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Can Gestures of Goodwill from the State Condition Attitudes in Post-Authoritarian Democracies?: A Field Experiment
Unformatted Document Text:  4 II. Theoretical Background Political participation in Mexico has historically been structured through a hierarchical single-party system. The traditional liberal democratic vehicles of mass political incorporation (i.e., competitive party politics, an active civil society, and specialized interest groups) 1 did not take root in Mexico following its bloody and divisive revolutionary period in the early twentieth century. Prior to the democratic transition experienced in the late 1990s, expectations were that once the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) fell democracy would naturally take hold, and the country would make a clean break from authoritarianism. The reality has been quite different; Mexicans have not taken to mass political participation as was anticipated. Authoritarianism may have had a lingering effect in suppressing the public’s willingness to become active in the political process: Under the PRI, participation meant voting once every so often for “the party” without needing to know either the issues or the candidates. With the days of PRI-dominated politics over, there is no longer one single party that has the power to incorporate public participation through “arm twisting,” i.e., paternalistic or clientelistic cooptation. Today, we generally see lower levels of interest in Mexican politics, and electoral turnout is now in the 50-60 percent rage, which is far lower than when the PRI was in its prime. Over the long run, however, if government officials demonstrate competence, and mass based political parties take root, the public will no doubt grow to resemble electorates in other democracies. 1 See Rosenstone and Hansen (1993) for a complete discussion of issues pertaining to political mobilization.

Authors: Nishikawa, Katsuo.
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4
II. Theoretical Background
Political participation in Mexico has historically been structured through a
hierarchical single-party system. The traditional liberal democratic vehicles of mass
political incorporation (i.e., competitive party politics, an active civil society, and
specialized interest groups)
1
did not take root in Mexico following its bloody and divisive
revolutionary period in the early twentieth century. Prior to the democratic transition
experienced in the late 1990s, expectations were that once the Institutional Revolutionary
Party (PRI) fell democracy would naturally take hold, and the country would make a
clean break from authoritarianism. The reality has been quite different; Mexicans have
not taken to mass political participation as was anticipated. Authoritarianism may have
had a lingering effect in suppressing the public’s willingness to become active in the
political process: Under the PRI, participation meant voting once every so often for “the
party” without needing to know either the issues or the candidates.
With the days of PRI-dominated politics over, there is no longer one single party
that has the power to incorporate public participation through “arm twisting,” i.e.,
paternalistic or clientelistic cooptation. Today, we generally see lower levels of interest
in Mexican politics, and electoral turnout is now in the 50-60 percent rage, which is far
lower than when the PRI was in its prime. Over the long run, however, if government
officials demonstrate competence, and mass based political parties take root, the public
will no doubt grow to resemble electorates in other democracies.
1
See Rosenstone and Hansen (1993) for a complete discussion of issues pertaining to political
mobilization.


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