Saturday, December 2, 2023

OP-ED | 21-10-2023 05:46

Tomorrow never knows

Tomorrow is the time to go beyond day-day thinking and ponder the next four years.

Calling tomorrow the first day of the rest of our lives would be an exaggeration but neither is it just another day. At the very most tomorrow’s general election will define the next four years, socio-economic stability permitting, and very possibly not even that at presidential level, serving as the second step towards narrowing the field after the August 13 PASO primary.

Yet this technical limitation is far from being the only doubt about the importance of tomorrow’s vote in the minds of a frustrated society hit by failure at the national level and accelerating technological change globally. Thus even ahead of telling people for whom to cast their ballots (which would run counter to the veda electoral curfew now in force), the first challenge might well be to convince them to vote at all.

This challenge is tough because the doubts extending to democracy as such are based on valid factors and fallacies alike. The tradition of election day being the one moment of absolute popular sovereignty when politicians are at the mercy of the citizenry rather than the other way around remains true but it has also become a relative truth – for decades now the markets have been voting every weekday (the impact of the four-digit exchange rate of October 10 rivalled that of any election so far this year) while the voracious intensity of the social networks is far more constant and massive, perhaps defining tomorrow’s election beyond any radar.

It is also true that democracy has been working very hard in the past 40 years at being the worst possible system except for all the others, as per Winston Churchill’s famous definition – especially in the second half of those 40 years each presidential term has been worse than its predecessor when measured in broad macro-economic criteria, even when occupied by the same person. For some time now buying a home has been an impossible dream for most but of late even renting an apartment has started to become an equally remote horizon.

No wonder it is commonplace to hear people saying: “Things have never been worse” but they should be warned against that. The mathematics of the 40th anniversary of the return to democracy means that a broad majority have no idea of what it means to lose liberty in other than the strictly economic sense with thousands being slaughtered by state terrorism, political violence and identity being annihilated by disappearances. Nor will most have any recollection of 1989 when in some months the austral (Argentina’s currency has not always been the peso, contrary to common belief) was only worth a third on the last day of what it was on the first. The newer voters will not even have any experience of the 2001-2002 meltdown when the chaos was far more total than the current turbulence.

Another questionable cliché often heard is: “All politicians are the same so why should I vote?” This clashes with the very simple truth that no individual is ever like another (it might be frivolously pointed out that tomorrow’s five presidential candidates do not even share the same gender) and such facile apathy guarantees Gresham’s law of bad money always crowding out good being applied to elections, favouring extremes and intense minorities over the mainstream and silent majorities.

Applying a more specific focus to tomorrow’s election, it is probably just as well as that the veda inhibits a winner being either wished or forecast because it seems impossible to say in any case. Once we know the winner, we might not even know why – whether it stems from emotional factors such as an angry frustration or a more rational cost-benefit analysis, whether the voter gains more than loses from the current order or whether the state is merely a burden for those working beyond the system and thus better eliminated.

In conclusion, tomorrow is the time to go beyond day-day thinking and ponder the next four years. As the one single day when the powers that be are at the mercy of the humblest citizen, why not make the most of it tomorrow and vote?       


More in (in spanish)