The undeniable triumphs of Javier Milei

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Javier Milei in Mendoza
Javier Milei in Mendoza

On July 27, 2016 at 0:35 in the morning an event occurred that, in retrospect, is historic. Alejandro Fantino closed one more program Stray animals. She had invited, as a favor, Javier Milei, an almost unknown economist, who had brought him three books written by him as a personal gift. Throughout the program, Milei had raised her voice several times to maintain that John Keynnes was “garbage” and had been the star of the show. At the end, Fantino thanked him for the books and said: “Javier Milei, gentlemen.” Then he looked at him and added. “I want to tell you that you are trending topics. “All of Argentina is talking about you.” She didn't know, couldn't know, the spark that had been lit.

A few weeks ago, after Milei came out first in the primaries, Fantino told how the story continued. “We were at two points and when he came we went up to five. We invited him the next day. We reach six. Those of them saw it Intractable. They reached nine. "He didn't leave anymore." From there the YouTube videos followed. Milei said that she saw that there was something there. She jumped from YouTube to Instagram, then to TikTok. The reproductions that were thousands, became tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, transcending borders. And here we are. “He was able to put together a candidacy and manage everything that happened around him. I just gave it a chance”Fantino explained.

The Milei phenomenon has been so overwhelming that it would be presumptuous and hasty to offer conclusive analyses. But, at this point, It is advisable to doubt the perception according to which it is a temporary phenomenon, of an unstable leader who had a stroke of luck, or of someone incapable who, surrounded by a truly circus cast, got where he did just by an unusual chain of coincidences. Something of all that could be. But, as Fantino suggests, there is much more to it than that.

Milei has been the protagonist of so many triumphs that it is difficult not to be impressed by his journey.

The first of those triumphs is personal. There are tens of thousands of politicians in Argentina. Most of them dream of being President. How many of them have come as close to the Casa Rosada as Milei? Very few. Patricia Bullrich and Horacio Rodriguez Larreta, for example, worked decades to reach Milei's place. They are experienced leaders, with teams: they did not succeed. At different times in recent history there were leaders spoiled by the polls: Julio Cobos, Ricardo Alfonsín, Roberto Lavagna, Francisco De Narváez, María Eugenia Vidal. At some point, they became stained. And that's just a lot of privileged people. The vast majority didn't even get there.

Presidential candidate Javier Milei and former candidate Patricia Bullrich pose during their participation in the A Dos Voces program - EFE/ Stringer
Presidential candidate Javier Milei and former candidate Patricia Bullrich pose during their participation in the A Dos Voces program - EFE/ Stringer

If the size of the achievement is also prorated by the time invested to achieve it, the dimension of the phenomenon increases. It took Mauricio Macri 12 years from his first candidacy to reach the Presidency. In between, he governed a district for 8. Milei invested just two years of her life and a little more. There is only one antecedent similar to his: that of Juan Peron, who in two years went from Secretary of Labor and Social Security to President. Background nonsense. In Milei's favor, furthermore, he did not do it from any public position. Perón rose while he was expanding rights for workers from a Government. Milei did it from the plain.

A Presidential campaignOtherwise, it is a terribly demanding experience. Anyone who knows about the subject knows that it is a superhuman effort. Better to be well prepared. Patricia Bullrich, for example, could not hide the way in which all of this pierced her coherence. These are months in which you eat poorly, you sleep poorly, there is almost no space for pleasure, to take refuge in true affections. The pressure is unbearable, and it doesn't let up. Endless acts, pressures of all kinds, decisions that must be made in real time, little room for error, trips, acts, fatigue, those new faces of strange characters, careerists in whom there is no choice but to trust, but in whom it is not advisable to trust. And the protagonist of that effort must give accurate answers, tolerate very hurtful attacks, return them, not fail, remain calm.

At the end of that journey, only two arrive. A couple of weeks ago, it seemed for a moment that Milei would not make it to the end. It was that fateful day when, on television, her head almost exploded because there were noises and when she had that very disturbing transformation where she ended up saying that he got between the sheets of those who criticized him on the networks. There are quite serious signs that there is a severe pathology, which can cause many bad times before pressure situations. But then he composed himself. That reaction from Milei immediately reminded of so many others. For example, the day she compared the State to “the pedophile in kindergarten with the children chained and wrapped in containers.” Or so many episodes of contained violence or horrific verbal violence. All that is there. It enables us to ask ourselves terrible questions about what is coming. But, up to this point, Milei managed to ensure that if something was really broken, he would not conspire too much against his presidential objective. Half of society does not ask questions, He justifies everything, celebrates anything: another of his triumphs.

