he appears to be establishing his own shadow government within and outside of the Mexican border.
Such actions, while certainly not in the interest of the Mexican people at large, could easily be deemed treasonous in states where electoral outcomes determined the success or failure of the country entirely. Obrador's supporters have even begun resorting to violence; not in the streets where one might suppose but rather in the halls of government. When Calderon appeared before the Mexican congress to be sworn in as president, there was an actual coup by members of Obrador's party who attempted to physically block Calderon from taking the oath of office. A brawl erupted in the congress itself while Obrador's supporters massed outside.
While I continue to be casually optimistic about how long this low momentum putsch will last, I am saddened by these developments. Like most people I sometimes have a hard time distinguishing between insurrection and civil disobedience, but I do know one thing: politicians should be heard and not seen getting into fist fights and throwing chairs at each other. I would hope that the Mexican people, as well as Americans, have the collective wisdom to understand that politicians who resort to such onerous tactics and behavior are never concerned with the greater good.
Most importantly, when politicians resort to violence and other disreputable methods to further their own goals, democracy is in trouble. Elected leaders are meant to represent the interests of the people and continued strife can only ever benefit a select minority. Political violence is also a surefire sign that the electorate has become too distant from their representatives, especially if such behavior is allowed to continue.
This is all the more reason we here in the U.S. should give thanks that our elected leaders don't feel free enough to emulate behavior that really belongs on Jerry Springer. There have be several notable incidents of politician initiated violence in America. The 1856 beating of anti-slavery Senator Charles Sumner by southern Congressman Preston Brooks comes to mind. Brooks was perceived as a champion of southern honor and was re-elected. Despite this historical incongruity, I'm fairly certain politicians should be held to the highest standard of civility, so as far as American goes, and I am glad it hasn't come blows in Washington (at least not recently).