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OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 12-11-2023 09:53

Don't vote for Milei

La Libertad Avanza contributed to an enrichment of political debate and set the agenda, even with bad diagnoses and remedies, identifying problems that need to be solved. But it is not the best choice of government for today’s Argentina.

Loyal readers of the Perfil newspaper are already familiar with the concept of endorsement in journalism that we quote upon every electoral process and it is common practice in Anglo-Saxon newspapers for the outlet to recommend who to vote for.

Before the first round of this year's presidential elections, when there were still five candidates remaining, I wrote a column was entitled "Endorsement a la democracia" ("Endorsement to democracy",) in which I explained why I believed it inadvisable to vote for La Libertad Avanza, to whom I assigned undoubtedly anti-democratic traits, such as assuming denialist positions over the illegal repression during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship and, at the same time, criticising the universal, secret and compulsory voting and its two initiators, former presidents Hipólito Yrigoyen in 1916 and Raúl Alfonsín in 1983. 

During its campaign, LLA's confrontation was not against populism (which the party itself practises), but against democracy as a system, illustrated in the use of the word “caste,” a horrible metaphor when democracy is precisely a system which makes class mobility possible and not the crystallisation into castes. The use of the opposite meaning of a term was already explained by Arthur Schopenhauer in his 1831 book Eristic Dialectic: The Art of Winning an Argument, set out in 38 stratagems: number 26 is called "retorsio argument,” or in its English translation: “Turn the tables.”

The fact that Javier Milei has done so much with so little, in addition to the high development of part of his intelligence, does not speak badly of him, but of how badly we are right now. I think Milei is an honest and well-intentioned person, who does not lie and wants reason to be on his side when arguing; in other words, he is not cynical, like many politicians, but he has not bothered to cultivate other knowledge beyond the specific and limited field of economics and has an inadequate emotionalism for the position he is aspiring to. 

I could not say the same of his vice-presidential candidate, Victoria Villarruel, who strikes me as even more dangerous by coincidence because she lacks both Milei's virtues and flaws. She is a very strong and stable woman. 

Of “the lion’s” alleged strength, Milei, Freud would say that it is a reactive formation, a defence mechanism to counteract negative impulses (fear) by exaggerating the opposite. And about the phallic function of the chainsaw one could write an amusing essay, were it not for the fact that so many people's lives are at stake. 

Milei is a histrionic person who feeds off the applause and attention of others; the ratings did it. Villarruel, on the contrary, is undaunted by rejection and has an agenda of vindication rather than reparation and she might have a better chance than her running-mate of governing for a longer period of time (I elaborated on this in another column – bit.ly/ella-plan-de-macri) and be even more destructive for Argentina.


Endorsement

Unlike the endorsement prior to the first round, we are now in a run-off and there are only two candidates. Following that premise of what it means to vote, in favour of pro-democracy, there may be different ways of not voting for Milei but there is only one way of voting in favour of democracy: that is to vote for Sergio Massa.

Long-time readers of Perfil will know that I have never voted for a Peronist candidate: I voted for Alfonsín (1983), for Eduardo Angeloz (1989), for José Octavio Bordón (1995), for Fernando De la Rúa (1999), for Elisa Carrió (2003), for Roberto Lavagna (2007), for Hermes Binner (2011), for Margaret Stolbizer (2015), and again for Roberto Lavagna (2019). I come from an anti-Peronist and Radical family and political and socio-cultural preferences create, from childhood, the bias that forms the frame through which we look at the world. I don't know, I want to believe, took so many years of fruitful reading trying to widen the frame of that window and if 40 years of democracy were necessary for me to finally be able to vote for a Peronist candidate, but I can understand my many friends and colleagues, whom I respect, that say they will not be able to vote for a Peronist and will vote for Milei.

I can understand those older than me, who got to experience directly or indirectly the negative and violent effects, even if symbolically, of Peronism in the 1950s and can never vote for a candidate who represents the movement. I can understand those younger than me, who did not experience what the impact of democratic recovery in the 1980s meant and therefore do not feel morally disgusted by the implicit violence of Milei or the explicit violence of Villarruel and think that, since it can't get any worse, they’ll try something different.

