When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Enjoy unlimited access to quality journalism.

Limited time offer

Get your 30-day free trial!
InterNations -Your expat community
Candidate-As-Showman, Ecuador President Rafael Correa on the campaign trail in 2013
Candidate-As-Showman, Ecuador President Rafael Correa on the campaign trail in 2013
Eduardo Barajas Sandoval

BOGOTÁ — For Latin America, the U.S. presidential elections have become a big-screen spectacle that affects the tone and register of local politics, in a region that combines democratic aspirations with an enduring admiration for its northern neighbor.

The televised debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy generations ago began a process that has turned campaigning into a kind of science. Mixing elements taken from the marketing of household products and statistical studies on what people want to hear, politicians have devised the "perfect dose" to have maximum impact on voters, while campaigns have become high-stake betting arenas that are as dramatic as any sporting event.

The Western world and the countries that emulate its cultural model value images far more than words. Campaign slogans of less than 20 words, English in conception, promise or conjure up spectacular, albeit superficial, solutions to problems. It is essentially manipulation. The result is often that even governments with limited legitimacy, which work for an indifferent public that has a distaste for politicians, manage to attract a momentary euphoria from people.

To cap our problems, Latin American countries perversely enjoy making campaigns look as much as possible like those of our Yankee neighbors. No effort is made to hide this emulation, as if the parameters conceived in the north have universal value. We have election campaigns with solutions to problems of, well, other societies. As one politics professor said here, it is like forcing someone to wear fashionable clothes that do not fit.

Traits of this style of campaigning include always being on the offensive, making scurrilous attacks on your rival's personal history, hiding unpleasant aspects of your own past or making a careful argument to justify them, using basic language that absolutely anyone can understand, memorizing and repeating the same seven-second messages, blurting out an OK answer to every question, and smiling at all times. The common principle here is to keep the voracious media satisfied even as the public becomes detached from the policy debate.

[rebelmouse-image 27090254 alt="""" original_size="1024x683" expand=1]

A Donald Trump rally in March — Photo: Gage Skidmore

This campaign style provides the best terrain for populism of any origin or tendency. If a candidate is able to push the unwritten boundaries of public decency and conventional wisdom, and is willing to make shocking claims that arouse a desire to shake up the complacent status quo, he or she stands to make great strides. The media laps up the words of candidates who pull down traditional barriers and propose simplistic, but aggressive, solutions to problems nobody could previously resolve. This in turn leads to reaching a wider audience, whom candidates can feed with outrageous statements that arouse them, either because those declarations are inspiring or appalling.

With the political emergence of Donald Trump, vulgarity has shamelessly burst forth and become a brand. His ongoing antics enthrall the most fanatical and distracted of Americans. Let us observe how political debates shape up elsewhere on the continent. Led by vacuous consultants and managers that conjure up a different way of firing up the public every day, campaigns could soon become a nightmarish cacophony that diminishes transparency, constructive debate and progress toward a more advanced form of democracy.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

Already a subscriber? Log in
Green

Good COP, Bad COP? How Sharm El-Sheik Failed On The Planet's Big Question

The week-long climate summit in Egypt managed to a backsliding that looked possible at some point, it still failed to deliver on significant change to reverse the effects of global warming.

Photo of a potted tree lying overturned on the ground in Sharm el-Sheikh as the COP27 summit concludes.

A potted tree lies overturned on the ground in Sharm el-Sheikh as the COP27 summit concludes.

Matt McDonald*

For 30 years, developing nations have fought to establish an international fund to pay for the “loss and damage” they suffer as a result of climate change. As the COP27 climate summit in Egypt wrapped up over the weekend, they finally succeeded.

While it’s a historic moment, the agreement of loss and damage financing left many details yet to be sorted out. What’s more, many critics have lamented the overall outcome of COP27, saying it falls well short of a sufficient response to the climate crisis. As Alok Sharma, president of COP26 in Glasgow, noted:

"Friends, I said in Glasgow that the pulse of 1.5 °C was weak. Unfortunately it remains on life support."

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

Already a subscriber? Log in

The latest

InterNations