A recent conversation with neighbors of the Plaza Santa Ana, in Lo Espejo; an impromptu walk through downtown Santiago or through the streets of his native Punta Arenas; a meeting with residents of La Legua; a meeting of the political committee of ministers in Renca; and a stay in a hostel – owned by a retired teacher – during her tour in Arica. All these facts, starring President Gabriel Boric, in the opinion of analysts, reveal a strategy of La Moneda to highlight the personality of the President in order to capture a Republican story, based on face-to-face contact, which also serves to attenuate the result of the polls, which although they place him in a low valuation, -in the opinion of observers- this low is not appreciated in the street, where on the contrary it is well received.
The President’s strategy, in the XXI Century, constitutes a mirror of the way of governing of former presidents prior to the coup d’état, such as Salvador Allende himself or Jorge Alessandri Rodríguez -whose management lasted between 1958 and 1964- who is remembered for maintaining direct contact with the people, such as his usual walks to the Palace of La Monada. In that sense, in a way, what the head of state seeks is to recover a story that was generated in contact with people, which was how politics was made historically in Chile, based on dialogue and face to face.
This is believed by the publicist and academic of the Diego Portales University, Cristián Leporati, who thinks that after the dictatorship, and considering the level of polarization that has been increasing in the country, somehow, the presidents were moving away from the people, in terms of face to face in the street, also due to the lack of communication skills, that in his opinion, if he had at the time the former President Michelle Bachelet. From that perspective, the head of state seeks to establish a story that maintains certain similarities with the communication deployment of the former President, who gave him her support in the presidential second round and with whom she met a few days ago, after her arrival in the country.
“For the same reason, I think that what Boric is doing is simply recovering a republican narrative, traditional in Chile, with the risks that this implies today, for everything that happens in the country, but he understands that it is a reasonable risk and also because there is another reason, which alludes to his personal attributes, to an empathy that Boric demonstrated since he was a deputy and also in the presidential campaign, so I doubt that he takes advantage of it communicationally as a political strategy, but it is basically his nature, and it is something that is natural and spontaneous. And that is good for him and for a government that until now is based more less between a minister like Mario Marcel, the tranquility of Camila Vallejo and the leadership and empathy with the people that President Boric has, “says Leporati.
However, experts believe that although the deployment of this attribute of empathy and closeness to people as a communication strategy is positive, it should be avoided to abuse this resource, as it can be on the verge of populism. An example of this occurred during the recent presidential tour of Arica, when the president decided to stay in a hostel, owned by a retired teacher, in a stay that he recorded with photographs that his communications equipment went viral.
Now, the expert in political journalism and director of the Department of Journalism at the Alberto Hurtado University, Ximena Orchard, believes that this story in President Boric is not necessarily something new, but is a commitment to reissue or revitalize a strategy that gave him good returns during his campaign. The academic considers that “it is an attribute of closeness that has been installed and built around his person, since that period, and that now could serve him, in a more adverse context, with a slightly lower approval than at the beginning of his administration and with a politically polarized and tense context, where his management has not been without criticism, more than his figure”.
In this regard, Orchard points out that “if the President manages to install the seal of closeness as a seal of his Government and not of his person, it would clearly be a triumph, because until now, those attributes are rather associated with him as a figure, and perhaps also with the spokeswoman minister, who has had a performance in general outstanding and recognized as well. It seems to me that they are not necessarily attributes thatand have managed to transfer to the entire cabinet, although there are some people who have had better harmony, either with the press or in general with a close relationship with the people. But it seems to me that, in terms of work on the ground, this is concentrated above all around the President. Now, I think that his figure is probably the main asset of his Government and, therefore, it seems to me that it is an appropriate strategy, which is not something new, but rather to reinforce an attribute that he already has and for which he is recognized. ”
A strategy that seeks to counter survey narratives
Both academics agree that President Boric – understanding him as an individual figure – is betting on building a less mediatized relationship, based on the direct relationship with people, because he understands that it is the people who finally value the attributes of the leaders. A strategy that in the opinion of analysts seeks to counteract the narratives installed from the polls, related above all to the declines in his popularity and the negative evaluation of the management of his Government. In this regard, the question arises about the effectiveness of these surveys, against which Cristián Leporati believes that in their great majority, they start from an ideological bias.
In this context, the publicist and academic of the Diego Portales University considers that “the polls in some way what they are reflecting is the thinking of an elite -whether left, right or business- where it is reflected as ideologically a state of this country understands politics, and from that perspective, I think they are asking biasedly, with methodologies that are quite debatable, except for the CEP, which does use a methodology that allows to have several certainties. Then, the polls are generating a fairly large imaginary in the citizens regarding a government of the day. But, also, what a poll normally does is measure a system – in its entirety – and it is not that the President in particular is being punished, the President, all the ministers, the undersecretaries are also being punished and the blindness of a political system that is not able to understand the most relevant problems of the people is also being punished. ”
For Leporati, that bias in the polls would allow us to understand why this negative view of the figure of the President is not reflected in his face-to-face relationship with people. And in addition, the publicist believes that there is another factor that could explain the closeness and empathy of the president with the citizens -beyond his personal attributes- which is that, in his opinion, Chile is a country quite “sponsored” in terms of authority, where said authority generates respect and is a face and a famous person, where “the President reaches a star breath, very much in the Hollywood line, and is a media person, where the media also contribute to the construction of these figures that go far beyond the position. It is something that has happened with all presidents, more loved or less loved,” he says.
If it is a strategy, or rather it is something natural and spontaneous, there is certainty that President Gabriel Boric seeks to overcome that image of a President who is part of an elite, sitting at his desk, away from the people and afraid to go out on the street. However, analysts agree that the biggest challenge is that this empathy goes beyond the mere figure of the president and is favorable to a government that has had to face serious problems in its first months of management. For now, from La Moneda they are betting on taking advantage of a story that allows them to navigate with a little more tranquility in the turbulent social and political context.
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