On a Sunday in February, hundreds of Mexican immigrants gathered in Olivar Plaza in downtown Los Angeles to watch Andrés Manuel López Obrador give a speech. López Obrador, who is the leading candidate in the 2018 Mexican presidential race, pledged to defend Mexican immigrants against xenophobia in the United States and argued that Donald Trump had cleverly positioned Mexicans as a scapegoat for rural working-class Americans. “Mexicans . . . who have immigrated to the U.S. fulfill the same function today as the Jewish people who were stigmatized and persecuted during Hitler’s time,” he said to his supporters, some of whom had traveled hundreds of miles for the event.
While the Trump administration has been busy signing executive orders to deport millions of undocumented Mexican immigrants, López Obrador (or AMLO, as he is popularly known by his initials), a charismatic left-wing populist politician and former Mexico City mayor, has been on the road rallying Mexicans in Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, and El Paso, Texas, among other cities. In the June 4 Mexican state elections, López Obrador’s left-wing party lost by a mere 3 percent against the ruling centrist party, an auspicious outcome for López Obrador’s 2018 presidential bid.
The phenomenon of Mexican presidential candidates campaigning in the United States is not a new one. It dates back to the Mexican Revolution of 1910. But in 2017, López Obrador, with his simple populist platform that has remained consistent throughout his two-decade political career, is uniquely positioned to become the first left-wing Mexican president since the 1930s. López Obrador — whose style and message has been compared to Senator Bernie Sanders’ — ran for president in both the 2006 and 2012 elections, losing to Felipe Calderón in 2006 by a mere 0.58 percent of the vote.
Since the passage of the North American Free…