Campaign Flubs and Farces (International Edition)

Daniel Hertz

One of the fake ads for Mexican presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto that went viral after his literary remarks. The words say "First, learn to read," playing off the logo for the PRI, Nieto's political party.
Over the last few months, the Republican presidential debates have managed to make almost everyone involved—that is, the whole country—look very silly. (See Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich.) Fortunately, the international representatives of the One Percent have been working hard over the last week or so to make sure we have some company. First, the leading candidate in Mexico’s 2012 presidential election, Enrique Peña Nieto, got himself into trouble a few weekends ago by deciding to do a campaign stop at a book fair, and then being unable to list more than three books that had influenced him. Of those three, he admitted he hadn’t finished one (the Bible), named the wrong author for another, and couldn’t remember the title of the third. Almost overnight, tweets with a hashtag reading “Peña Nieto’s library” (and jokes like: “Three books that have changed my life? The Bible, The Bible 2 and The Bible Returns: Revenge of Jesus”) became the leading topic on Mexican Twitter. This might have blown over, except that his daughter tweeted in response: “Hello to all those assholes out there from the proletariat, who only criticize what they envy.” This set off an entirely new round of viral send-ups, and hopefully firmly established the precedent that bad-mouthing the “proletariat” is not a winning electoral strategy.
The exact extent of the damage isn’t yet clear, though Peña Nieto’s party, the PRI, announced on Friday that it has started polling to see how far their candidate’s numbers have dropped since the gaffe. The Russian ruling class also gave itself a major blow last week by not only stealing an election, but doing it very badly. Although a lot of the media coverage in the United States has focused on fraud captured by citizen journalists taking advantage of YouTube and other social media to build a case against Putin’s United Russia party, what’s left of the country’s independent traditional media has also played an important role. On Thursday the newspaper Novaya Gazeta was able to publish written accounts by dozens of students in St. Petersburg who were hired and organized by United Russia to vote a dozen times or more in multiple precincts using falsified ballots. The students—who, in all, provided nearly a thousand fraudulent votes for the ruling party—went public not because they wanted to join the growing protest movement and demand real democracy, but because United Russia botched the operation. Buses that were supposed to shuttle them between voting centers didn’t come, forcing them to walk miles in the Russian winter. Even worse, they were never paid the nearly $100 per vote they had been promised, despite, in the words of one student, having “honestly completed our work.” As a result, every last detail of “Operation Carousel,” as the party organizers called it, is now part of the public record, giving protestors even more ammunition in their bid to delegitimize the official reesults. Vladimir Putin still seems almost certain to win (or “win”) a third term in the upcoming presidential election. But with the government’s fraudulent tactics more exposed than ever, and the opposition more organized than at any time since the fall of the Soviet Union (Saturday’s protest in Moscow is thought to be the largest of the post-Soviet era), it’s providing more suspense than any Russian election in well over a decade. The polls open March 4.
Help In These Times Celebrate & Have Your Gift Matched!

In These Times is proud to share that we were recently awarded the 16th Annual Izzy Award from the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College. The Izzy Award goes to an independent outlet, journalist or producer for contributions to culture, politics or journalism created outside traditional corporate structures.

Fellow 2024 Izzy awardees include Trina Reynolds-Tyler and Sarah Conway for their joint investigative series “Missing In Chicago," and journalists Mohammed El-Kurd and Lynzy Billing. The Izzy judges also gave special recognition to Democracy Now! for coverage that documented the destruction wreaked in Gaza and raised Palestinian voices to public awareness.

In These Times is proud to stand alongside our fellow awardees in accepting the 2024 Izzy Award. To help us continue producing award-winning journalism a generous donor has pledged to match any donation, dollar-for-dollar, up to $20,000.

Will you help In These Times celebrate and have your gift matched today? Make a tax-deductible contribution to support independent media.

Daniel Hertz is a senior fellow at City Observatory, an urban public policy think tank.
Democratic Rep. Summer Lee, who at the time was a candidate for the state House, at a demonstration in Pittsburgh for Antwon Rose, who was killed by police, in 2018. Lee recently defeated her 2024 primary challenger.
Get 10 issues for $19.95

Subscribe to the print magazine.