A conservative news and views blog.

Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Thursday, July 06, 2006

No Rule of Law in Mexico

The Rule of Law; it is a phrase which has become so commonplace to those of us in the United States that we don`t give it any real thought. When asked why we believe this nation is great, few of us would point our finger at this rather dull sounding phrase, yet the Rule of Law is the bedrock of American exceptionalism. The Constitution would not function if America did not adhere to this, we would not have proper separation of powers, we would have real corruption, and we would not have a peaceful transfer of power. America has been blessed, because Americans have always (well, almost always) adhered to the principles of compromise set forth by the Rule of Law. The Law, as opposed to the wealthy or powerful, is the ultimate authority on matters, and, although the wealthy or powerful may make every effort to circumvent the law as best they can, they cannot simply ignore it. This is, ultimately, a psychological issue; Americans have this concept ingrained in them, and the idea of following one`s own impulses over the legal process is unthinkable.

Not so in much of the rest of the world. Russia is a classic example; Russia has never had a proper concensus, largely because Russia has always been ruled by force of arms (at least since the Tatars), and as a result, whenever the government offers any kind of freedom some strong individuals will realize their view is as good as anyone`s, and there will be an attempted rebellion. The Tsar held this in check for centuries, but the 19th century saw continuous rebellion against the crown. When Nicholas abdicated, a coalition government, led by Socialist Alexander Kerenski, took over-until the Bolsheviks seized power in a coup-de-tat. The fall of communism and the old Soviet Union can be viewed in it`s own way as a failure of the Rule of Law, and Russia has been dominated by wealth and criminality since. Why? Because the Russian People do not have the concept ingrained in them, and they see the means to keep a society stable ultimately stemming from the barrel of a gun.

The same holds true for most of Latin America; we NordeAmericanos have never understood the cycle of revolution and counter-revolution south of our border. (That`s why the size of those protests by the illegal invaders should not have surprised us; this is SOP in the Latin world where you rise against the policies of the current government, rather than let the legal process play out.) Mexico, for example, has seen an endless parade of dictators, democrats, emperors, and wanna-be Napoleons. Santa Ana (the Napoleon of the West) was put in power no less than 5 times, and was subsequently exiled from the country every time. The Conservatives, shocked by the liberalization of their country, invitied Maximillian, who was a member of the Hapsburgs-the ruling monarchs of Austria, to come and be their king. When Maximillian became Emperor, he was aghast at the backwardness of his new kingdom, and he went to work trying to bring Mexico into the 19th century. His former supporters turned against him bitterly, and a new revolution was born. Mexico would seesaw between republican government and dictatorship until the Revolution of 1912, which would see a socialist government in power for much of the 20th century.

The rebellion of Texas illustrated this perfectly; the Texans believed their allegiance was to the Mexican constitution, not to the land, and when Santa Ana suspended the constitution for no good reason except to make himself dictator, the Texans rebelled. They were most unhappy that none of the other Mexican States joined them against the tinhorn dictator; the Rule of Law mattered to the Texans, coming as they did from the United States, the rest of Mexico didn`t care.

The point is, Mexico has never had a tradition where law trumps strength.

That is why, despite the bitterness of the election of 2000, the Democrats had to walk away without the prize they so desired. Did they bend the Rule of Law? Sure did. Have they behaved in an appalling and irresponsible manner in their hatred for the man who beat them? They surely have. But the one thing they did not do was rise in revolution; they still, even if unknowingly, believe in the Rule of Law.

Unfortunately, Mexico is facing a close, hotly contested election, and Mexico has never had the Rule of Law. This could well lead to another Mexican rebellion.

(This from the Evans-Novak Report)

Mexican Elections: The United States is a stable country with an established rule of law. It was able to survive the controversy surrounding the 2000 election, when Vice President Al Gore (D) refused to concede for more than a month after losing, by a mere 500 votes, the electoral votes he needed to become President. In Mexico, however, and the current election controversy could turn to violence and chaos, depending on how the apparent loser reacts.

At the time, some considered Gore's persistence irresponsible as he worked through the courts to overturn the election. But the margin was so close that one could hardly blame him for at least trying initially. Although there are several parallels, the situation is vastly different after Mexico's elections on Sunday. Like Gore, leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (known in the Mexican press as AMLO) is suggesting that millions of uncounted votes would close the margin between him and his opponent, center-right Felipe Calderon. But unlike Florida 2000, the margin in this race is 400,000 votes -- a whole percentage point.

Another difference: Mexico is not a stable democracy where people have faith in the system. In the United States, only a minority held to the idea that Bush's election was illegitimate. In Mexico, there have been so many genuinely rigged elections in the last century that reasonable people could doubt this one. Almost everyone believes that in 1988, the election was stolen by Carlos Salinas of the ruling statist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Absent evidence of fraud -- which he has not yet produced -- Lopez-Obrador is taking a big risk with a nation that has only had one or two fair elections in its history.

More background on the tenuous nature of Mexican democracy: In 1994, Ernesto Zedillo became the last member of the PRI elected to the presidency (the original PRI candidate had been assassinated, many believe at the party's hands). The 2000 election of center-right Vicente Fox (PAN) ended seven decades of one-party rule that featured rampant public corruption, economic stagnation, and at times religious persecution of the nation's almost monolithic Catholic population. Distrust of government is therefore pandemic among Mexicans, and emigration remains a key to economic success for most of them. One interesting fact about Mexicans living in the United States: They supported Calderon overwhelmingly, giving him 57 percent of the vote to 34 percent for AMLO.

It appears that Calderon has won -- the official count begins today -- and this is a big relief for the Bush Administration. Obrador would not have been Hugo Chavez, but he could caused problems.

Of course, as more and more of Mexico`s population filters into the United States, the weaker the concept of the Rule of Law will become. How long will WE retain the blessings of this noble belief?



Blogger Brandon_T_Stanley said...

Rule of law is basically an Anglo-Saxon idea. European peope havenot even universally accepted it. Like the nation-state, it is foreign to the lands of Islam. It is making inroads into China, so that the dictators there may attract more trade. But we long ago lost any respect for the principle.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Brandon_T_Stanley said...

Rule of law is basically an Anglo-Saxon idea. European peope havenot even universally accepted it. Like the nation-state, it is foreign to the lands of Islam. It is making inroads into China, so that the dictators there may attract more trade. But we long ago lost any respect for the principle.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Aussiegirl said...

A wonderful and illuminating stroll through history, as usual, Tim! I'm going to link this up! Just now I saw a crawl on the news that Mexico is bracing for mass street protests in the wake of the recent elections. We all need this reminder of American exceptionalism to appreciate what it is that we have -- and what we stand to lose if a quarter of our country is imported wholesale from Mexico and other Latin American cultures where this concept is not commonplace. Look for corruption and bribery to take their place in our own country as well once these new immigrants start to make their presence felt. Good work!

12:55 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by