5/3/2024 - Politics and Society

Nobody wanted "light" politics, but 280 characters is no longer enough.

By Catalina Smith Estrada

Nobody wanted "light" politics, but 280 characters is no longer enough.

The President of the Nation, Javier Milei.

Almost 15 years of deficit, economic stagnation, deterioration of social indicators due to inflationary speed, disenchantment and anger with politicians (or politics?). These were some of the factors that generated a resounding change in our party system that emerged after the 2001 crisis.

Until 2021, our system hovered within what would be a bipartisanship between Pro and Kirchnerism. Most of the presidential victories were won by the latter, together with Néstor Kirchner, Cristina Fernandez and Alberto Fernández who, together, totaled 17 years in power.

Kirchnerism devalued the peso, the institutions, turned the public sector into a watering hole and broke the basis for dialogue. But as they say, everything comes back. And so it did. We reached 2023, and distrust and anger were common currency, but this time for the other side. That is why Milei won. The president grew on TV, but also on Twitter. He was the "anti-politics" candidate. He sought to delegitimize it, to denigrate it. Thus, he managed to get a whole angry generation interested in politics. There were plenty of reasons for anger: they locked us up for a year, they stole from us, they lied to us and sunk us economically. The pre-existing anger and this new character that added fuel to the fire hardened the electorate. Everything was black and white, you are either this or that. Nobody wanted "light" politics.

The president forged his character without a party (let's assume) and without experience in politics. He found his rhetoric and knew how to understand the moment. Caste, "there is no money" and adjustment became campaign slogans and, now, government slogans.

We had elections of thirds, the two "classic" forces and a new one: the "libertarians". Javier Milei managed to be the most voted candidate in the PASO, entered the ballotage leaving in third place what, until now, had been the main opposition force to Kirchnerism. On November 19, 2023, he beat Sergio Massa with 56% of the votes.

Today, inflation is down, "we have 0 deficit" and a strong government cutback has been carried out, the macroeconomy is growing, while the microeconomy is collapsing. Adjustment is necessary, there is no doubt about that. But individual economic malaise begins to generate social malaise and Javier Milei presents a difficult battle to fight.

His voters, proud, repeat "this is why I voted for him", and they are right. What the government does not seem to take into account is that although they won with 56% of the vote, the president is incredibly weak in terms of governability. His hard core of voters is simply one third of the electorate, that is, he won with votes "not so convinced" but opposed to the force that had monopolized power for the last 4 years. And, not less important, his force has only 15% of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 10% of those in the Senate.

All these points are well known. There is an economic crisis, on the way to be solved (or so they would have us believe), and there is a political and legislative crisis. The only crisis about which there seems to be a deafening silence is the social crisis.


Today, Milei faces a reality that he created with his campaign: a country extremely divided and violent, with one half unwilling to negotiate, and within that half, many of his voters. The climate of chaos, destruction, enmity and shouting already existed, but it was finally awakened by his appearance on the public scene. Not only did it awaken, but it grew. The problem is that today it is his turn to govern and his main challenge is to understand that he is no longer on Twitter, and that insulting in 280 characters has its consequences (and so do the likes). Politics is more complex and Milei, even if he does not want to accept it, is a politician.

Messianic leaders do not exist. There are no forces of heaven in politics. They simply knew how to sell an idea and a feeling quite similar to what many felt, but which today complicates their government. Now it is time to accept that politics is eclectic, it is not a discussion of networks and that to say that there are good and bad is a simplistic and innocent vision.

In order to build a country we will have to abandon this conservative simplism and accept that there are also valuable people on the other side. That politics is not dichotomous. That insulting and shouting only complicates things because even the "parasites" have ideas to contribute. You are not a lefty for not being a supporter of the government, nor do you support the dictatorship for doing so. Because intolerance comes from both sides, not only from a president who insults on twitter. Because for the opposition, suddenly, everything is dictatorship; of course, they didn't vote for it, but that's how it was the last four years, and the 12 previous to Mauricio Macri's government. The only democratic people would seem to be the Peronists, while the rest are anti-people.

Thus, both sides managed to make the word "dictatorship" lose weight and 40 years after the restoration of democracy, democracy generates doubts. Today society (and by this I mean any ideology that exists, if any exists and it is not simply a game of friends and enemies) wants blood, intolerance is nourished by these cries and violence. There is a social crisis. The electorate wants squares burned and politicians (or artists, journalists and twitterers) persecuted.

There is an economic crisis, notable, undeniable, but we cannot deny what is happening to us as a society. Today, you are either pro-government or anti-government. You are people or anti-people. Homeland or anti homeland. You are either pro-worker or anti-worker. But who specifies the limits of these definitions? The grays have been lost and violence has won. It is not only the government's fault, it is everyone's fault. The leadership broke society. The crisis is no longer economic and political, it is also social and cultural.

We lack conversation and listening. We lack patience. What is different is not an enemy, what is different nourishes. The social crisis cannot be denied, and if you really "are patria" (as Kirchnerism calls itself) or if you really give everything for Argentina (as the vice-president says), make an effort and dialogue, because society is not enough, and to unite is also to make patria.


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Catalina Smith Estrada

Catalina Smith Estrada

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