The image above is the logo of a French chain of kids’ clothing stores. The company is not why I chose it. The words making up the name of the chain – “du pareil au même” – literally mean “from the same to the same”. This is an expression used in French to indicate that two supposedly different things are really one and the same. This post is about a recent spat between US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and former right-wing Mexican President Vicente Fox of the pro-business, pro-Catholic Church National Action Party (PAN), who was in office from 2000 to 2006, right before PAN cohort, El Senor War On Drugs himself, Felipe Calderon. Despite their brief war of words, the 2 men at loggerheads aren’t so different from each other.
One of Trump’s more eyebrow raising campaign pledges has been to build a wall on the border with Mexico to keep undocumented migrants out of the US. There has been no shortage of negative reactions in the US to this stated intention. In Mexico one of the most notable people to weigh in has been Fox, who said in emphatic terms that Mexico was never going to pay for any such wall and that Trump could foot the bill, since his whole point is that he is so rich and successful. He also called on Hispanic voters in the US to see past Trump, who he described as a “false prophet”. Trump retorted that he would now build the wall 10 feet higher than originally planned. Fox then challenged Trump to a debate, saying he would like to speak to Trump in his capacity as a “compassionate leader”.
When you stop and look at it, it is really quite comical that Fox would single Trump out the way he has. The Mexican pot is calling the American kettle black, as they have both committed similar types of verbal offences against groups in society for which they hold no esteem and to whom they don’t see themselves as accountable.
Trump’s negative attitude towards Mexicans is well documented. He views them as job stealing, crime spreading burdens on American society. Fox takes umbrage to the way in which Trump casts Mexicans aside and does not flinch when called out for doing so. In 2005 Fox caused a stir when he said Mexican immigrants in the US took the jobs “that not even blacks want to do”, indicating that in his view black people were the lowest of the low in society and are the ones who should logically be doing the most unenviable of jobs, but don’t want to accept their role in society and as such a gap is there to be filled by Mexicans who, “filled with dignity, willingness and ability to work”, as he put it, come to the US and stoop to the level of performing these black people’s jobs because black Americans apparently are the antithesis of the dignity, willingness and ability attributes possessed by all Mexicans.
The Republican nominee – who refers to African Americans as “the blacks” – has made too many biased statements about this section of American society and has never back-pedalled after doing so. He has associated with members of the KKK and declined to decry the group’s message of hate, claiming that he didn’t know enough about them to be able to determine if he needed to distance himself from them. Interestingly, when called out, notably by Jesse Jackson, Fox dug his heels in and refused to issue an apology, saying that his comments – just as 101% of inappropriate remarks seem to be – were misinterpreted. Sound a bit Trump-esque?
People are, of course, not immune to poor choices of words, an example being in 2002 when Senator Trent Lott said the US would be a better place if Strom Thurmond had won the 1948 election. As it happens Thurmond was a staunch segregationist. Lott was at pains to own up to the statement and clarify that he was not referring to segregation policy. Whether he was sincere is another story, but he did publicly go back on his statement. Fox shouldn’t be taken aback by someone expressing himself in the same way that he does.
Still on the issue of Fox and black people, a few weeks after he made the comment described above, Fox issued a range of postage stamps bearing the likeness of immensely popular (in Mexico) cartoon character Memin Pinguin. Said cartoon character is basically a vile caricature of a black child, that one could say looks more like a monkey than a human being. It appears this was not meant to offend “the blacks” in Mexico either who, by the way, only achieved recognition as a category on that country’s national census 5 months ago, in 2016 (!).
As for the two men’s respective political parties (though Trump isn’t exactly a textbook Republican), the PAN favours a limited role for government in the economy and is very big business friendly, not unlike what obtains with the Republicans north of the border. It enjoys widespread support among the wealthiest socio-economic segment of Mexican society. Again, not very different from in the US.
Being closely intertwined with the RC Church, in a partnership that could be likened to the symbiosis between the Republican Party under Ronald Reagan and the Jerry Falwell-led Moral Majority in the 1980s, the PAN is hawkishly conservative on social issues. Case in point: in 2009 one PAN-controlled city council in central Mexico issued an ordinance to the effect that people no longer could kiss in public because it offended social values.
PAN’s catalogue of conservative greatest hits is chock full of memorable items that would make their Bible-thumping Evangelical Republican counterparts, among others, grab a bowl of tacos and blurt out in unison “I love Hispanics”, à la Trump this year on Cinco de Mayo.
The PAN is not big on the idea of gay marriage, so much so that when the matter was put to a vote in the Mexican National Assembly in 2015, all PAN MPs voted against. About a month ago former Secretary-General of PAN Cecilia Romero declared that gays wanted the right to marry, but that in any case what they were doing could never be seen as marriage, no matter what any law said. Echoing her view, ultra-conservative Republican Rick Santorum of marriage that no court could redefine something that it is impossible to redefine. Romero called on those in favour of gay marriage to show some respect for and not try to change the fundamental essence of core social institutions like marriage and the family; Santorum equated gay marriage with trying to change the chemical equation – or fundamental essence – of water.
PAN called for the re-criminalisation of abortion in Mexico City earlier this year, in a move that was bound to be to the liking of Carly Fiorina, who called abortion for any reason an existential threat to the character of the United States and repeated, each and every time she was given a platform from which to do so, the same derided and now debunked story about Planned Parenthood personnel engaging in an elaborate covert lucrative plan to harvest organs from aborted foetuses for sale.
Fox’s PAN party is experiencing a renaissance of sorts after a decade in the doldrums and is currently celebrating strong gains in recently held gubernatorial elections with wins in 7 of the 12 participating states, namely Aguascalientes, Veracruz, Durango, Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, Puebla and Quintana Roo, though it still trails the PRI party to which current President Enrique Pena Nieto belongs. Though this recent PAN triumph is utterly dwarfed by the rout achieved by the Republicans over the Democrats in the 2012 US midterm elections when the Grand Old Party emerged with its largest congressional majority since 1929, it still represents a movement in both directions at a particular moment in time for both parties.
The Mexican rock group Molotov made a song called “Dame Todo el Poder” – Spanish for “Give Me All the Power” – in which they explained the plight of the poor living in a society where the government didn’t care about their struggles and was only interested in staying in power. The song’s chorus, about having the power to mess people up, is in Spanglish and it goes as follows:
“Dame, dame, dame todo el power para que te demos en la madre,
give me, give me todo el poder so I can come around to joder”
This mix of Spanish and English sums up what could be a joint statement from Fox and Trump to the effect that they will steamroll the have-nots when in power.
Maybe they are both immortal highlanders, and upon meeting physically they’d both say “I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod” after which an epic battle would ensue. Or, per adventure we’ll learn that each man is, in fact, the other and that the 1997 John Travolta / Nicolas Cage identity switching movie Face/Off was 19 years ahead of its time. Or could it be that Trump is a new model of Terminator sent to dispense with the outdated Fox?
Fox and Trump are our real life versions of Ken and Ryu of Street Fighter fame. Or is it Mortal Kombat’s Scorpion and Sub Zero?
During an October 2015 Republican presidential debate, Donald Trump was quoted as accusing Jeb Bush of being soft on immigration because his wife was from Mexico, saying “if my wife were from Mexico, I think I would have a soft spot for people from Mexico”. It looks like if Fox wants to find a sympathetic American politician to actually sit down and have a cordial discussion there may be hope after all.