Javier Milei has just won a key battle, the electoral one, at the expense of a historic defeat of massism-kirchnerism. His victory even dwarfed his own. Mauricio Macri and Cambiemos in 2015, in that other runoff. From now on the challenges of his future management begin. The risk of the libertarian is to interpret the resounding success in the electoral battle as an opportunity to wage a total and final cultural battle now and without gradualism.. One thing is the consensus to fight inflation, the deficit, the economic interventionism of the hypertrophied State and to rebuild the private sector and another thing, the vindication of an identity ideology that society resists or rejects outright or does not even accept. poses in this critical present.
That’s why Milei must be able to resist the temptation that captured Kirchnerism for two decades and ended up isolating him politically: that temptation to go for everything to seek the thorough advance that changes the social and political culture of Argentina. A fatal arrogance newly minted, paraphrasing Friedrich Hayek’s title that Milei admires, where he questions the arrogance of a State that seeks to centralize the planning of social life. The objective, in the long run impossible, is to hegemonize meaning at all levels, not only at the economic level. The temptation is to aim for symbolic battles and in areas that have to do with the most private lives of citizens at the cost of dividing society.. Sunday’s result exposed that, at some point, this political enterprise becomes exhausting for a society: the historical reduction of the political base of Kirchnerism is due, in part, to that problem.
In this conception, the horizon is, in some way, the end of history: the consolidation of a kind of single-party democracy that always sees in the political adversary a logical political scandal to resist. It is the aspiration for the same notion about life and the economy to be repeated infinitely, without nuances.
Sergio Massa’s defeat on Sunday has multiple causes. Two can be pointed out. One, the economic crisis: the result restored logic to the political scenario and confirmed that the voter continues to function with a rationality that gives central importance to the pocket vote and the common sense that it synthesizes. This electoral realism showed that political astuteness raised to the nth degree by a minister of the economic crisis can lead to a runoff but, in the end, it finds its limit: the vote condemns. The other notable cause is social fatigue in the face of an exercise of appropriation of the political-moral superiority of Kirchnerism, translated this time into the capture of the notion of democracy. The greater the economic crisis, the more intense this micro militancy. The symbolic construction around the fear of Milei and the democratic risk that it would imply failed to conceal the ravages of economic inefficiency.
There are signs that the libertarian and his most politically thick men, such as Guillermo Francosare aware of those restrictions. His victory speech, on Sunday night, did not include a single reference to the most controversial and defining issues of his libertarian profile, such as his rejection of the legalization of abortion, vouchers, the carrying of weapons, the organ market or climate change. Nor was there a single word about the issues most dear to his vice president, Victoria Villarruel, such as his criticism of the policy of memory, truth and justice in relation to the dictatorship. Not a single reference.
Instead, Milei proposed a vision of Argentina digestible for all his voters, and even beyond, based on “three premises”: “A limited government, which strictly complies with the commitments it has made; respect for private property and free trade”. “Our commitment is to democracy, to free trade and to peace,” he stated. A Miss Universe tone that surprised some compared to the cultural battles that she had been proposing.
Sunday night’s speech was not only one of triumph. He also set the tone and foundation for the governance that Milei must build.. The problems that he decided to raise as priorities are also transversal: inflation, stagnation, lack of genuine employment, insecurity, poverty and destitution.
There were also no intemperate references to China or Brazil. On the international front, the biggest risk came in this phrase: “We are going to work side by side with all the nations of the free world to help build a better world,” where “free world” opened a tension with China. Well, yesterday, the first statement from the original Office of the President-Elect that La Libertad Avanza created eliminated that limitation and stated that the president-elect will work “in defense of democracy and free trade with all countries in the world,” simply. A symptomatic geopolitical moderation in its first “official” statement.
At one point, Milei’s message of triumph could have been in the mouth of a 2015 model Mauricio Macri, except for “drastic changes are needed”, “there is no room for gradualism, there is no room for lukewarmness, there is no room for half measures” and “moving quickly with structural changes.”
Milei has just founded a popular right that has an ideological, geographical and socioeconomic transversality that Néstor Kirchner would have envied, and that Macri now seeks to enhance. But the runoff is, in a certain way, a mirage: it is always indebted to independent voters who were left without electoral offer. Milei’s map of ideas does not contain in its edges the ideas of all of her voters. Therein lies one of the main challenges of its governance.
In addition to the economic issue, the other issue that catapulted Milei to popularity is his position against the legalization of abortion. In 2018, in the midst of the abortion debate, Milei reached its peak of mentions in the media. The president-elect got rid of those identity flags. But not all of his most prominent followers. “An alliance between libertarians and conservatives”: this is how he defined the elected presidential formula Agustín Laje, the political scientist and philosopher close to Milei, on the night of the triumph. He was referring to the figures of Milei and Villarruel. Laje set the goal of “removing progressivism from the State” and in two years, after the midterm election and the reconfiguration of Congress, to discuss the legalization of abortion again. For Laje, Villarruel embodies that ideology.
By following this more restricted cableway, Milei faces two risks. The danger of shortening the representation of it. And also, to withdraw parliamentary support on economic issues as a reaction to that agenda.
The question now is how he will govern: The battles that the libertarian will put at the center of his agenda as president will define the degree of resistance or support he finds in Congress, where most of the reforms you dream of must go through. At the polls, the Together for Change vote throughout the country, in addition to Schiarettism in Córdoba, were key to the size of Milei’s victory. But Congress is something else. In the Deputies and the Senate, with their own votes, it is not enough. With those of Pro, neither, and even less with those of a part of Pro. Milei is obliged to a broader representation than its identity contents.
The runoff brings lessons for everyone. For Kirchnerism, without a doubt: defeats put reality before our eyes. But also for Milei: everything seems to indicate that the path of the cultural battle in a broad sense and with the knife between the teeth, like the one that Kirchnerism proposed during four government administrations and intensified in these months of the campaign, leads to loss contact with society. For Kirchnerism, this process took 20 years. Now everything is much faster: Argentina, which accumulates crises, does not have time and in times of social networks, society organizes quickly and effectively to make itself heard. For example, to give birth to an unlikely president.
Milei’s most consistent growth in the public sphere is tied to a liberal-libertarian pedagogy exercised at the limits of the economic sphere: there it becomes popular and crossover. Along these lines, a good example was his explanation about the role of Fátima Flórez as first lady: “Our position is that work is done, that wealth is generated from the private sector,” she stated. “Fátima is a brilliant woman, she is successful in serving others with better quality goods, at a good price, where you pay and get two hours of joy. That is the value she brings,” she developed. A moment of enlightenment for Milei that resignified the issue of the institution of the first lady, an endless debate, and at the same time lowered the line on some of her most productive topics, such as the virtuous role of private activity. That is the ideology with which she connects with the informal worker, the beaten monotributista, the Rappi vote, the hard-working entrepreneur or the global businessman.