Moral superiority, a political vice – 05/15/2021 – Latinoamérica21

In Mexico, a sense of moral superiority has taken hold among our leaders vis-à-vis their political opponents and citizens in general. It is an addiction to thought which, in politics, has negative consequences by reducing concrete individuals to stereotypical caricatures.

The moral superiority of which I speak is not a simple adjective of qualification. It is a well-known phenomenon in the social sciences, characterized in English by self-righteous moralism. Dan Avnon, professor of political theory at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, defines it as “a particular sense (of itself) that turns potentially sensitive and sane people into foolish and dogmatic defenders of absolute justice: self-proclaimed, so to speak. say.”

As the definition above indicates, moral superiority is a powerful reagent in the democratic game, appealing to both narcissism and holiness. I’m not saying that, science suggests. A study published by the University of Pennsylvania titled “Narcissism in Political Participation” shows that people with narcissistic tendencies are more likely to participate in political activities, such as contacting their representatives, signing petitions, voting, making donations, etc. The conclusion of one of the researchers, Peter K. Hatemi, is grim: “If those who are the most narcissistic are the most engaged and the political process itself is the engine of narcissism in the public, in my opinion, the future of our democracy may be in danger ”.

In Mexico, we see examples of this every day. Starting with President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), who, day after day, rubs the opposition parties in the face that they are “morally defeated”. This is not a simple remark out of the ordinary. Another phrase he loves and has repeated for years is “the triumph of the right is morally impossible,” attributed to Benito Juarez, President of Mexico from 1858 to 1872.

In this regard, Luis Carlos Ugalde, president of the National Electoral Institute (INE) between 2003 and 2007, reflects in his political memories: “What happens however if the voters give the victory to the candidate” morally impossible ” , as was the case in 2006? If López Obrador disqualified in advance the victory of the candidate of the Acción Nacional (PAN) on the basis of moral considerations, how could he legally accept this victory? How could his supporters accept Felipe Calderón’s victory if his leader vilified him by quoting Benito Juárez imprecisely and out of historical context? “.

It is important to clarify, however, that the phenomenon of moral superiority is not exclusive to the current rulers of the country. Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado, President of Mexico between 1982 and 1988, also chose the enigmatic expression “For the moral renewal of society” as the slogan of his campaign and his government. De la Madrid was a candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) at a time when it was still a hegemonic party system: a system in which opposition parties were tolerated but not allowed to compete on a equal footing, so there was no alternation. .

One of his first acts of government, a few days after taking office, was to promote a constitutional reform called “Fundamentos de la Renovación Moral” (Fundamentals of Moral Renewal). With him, he tried to eradicate corruption in the country by decree. His predecessor in office, also a member of the PRI, José López Portillo (1976-1982), had left the country mortgaged and in the mud of endemic corruption. A libertine man unlike any other, López Portillo later showed his dissatisfaction with De la Madrid’s moralist drift in an interview with former Foreign Minister Jorge G. Castañeda: “It always seemed to me that seeking morality of the State, it was back to the times which had been conquered by the law. The “moral state” was the medieval, inquisitorial state, but the rule of law is something else ”.

Moral superiority is by no means an exclusive Mexican affair. As I have already pointed out, this is a well-known and well-studied phenomenon. Without going any further, we saw it last November during the American elections, during which the Democratic and Republican parties imagined themselves on the right side of history. The result was that both parties abandoned the indecisive and moderate voter, choosing instead to whip and mobilize their most recalcitrant bases.

With the political center emptied, the candidates and their supporters moved to the flanks and opened the door to radicalism and polarization. The attack on the Capitol was no accident; it is the result of the propagation of feelings of superiority which lead individuals to proclaim themselves defenders of order and justice.

What happened on the United States Capitol on January 6 is an example of the impact moral superiority can have on our actions and judgments. Like any addiction, superiority is a pleasant sensation, a movement of well-being, as Avnon emphasizes, but be careful: it can lead some people to not respect the law and the concrete facts when they favor the adversary. The best. At worst, it is a seed of verbal and even physical violence. This is true for the rulers as well as for the ruled.

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