People jammed the broad four lane street for at least a couple of blocks.
An air of excitement and expectation filled the crowd as I weaved up to the temporary stage that had been built to put the candidate high enough up that most at street level could see him when he arrived.
The loudspeakers assured even those farthest back would hear what promised to be a rousing political address. A band entertained the crowd between the local dignitaries’ warm up speeches.
A cool, overcast winter night with rain threatening couldn’t damper the palpable enthusiasm around me in Concepcion, Chile’s second largest city. They felt, you could clearly tell, that this election was some how different.
All the political parties from conservative to socialist had laid out remarkably similar platforms. Voters weren’t seeing the standard promise derby, which usually saw parties race each other in offering enough goodies to as many key constituencies as they could in order to cobble together a winning plurality.
No, this time it was different. Politicians offered long-term visions. People on the street sensed that a fundamental shift in this South American country’s future was being proposed. Bank reform, land reform, nationalization of the copper mines, improved government health care and a host of other dramatic changes would possibly chart the national direction for generations.
The choices posed to the electorate were dramatic.
Do you want a transportation system based on the car or an effective system of mass transit?
Or, for example, should scarce foreign exchange be used to import luxury foods for a minority or should local agriculture be supported to provide basic food security for all?
Radomiro Tomić, the Christian Democrat’s candidate in the pivotal 1970 election, finally mounted the stage with his family beside him. As he did the crowd chanted “Frei es el presidente, Tomić el siguiente,” “Frei is the president, Tomić the next one.” His speech laid out his vision of Chile’s future out for all to see.
As it turned out, Salvador Allende won a narrow plurality with 36.2 per cent of the vote.
With no majority Tomi, the consummate democrat, provided the needed support in getting the Allende’s election ratified by the Chilean Congress.
The United States almost immediately began destabilizing the country soon to be governed by an avowed Marxist.
Three years later, on September 11, 1973, their plans came to fruition. Allende was dead and the nearly 17-year dictatorial rule of General Pinochet began.
It wouldn’t be until January of 2006 that Chileans returned a Socialist Party candidate to power with the election their first woman president, Michelle Bachelet.
She is part of a movement gaining strength across Latin America that has a longer range vision. They see that ‘another world is possible.’
“One of the failings of the political system,” Senator Romeo Dallaire stated before several hundred Yukoners last Friday in the gym of Porter Creek Secondary School, “is that it is short term and tactical.” Vision is lacking. Forward planning beyond the politically dictated four-year electoral framework appears nearly non-existent.
Herbert Hoover in the 1928 presidential election in the United States promised: “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” A landslide victory over the Democratic candidate, Al Smith, the first Roman Catholic to run for president brought him to power.
Hoover would fit in quite well in this election season.
Seven months after Hoover took his oath of office the great stock market crash of 1929 ended the Republican promises of prosperity.
Slogans and short-term promises aren’t what we need now.
Leaders that can articulate a vision of the future and what we need to do to arrive at that just, sustainable tomorrow are definitely needed.
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, October 4 — Francis of Assisi (1182 –1226) is honoured today as the patron saint of animals and the environment.
Sunday, October 5 — 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time. A suggested reading is Matthew 21: 33-43.
Wednesday, October 8 — Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, begins at sunset. On this most solemn day of the Jewish year strict fasting and repentance are practiced.
Thursday, October 9 — Dussehra or Vijayadashami celebrates the victory of the Goddess Durga and Lord Rama over evil for Hindus.
Friday, October 10 — World Mental Health Day this year urges that mental health services be made a priority globally through citizen advocacy and action.