Politics

Trump-Style ‘Mexicans First’ Presidential Candidate Could Spell Trouble South of the Border

“Like Trump, Obrador has criticized NAFTA. Certainly, NAFTA has helped many of Mexico’s big businesses and industrial sectors, like the auto industry. However, many small Mexican businesses have been left out and even pushed aside.”

Despite being the current front runner in the Mexican presidential race, Andrés Manuel López Obrador sounds a lot like a president many Mexicans loathe. I’m talking about President Donald Trump, who on numerous occasions has criticized Mexico and has also threatened to roll back NAFTA and build a wall between the two countries. Now, Obrador is using much of the same rhetoric to blaze his own path, and one that could end up with him sitting in Mexico’s highest office.

Like Trump, Obrador has been slamming the establishment on the campaign trail and is making his pitch directly to working-class people. Obrador, who is likewise known for his lack of self-restraint, has slammed Mexico’s political classes and the current leadership. Again, parallels can be drawn between Obrador’s campaign and President Trump’s campaign.

Just as Trump enjoyed strong support from America’s heartland, Mexico’s blue-collar masses have been propelling Obrador’s campaign. If Obrador wins the highest office, he’s expected to pursue a “Mexico first” strategy that might in some ways mirror President Trump’s ‘populist’ platform. This could also bring tensions between the United States and Mexico to a head.

Obrador, who is likewise known for his lack of self-restraint, has slammed Mexico’s political classes and the current leadership.

Like Trump, Obrador has criticized NAFTA. Certainly, NAFTA has helped many of Mexico’s big businesses and industrial sectors, like the auto industry. However, many small Mexican businesses have been left out and even pushed aside. Mexican politicians rarely criticize NAFTA, but Obrador has been a vocal critic.

Negotiators from Canada, Mexico, and the United States have been trying to hammer out a new deal and are aiming to wrap negotiations by the end of March. Why? For one, many fear that NAFTA could be used as a hot button issue during the presidential race. Further, if a candidate like Obrador does get into office, rising tensions between the US and Mexico could put the deal under even more pressure.

Obrador’s Campaign Is a Decade in the Making

Obrador isn’t new to Mexico’s political scene. Indeed, he’s been running for the office of president for over 10 years now. The former mayor of Mexico City narrowly lost out in the 2006 presidential race. Mexico’s presidents serve a single six-year term. In the 2012 election, Obrador fell short once again.
Now, Obrador is leading in the polls and trouncing his opponents. A December poll found Obrador had an 11 point lead over his closest opponent for the July election. Obrador is well-known for his far-left views, but his proposed cabinet consists of numerous moderates and conservatives. This suggests that Obrador may be moderating.

The race is still tight, with only about a third of voters reporting that they’d vote for Obrador. Quite likely, as the election approaches, establishment candidates and parties will focus more of their resources on Obrador. This might hurt him in the polls, or perhaps it will propel his campaign.

President Trump came under heavy fire in 2016 from the mainstream media, the Republican establishment, and of course the Democratic Party. Yet the harder these parties targeted Trump, the more voters bought into his “drain the swamp” anti-establishment message.

Could Obrador be propelled by the same anti-establishment tendencies that have taken root in the United States and elsewhere? Come July, we’ll find out.

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Brian Brinker

Brian Brinker is a political consultant and has an M.A in Global Affairs from American University.

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