To the older ones, I ask them to reflect on what Peronism is today. If the two leaders with the greatest potential to lead Peronism as a movement today come one from the UCEDÉ, like Massa, and the other from Marxism, like Axel Kicillof, isn't Peronism an entelechy and those who detest it are like Don Quixote fighting with ghosts, in his case in the form of windmills? 

If the problem is Kirchnerism and no longer Peronism, they have all the right in the world not to want to eat another Trojan Horse, thinking that Massa will retire the Kirchnerites as in 2019 they thought Alberto Fernández would (he let them down). But I ask them to think that biology exists, that it is inexorable, that it is transideological, that Néstor Kirchner is no more, that Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is already in her 70s and that the boys of La Cámpora are almost old too and managed to become no more than mayors, while Kirchnerism loses the elections in Santa Cruz Province.

I ask the younger voters to reflect on the concept behind the word “peor” ("worse"), as expressed daily in the repeated phrase "peor no se puede estar." Worse is “más malo” (as in "more bad"). As an adverb it has a comparative quality, intrinsically there can always be a worse as well as a better. Even in the bad moments, things can always be worse. If in the face of adversity we make the wrong decisions, we can make the consequences worse rather than better, just as if in the face of adversity we make the right decisions, we can at least reduce the damage.

The same applies to the possibility of being worse-off with a Sergio Massa Presidency than with an Alberto Fernández Presidency, and that is the correct analysis to make: what are the conditions of possibility for both alternatives and, transitively, what are the conditions of possibility of being worse off with a Sergio Massa Presidency than with a Milei Presidency. Better or worse off, that is the question? And not that there is no worse off than with Alberto Fernández, unless you believe that Massa is exactly the same as Fernández and even then, if he were identical, a clone, as the conditions of possibility change over time, he could also be worse or better off in the future.

And to both, to the older and the younger, to those tired of negative experiences and those lacking positive ones: do not think that in Argentina everything, or most of it, is wrong. This week I interviewed a man who will probably be the next Argentine to win the Nobel Prize for having managed to identify and unveil the function of galectins, proteins of the immune system cells and their role in the development of cancer and autoimmune diseases that would allow the cure of 25 percent of the most common cancers (colon, lung, breast among them), which are still incurable.

Gabriel Rabinovich, with a PhD in Chemistry, graduated with an Honours Diploma from the University of Córdoba, who – after stays at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology in London, and then at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel – decided he wanted to work at the Hospital de Clínicas, the same hospital where Nobel Prize winner Federico Leloir was forged. Today he directs the Laboratory of Immunology at the Institute of Biology and Experimental Medicine, part of the CONICET scientific research council, as well as being a regular professor at the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires.

Rabinovich has been invited by the European Organisation, received the highest distinction awarded by the Society for Glycobiology of the United States and is a foreign associate member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States. But Rabinovich still works in Argentina and occupies the same desk as the master of his masters: Nobel laureate Bernardo Houssay (first winner in science from Latin America), who like himself specialised in glycobiology (sugars). 

Dr Rabinovich is not an old man and he is a product of the Argentina of the beginning of the last century. He is 54 years old, and it fell to him to train and develop his experiments in Argentina's public institutions during this half-century of neo-decadence since 1974, the last year with poverty indicators (four percent) comparable to those of developed countries.

The interview with Dr Rabinovich will be published next Saturday, "taking advantage" of the political closed season, with the expectation of still being able to convince some undecided people not to vote for Milei the day before the elections. 

La Libertad Avanza’s campaign contributed to an enrichment of political debate and the party set the agenda, even with bad diagnoses and remedies, identifying problems that need to be solved. But it is not the best choice of government for today’s Argentina.

Jorge Fontevecchia

Jorge Fontevecchia

Cofundador de Editorial Perfil - CEO de Perfil Network.

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