Javier Milei and Alejandro Fantino
Javier Milei and Alejandro Fantino

To this personal performance is added a ideological and moral triumph, which is much more transcendent. Milei usually says that until his arrival, liberalism did not exist in Argentina. That is not like that. The very simple idea according to which you have to make a adjustment brutal to stop inflation and with that we would reach the promised land It is a classic. It is true that he became a powerful messenger of that very debatable proposal. But it had already been Álvaro Alsogaray, Carlos Menem, Domingo Cavallo, Ricardo López Murphy, Mauricio Macri, Bernardo Neustadt and so many economists who achieved their place in the media by repeating that mantra. In that sense, he is just the new link in a chain.

His true triumph is of another kind. Milei naturally incorporated into the debate elements that before his emergence were marginal or highly rejected. She transgressed like no one else. This same week, for example, this was manifested in the report that she gave to Jaime Baily.

Milei said there that he agrees with the Scratch journalists on social media, after he accused many of them of being “enveloped”. “Many journalists get dirty and, fortunately, we have many genuine followers and when they find those journalists lying or distorting facts or statements, they scold them by showing them the videos where they are lying, and that makes them very violent.”

That argument was, verbatim, the same one that Kirchnerism wielded to defend the daily broadcast of the remembered program 678. If that paragraph had been pronounced by Sergio Massa, or Cristina Kirchner, or lower-ranking leaders of Kirchnerism, it would be a scandal. What happened with Milei happened as if nothing had happened, at a time when several colleagues began to say that on the street they were confronted by angry characters who shouted at them "ensobrados!", that insult that Milei spread. In this course, with so much social complacency, How far are we from returning to the spitting or the trials in Plaza de Mayo?

Javier Milei - REUTERS/Cristina Sille/
Javier Milei - REUTERS/Cristina Sille/

In the same video he explained that he would not meet with Luiz Ignacio Lula Da Silva because it is “corrupt” and “communist”. It is boring to have to explain that Lula was elected three times under democratic rules, that no court validated the accusation of corruption, that he respected the rules of capitalism to the maximum. But for Milei, Even María Eugenia Vidal is left-handed. A few years ago, that paragraph would have sparked hilarity. Now, whoever says it has a very high chance of being President.

In the same note, Jaime Baily inquired about his position regarding the homosexuality. Milei said that she didn't care if a man slept with a woman, with another man, or with a elephant. In later testimony, Baily said she was upset by that response. But the important thing, for the purposes of this note, is not that, but rather highlighting Milei's triumph: it is beginning to be natural that the leaders compare a gay with a puma, with someone who doesn't bathe and has lice, with an elephant, or with minorities such as the blind, the deaf and the mute. Every day, there is a new contribution in that sense.

Milei's ideological triumph is not, then, his defense of an extreme orthodox vision of economics. It's a very different thing. In these months, Milei violently humiliated women on television, claimed illegal repression, refused to vote for a program to diagnose congenital heart disease, proposed defunding neighborhood clubs, spread ideas such as the sale of organs, a market for the sale of children, the pollution of rivers. In addition, he expressed his rejection of scientific research, the figure of Raúl Alfonsín, the investiture of Pope Francis, public works, social justice, regulations for the possession of weapons, public education, and he joined Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro in his strategy report fraud that cannot be proven. But society does not punish him: it rewards him.

It is evident that a very relevant portion of the electorate sympathizes with these ideas - the most serious pollsters are surprised by the growing percentage of society that adheres to that vision of the world. Another sector does not agree but does not feel scared by these ideas either, as long as they serve to defeat Kirchnerism –or its current version, which is an echo of Kirchnerism. That battle has dominated their lives for a long time and they cannot think beyond that limit.

Did Milei convince society that those things were fair? Did society already think that way and he was just the channel that found that torrent? Be that as it may, it must be noted that something very profound has changed for a proposal like this to be so competitive. In 2015, the alternative to Kirchnerism was presented as moderate, reformist, as a thoughtful and non-traumatic change. Now he wears one chainsaw on the shoulder, no matter how much he hides it in the last clean and jerk.

It is a big unknown where this journey that started thanks to the magic of ratings ends. Milei has her plan. Govern for eight years and then dedicate yourself to writing and teaching, she has said. Of course: she says so many things. That he is Moses. That, in reality, his sister is Moses and that he is Aron. That the forces of heaven will win. So you don't have to take it literally. It may happen that he doesn't win. Or that he wins and discovers that all of his theories are bullshit and then it complicates this country much more and it must face a massive political and social rebellion. Or that he must deal with so much tension that his head cannot resist and then who knows what. Or that he loses and dedicates himself to preparing for a new battle in four years, having already become the leader of the extreme right.

Or that the drama ends in a political and personal tragedy of epic and Dantesque dimensions.

Who knows.

It is often said that intense, by definition, is brief.

Almost always.

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