Paraguay politics

Let’s consider Paraguay, a country that has traditionally been dominated by two parties, the Colorados and the Liberals.  I’ll make up a hypothetical set of facts, and you tell me the most plausible way to interpret this imaginary scenario:

1.  Manuel Suarez of the Colorado Party is elected president.

2.  Almost all Liberals view Suarez as a dishonest, vindictive demagogue.

3.  The leading Colorado intellectuals and pundits view Suarez as a dishonest, vindictive demagogue.

4.  Roughly 80% of former leaders of the Colorado party (who are now retired from politics) view Suarez as a dishonest, vindictive demagogue.

5.  Roughly 10% of current Colorado politicians criticize Suarez as if he were a dishonest, vindictive demagogue.

6.  In private, most Colorado politicians view Suarez as a dishonest, vindictive demagogue, even while supporting him publicly in order to please their constituents.

7.  Most Colorado voters do not view Suarez as a dishonest, vindictive demagogue.  These voters support Suarez on virtually all issues, regardless of whether his views represent traditional Colorado positions.

Suppose you were a French, Australian or Egyptian political scientist, examining the political situation in Paraguay.  You have no emotional tie to either the Colorados or the Liberals.  You are examining the situation as dispassionately as one might study an ant farm.  Which hypothesis would you regard as most plausible:

A.  Suarez is a dishonest, vindictive demagogue.

B.  Suarez is not a dishonest, vindictive demagogue.  Rather he’s very much misunderstood by the elites in Asuncion, of both parties, who follow him most closely.  Only his cult-like following among ordinary voters of one political party see him for what he is.

Screen Shot 2018-08-19 at 12.44.58 PM

PS.  AP had a good piece on how GOP politicians view the Trump cult.  I almost broke out laughing when I read the concluding paragraph:

“The Trump phenomenon is going to end at some point in time. That might be six years, that might be two years, that might be sooner. No one knows,” the former Ohio GOP chairman said. “When it does end, it’s the job of a lot of us … to make sure that the party is still populated by good, honest, decent candidates and officeholders who we can continue to be proud of.”




13 Responses to “Paraguay politics”

  1. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    19. August 2018 at 11:11

    You can’t actually tell who Suarez really is, because there are so many lies both in favor of him and against him. You actually have to look at the relevant facts, not skewed perceptions.

    Trump is certainly highly dishonest, and is somewhat demagogic, but only mildly vindictive. The most vindictive thing he’s done is pulling security clearance from the former CIA chief, who is a known liar and plays a delusional paranoiac on TV.

    The Trump phenomenon is going to end at some point in time.

    The facts indicate it’s only getting started. Independent businessmen without previous political experience have been winning Republican primaries at an unprecedented rate all over the country.

  2. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    19. August 2018 at 11:16

    BTW Kasich/Bush are entirely distinct politicians from Sanford/Flake. The latter are much more fiscally conservative, especially Sanford.

  3. Gravatar of jroll jroll
    19. August 2018 at 13:38

    “traditional Colorado positions”

    Open borders, trade deficits, privatizing social security, and the invasion of Iraq?

  4. Gravatar of B Cole B Cole
    19. August 2018 at 17:26

    It is possible that Suarez is a vindictive corrupt demagogue but who also promotes policies that improve lives of citizens (usually).

    This describes Xi of China, no?


    Trump is such a fearsome character that Omarosa secretly records conversations and then writes a tell-all book.

    Try that on Putin.

    When it comes to demagogues Trump is…well, laughable.

  5. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    19. August 2018 at 21:58

    @B Cole: Just because he’s crappy at it doesn’t mean he isn’t trying…

  6. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    19. August 2018 at 23:36

    B. Cole

    With respect, you seem very confused about China. It isn’t top-down policies that have improved lives there, but freer markets.

  7. Gravatar of Robbie Robbie
    20. August 2018 at 01:12

    Found this tweet, perfect summary of prof Sumner’s political philosophy

  8. Gravatar of Robbie Robbie
    20. August 2018 at 01:13


    We have always been at war with Eastasia

  9. Gravatar of P Burgos P Burgos
    20. August 2018 at 12:42

    I think that the word dishonest makes the above thought experiment confusing. This is because one way that a politician or leader can be viewed as dishonest is by advocating one set of policies on the campaign trail, and then pursuing another set of policies while in office. Another meaning of dishonesty is in distorting facts or lying about things that should be factual matters. Yet another meaning of dishonest is that the politician breaks deals (in a transactional, you do this and I will do that sort of sense).

