Ph.D. Spotlight: Democratic Blind Spots: Organized Labor and the Persistence of Subnational Authoritarianism in Mexico

Newly transitioned democracies frequently exhibit authoritarian traits at the subnational level. Despite incentives to transition to democracy, subnational transitions occur unevenly. Some occur through natural electoral change, others due to intervention, while some enclaves are able to resist these pressures entirely. Thus, a question arises: under what conditions are subnational autocracies able to resist these pressures?

Answering this requires grappling with two basic questions. What scenarios can be considered subnational authoritarianism, and what conditions lead to its persistence?

The literature on subnational authoritarianism tends to focus on how these enclaves interact with national governments, ignoring how they maintain support in their own regions. Dr. Griffis’s dissertation seeks to explain authoritarian persistence in the case of Mexico. This research will contribute to the broader literature in several ways. First, it expands on previous work on subnational authoritarianism, showing how local conditions drive mass support and party cohesion. Second, this work appeals to previous research on autocratic regimes and their coalitions. Finally, this project contributes to previous work on the quality of democracy and consolidation in new democracies.

This dissertation proposes subnational autocrats maintain their local coalitions from the previous autocratic regime. Where they are able to successfully maintain these coalitions through economic and political shocks they can persist indefinitely into a nationally democratic regime. The empirical analysis in this dissertation looks specifically at Mexico, where organized labor remained an important supporter of the Institutional Revolutionary Party well after the democratic transition. I use data on organized labor mobilization, PRI electoral support, and social spending to see if there is an electoral and social spending connection between organized labor and the PRI. There is no clear evidence that labor served as a critical player in local elections for the PRI.

Dr. Griffis is a data analytics consultant at Opinion Dynamics. This post is based on Dr. Griffis’s dissertation abstract. You can learn more about this project on DigiNole. You can connect with Dr. Griffis on LinkedIn.

The feature image is from Pexels.

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