October 8, 2019

Political Thermometer


Upon taking office, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador instituted the remarkable republican practice of appearing every morning before the public, news reporters and the media. He does this Monday through Friday, starting at 7:00 a.m., to respond to questions about the progress of his administration, announce projects, hear criticism of government policies and communicate his opinion on the issues present in national politics. The meetings always last more than an hour and begin with a military greeting from a female soldier who exclaims: “Good morning, Mr. President!” Then the president makes his entrance to announce the theme or topic of the day. The president stands during the press conference and is accompanied by officials from his government, who occasionally provide further details and information as to the subject being discussed.  It is interesting that prior to holding the morning press conference, the president convenes a meeting in the National Palace, where he now resides, with members of his security cabinet, to discuss the difficult security issues facing the country. Although his opponents consider it unnecessary for the president to spend more than an hour a day, or more, speaking to the gathered press and the media, there is evidence that shows otherwise. This is the case with public opinion, which has generally welcomed the democratic nature of this practice. On the political side, President López Obrador has used his morning press conferences to promote his and his government’s position on numerous policy issues. In many ways, the country’s political thermometer now rises and falls on the president’s statements and clarifications. By holding daily press conferences, President López Obrador has seemingly created a new way to govern.  Sometimes, his positions raise the political temperature of the country, but at times they also serve to cool tempers and reconcile political fractures, whether within his own MORENA party or with opposition political parties.