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Conclusion Conclusion Argentina’s first experience with full democracy opened on a hopeful note. Yrigoyen entered the Casa Rosada as president with tremendous advantages . He had won significant electoral support and the Radicals had an important voice in congress, even if they did not control the legislative body. The country was wealthy and largely literate, and its divisions seemed manageable. A new era of fair elections had begun and voter support had become critical for the first time. New styles of politics and gaining popular support developed, but the Radicals and Yrigoyen adapted older traditions as well. The employment of the police chiefs of Buenos Aires to negotiate with unions is a perfect example. The way that Yrigoyen and the Radicals sought support profoundly alienated certain sectors of the population. It is important to keep in mind, however, that Yrigoyen won the 1928 presidential elections by a landslide. The malaise that developed in the next two years was partially conjunctural , but the failure of the Radical Party to sustain democracy had longlasting impacts. Until the 1980s national leaders were rarely chosen by fair and open elections, and military coups became increasingly frequent. Yet the Radical Party cast a long shadow. The politics of the next era, 1930–43, revolved around the Neoconservatives trying to maintain themselves in power by excluding the Radicals. For most of the period, the government had a facade of democracy, but the Radicals were not permitted to win elections. Juan Perón, the dominant figure from 1945 to 1955, always claimed to be revitalizing Radical traditions. The Radicals clearly stood for something worthwhile politically. Why did the Radicals have such a large impact? The appeal of the Radicals to the population is not obvious today. They do not seem to offer a sharp break with the past, but the break was far greater than it first appears . The Radicals assumed much of the credit for bringing fair voting to Argentina. They created an image of a party that symbolized moral integrity and portrayed others as corrupt. The Radicals also stood for nationalism . Yrigoyen helped produce an image of himself as a caring and almost saintly figure. He truly cared about the average person. The strategy laPAGE 201 ................. 16996$ CONL 10-03-08 08:39:42 PS 202 argentina’s radical party and popular mobilization, 1916–1930 beled obrerismo did have an impact. It conveyed a message that the party and Yrigoyen cared about the popular classes. Alvear tried to use this strategy but with much less success. Unions, or rather some unions, were used as bridges to the working class. Unions had influence far beyond their small number of members, as their ability to summon larger numbers to join strikes indicates. Unions also provided legitimacy to connections with the government in an ideological world in which this was still viewed with suspicion. This strategy was complicated by the Radicals’ reluctance to move beyond personal contacts and embed the relationship in a bureaucracy or laws. The relationship of Alvear and Ortiz with the railroaders stands as a major exception. The nature of the popular classes worked against the creation of formal relationships as well because both Anarchists and Syndicalists rejected them and the large number of noncitizens limited working-class political importance. Still, compared with past attitudes , the Radicals’ relationship with labor was a major improvement. It allowed many in the working class to feel that they were part of the larger society. The Radical Party became the party of inclusion. The use of patronage and clientelism does not and cannot explain Radical popularity. Both wings, Personalist and Anti-Personalist, used it freely, but only the former won significant support. Patronage allowed the Radicals to create elaborate party structures and involve a large part of the population in campaigns. The Radicals’ popularity also had a downside. By 1930 many found the Radicals to be threatening. They had upset the delicate balance of Argentine society. Politics had become less of an elite preserve.1 The Radicals had made attempts to incorporate the working classes into the larger political and social world. Nonbelievers found the Radicals’ style, especially that of the Personalists, off-putting. The Radicals’ rhetoric, which defined themselves as patriotic and others as unworthy or worse, contributed to the mood of the country. No such thing as a legitimate opposition existed; there could be no loyal opposition. As the Radical control of congress expanded , along with their dominance of the provinces, non-Radical...


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