Mexico has long been hostage to unchallengeable traditions: its nationalist approach to oil wealth, overly sensitive attitude toward sovereignty, entrenched labor monopolies, persistent corruption, and self-serving bureaucracy. Acquired over time, these attitudes and practices became cemented in the national soul and embedded in the habits of the government and society, sapping the country's potential.
The good news is that all of this is rapidly changing, as Mexico leaves behind its hefty psychological baggage. Yes, the last 15 years, a time of too little economic growth and too few reforms, have been frustrating, especially for those who expected the transition to democracy to solve everything. But these years have unveiled a new national consensus: a broad agreement on values that, despite seeming normal for any other modern democracy, did not figure clearly in the Mexican public consciousness until very recently.
The vast majority of Mexicans now agree that the only way politicians should get and keep power is through the ballot box and that the clamor for greater accountability and less corruption is legitimate. They believe that protecting human rights, adhering to the rule of law, and ending the culture of impunity are nonnegotiable goals. They demand due process rights and greater security, and they think poverty and social inequality must be reduced, along with the influence of Mexico's powerful monopolies and oligopolies. Yet they also reject any macroeconomic policy associated with large public deficits and consider the advantages of globalization, free trade, and economic integration with the rest of North America greater than the drawbacks.
This new paradigm has slowly displaced the revolutionary nationalism engendered by the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which held the presidency from 1929 until it was defeated in 2000 by the conservative National Action Party (PAN). In elections this past July, the PRI retook the executive branch when Enrique Peña Nieto resoundingly beat the PAN presidential candidate and the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) made a surprisingly strong showing. This outcome was superficially disconcerting: the campaign