The weekend winner of Mexico’s presidential election was the leftist-populist former mayor of Mexico City, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known popularly as AMLO). Some commentators have even suggested that AMLO’s victory is a loss for Donald Trump. But if anything, the results of this election just might have been the greatest gift from south of the border since the Trump Tower Grill’s famous taco bowl.
AMLO’s leftist rhetoric on immigration is meant to combat the more hawkish stance taken by the president. The Mexican president-elect has called for even more mass migration to the United States, and has even said that migration is a “human right.” Combine Obrador’s language with Democrats’ calls to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service, and the Right’s rising opposition to immigration is easier to understand. Former Mexican president Vicente Fox’s incoherent anti-Trump rants will look positively sane by comparison.
The timing of AMLO’s rise also plays into Trump’s hands, coming as it does so soon after the last of the GOP’s major immigration bills failed in the House of Representatives, all but guaranteeing that the issue will not be addressed in Congress this year. At the same time, the Supreme Court’s ruling on Trump’s travel moratorium included unambiguous implications for broader immigration policy. As the Associated Press noted, the ruling not only upheld the travel restrictions on citizens of eight countries but reaffirmed that the president has “substantial power to regulate immigration.”
As the president has already hinted at the possibility of dealing with immigration as a national security issue, a potential influx of illegal aliens spurred on by AMLO’s rhetoric could be just the catalyst Trump would need to enact even more serious restrictions, thus displaying the true power of “the pen and the phone” when used on objects over which the president actually has constitutional authority.
Trump could further justify such actions as increased deportations and heavier border security by pointing out the glaring hypocrisy on display, with Mexico already enacting strict immigration crackdowns along its own southern border. If Mexico can have a wall and deport illegals, why can’t we?
The American Conservative points out a surprising number of similarities between Trump and AMLO—for better or for worse. AMLO’s victory upsets “business as usual” among the Mexican political class, as his win marks the first time in nearly a century that the presidency is held by someone outside of the two main parties. Like Trump, AMLO is a populist who is driven primarily by nationalism, vowing to put his country first ahead of foreign interests, reduce dependence on foreign goods, and boost domestic agriculture and energy production; as such, he and Trump share at least one common enemy in their opposition to NAFTA, which won’t survive much longer if it finds its only ally to be the guy who wears duck socks to global summits.
Beyond the immediate dynamic between the United States and Mexico, AMLO’s victory represents just the latest incarnation of a global trend against the political establishment. As a parallel to the “Patriot Spring” of right-wing parties rising to power all across Europe in opposition to the globalism of the European Union, this latest landslide by a left-wing outsider is also in revolt against a similar ideology—neoliberalism—that seeks to undermine national sovereignty by forcing multiple countries into unsteady alliances. AMLO at best could be described as a distant cousin of Brexit and Trump, but is still somewhat a part of this broader global phenomenon.
The election in Mexico was ultimately about Mexicans replacing an entrenched status quo and voting to reclaim their national identity against foreign interests. There are many who claim this new government will fail as well, with AMLO’s socialist policies only guaranteed to draw Mexico down the same path as Cuba and Venezuela. And that could very well be true.
But Obrador’s election may already have accomplished exactly what President Trump asked the nations of the world to do in his September 2017 address to the United Nations. Making sure that his “America First” stance did not reek of the usual hypocrisy of past presidents, Trump urged world leaders to “always put [their] countries first . . . protect their sovereignty,” and “take ownership of their future.”
America passed this test in 2016; Mexico is simply answering in its own way.