Likely just under one-third of Panamanian voters know what they want in the 2024 elections — a $10 soccer ball for their kid, or a $20 bag of groceries. But a scattered majority doesn’t want the guy who stands for those things, doesn’t want this guy reading our email and wants the money that was stolen the last time around returned to Panama’s treasury rather than seized by the US treasury. From Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal’s Twitter feed, letting the editor know that he’s being followed.
No anointed savior, but a path is opening
I cannot endorse Lombana, as some believe I did, because I do not know his position on these issues. I clarify, I do not ask him to explain them to me, in private: he must explain them to the country, if perhaps those points have already been contemplated and resolved for him and his team.
What are those issues to which the notable entertainer and former tourism minister and presidential candidate refers?
- “The dismantling of the political patronage state” — which entails the replacement of the heart and soul of the dictatorship’s 1972 constitution under which Panama still lives.
- “The creation of new administrative structures and paradigms” — also implicitly a new constitution. and
- Changes in laws, regulations and codes to clarify gaps, eliminate privileges and do away with the present impunity.
Those are some minimum requirements for most voters who are serious about change. Lombana’s support for the ill-fated initiative for a parallel constitutional convention raises some questions about where he’s really at on these questions.
Then there are other important matters that must be clarified if Lombana’s initiative is to attract critical support.
What about economics? Does he have anything to say about monopolistic practices? What about the land grabbing by the politically connected, which goes on and has gone on for years? Are we to be a natural resources extraction economy, or base our development on environmental conservation? Does Lombana have anything practical to say about formalizing the tiny enterprises of the huge informal economy? What guarantees would he give of the rights of employees to form unions and bargain collectively?
(That latter point Blades does not mention, but he is a member of a labor union, the Screen Actors Guild.)
Is there a structural ambiguity that lets SUNTRACS run the country if one of its leaders becomes president, or lets the Chamber of Commerce run the country if one of its leaders is elected, without some massacre of the losing side? Would Lombana address the ever more evident facts of a failed economic globalization on corporate terms, and offer a different direction? Is his objection merely to the grasping political caste, or also to their wealthy backers?
A party that’s a slate of independents is bound to have shades of difference about most of these questions. A smart candidate will know the push and pull of democratic processes and leave certain details to that uncertainty. But “trust me” won’t work this time — that credit card is maxed out for jaded voters.
All those questions left hanging, and those about alliances if Otro Camino gets its spot on the ballot, we are seeing movement toward a politics where nothing much changes other than who is collecting the tolls. We should be encouraged.
A newspaper cartoon from the days of the Ku Klux Klan’s first iteration. Today Donald Trump and his followers intend to revive the disenfranchisement and intimidation of black voters. For a larger version of this graphic, click here.
They just need to be overwhelmed
Well, now we know. The Republican National Committee has endorsed the January 6, 2021 Capitol Riot, including as it does the physical assaults against the Capitol Police and the vandalism of the building. Four GOP state attorneys general are investigating GoFundMe for that company’s “crime” of declining to provide a conduit for Americans to finance the blockade of Canada’s capital city by right-wing anti-vaxxers. Many states have passed vote suppression laws aimed right at African-Americans and other constituencies expected to vote for Democrats. The racial gerrymandering this time around is extreme. White supremacist Republicans are running against the teaching of any history that includes black people, and some of them are threatening people with guns.
What to do? What the Freedom Riders did. What was done in the 2020 Georgia runoff. Register, vote, encourage and assist others to register and vote, litigate, defy the bullies notwithstanding the personal danger that it may entail. Take our casualties, but overwhelm them.
At this point the primary season is about to begin, and Democrats need to nominate candidates with something positive to offer. The negatives of Donald Trump and his political party will play themselves out. Nominal Democrats who reach out to the white supremacists, or who from fear of them won’t bring themselves to say that black lives do matter, of course need to be weeded out. But well beyond that there is a need for candidates who soberly recognize how bad the US economy has become for most Americans, and who offer some reasonable steps to remedy the situation.
Democrats win not by screaming at the bad guys, but by talking about bread and butter. And by refusing to be frightened away from doing that.
If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Bear in mind…
Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.
Never stay up on the barren heights of cleverness, but come down into the green valleys of silliness.
It is not worthy of a human being to give up.
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