    I suspect that Suarez is dishonest in the sense that he lies with regards to factual matters, and also in the transactional sense. But wouldn’t French/Egyptian/Australian political scientists want to know why that sort of stuff doesn’t matter to ordinary voters of one political party?

    Also, I find the use of the word demagogue in reference to electoral politics to be strange, and I think confused. The definition of a demagogue is “a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.” The only politicians who aren’t demagogues are those who lose elections, because voting isn’t rational, or at the very least it always involves prejudice, as does all human life and action. At the very least, labeling someone a demagogue is a very convenient way to announce the sentiment that “I disagree with that person, and with the electorate, and I do not view that disagreement as legitimate or as disagreement in good faith.” One question that Suarez (and other so-called demagogues like Chavez, or Orban) raises is why no one was ruling with a view to popular desire before their ascension to power.

    For me, the key would be in unpacking the contradiction inherent in this statement (no. 7 above): “Most Colorado voters do not view Suarez as a dishonest, vindictive demagogue. These voters support Suarez on virtually all issues, regardless of whether his views represent traditional Colorado positions.” If Suarez is accurately described as a demagogue, then it must be the case that Suarez’s stance on the issues reflect “popular desires and prejudices,” and it makes one wonder why those Colorado voters supported politicians who advocated traditional Republican positions even though those positions were not in sync with the “popular desires and prejudices” of Colorado voters. If it isn’t actually accurate that Suarez’s positions on the issues reflect those popular prejudices and desires, then it also isn’t accurate to call him a demagogue. Additionally, something else must explain his popularity. For what it is worth, I think that Suarez is a demagogue and the Colorado party was simply not pressured before into giving Colorado voters what they want. I don’t think that Colorado voters would turn so viciously on the party’s leadership if the voters felt like the leadership had been doing right by them (and they certainly wouldn’t have called Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan “cucks”).

  10. Gravatar of Jeff Jeff
    21. August 2018 at 08:10

    Could be that the voters know pretty much all of the politicians are dishonest, and that most of their claimed policy positions are bullshit. Could be the voters recognize that after years of voting for conventional Colorado politicians, spending and regulations are higher than ever, and that both the Colorados and the Liberals were happy to bail out Wall Street so that none of the least deserving missed a bonus payment. Could be the voters thought it was time to try someone who wasn’t a career politician and see what he could do. Could be the voters actually like someone who fights back against the politically correct practitioners of identity politics who are more than happy to Balkanize the country if it leads to political advantage. Could be the voters understand that in politics, you do have to punish your enemies if you want to be effective. Revoking a security clearance for someone who is no longer in the government is not all that vindictive since it should have been done as a routine matter anyway.

    Suarez is a bit uncouth. Who cares? Previous well-mannered Colorado leaders were just run over by the Liberals and their media allies, but Suarez is proving that insulting them at every turn is an effective counter. He’s even picking up support from minority groups that have voted Liberal for generations. Sure it’s all a bit unseemly. But so is the extremely biased press. And it’s working.

  11. Gravatar of John Thacker John Thacker
    21. August 2018 at 12:12


    Sounds like you’re describing former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, right? He was removed from office for blatantly violating the Honduran constitution and Supreme Court, with the the Supreme Court’s ruling supported by Congress (which had a majority of his own Liberal party), the country’s attorney general, top electoral body, and the country’s human rights ombudsman, who all said that Zelaya violated the law. However, Honduras lacked an formal impeachment mechanism in their constitution, so most official outside observers basically took option B, strangely.

    The UN, OAS, and EU all called it an illegal military coup and strongly condemned it at the time. (My view was that it was an impossible constitutional crisis, with two of the branches strongly agreeing that Zelaya was violating the law.)

  12. Gravatar of John Thacker John Thacker
    21. August 2018 at 12:21

    Perhaps it’s because Zelaya went super-leftist and allied with Chavez and the Castros, alienating his Liberal Party, but all those political scientists and governments decided to ignore the Honduran Supreme Court, Congress, members of both parties, etc., and decide that Zelaya was misunderstood and that the Supreme Court’s order should have been ignored and Zelaya allowed to violate clear law.

  13. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    23. August 2018 at 14:23

    Hilarious (quote at the end). Thanks for a good laugh Scott.

Leave a Reply