Claudia Sheinbaum’s Victory Is a Triumph for Mexico

Claudia Sheinbaum has won Mexico’s presidential election in a landslide. In her victory speech, she paid homage to the social movements of the past and promised to continue MORENA’s impressive record of social progress.

Claudia Sheinbaum, winner for the presidency of Mexico for the MORENA party, on June 3, 2024. (Gerardo Vieyra / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The MORENA leadership holed up in the Hilton Hotel in Mexico City was in a state of quiet shock: they knew they were going to win Mexico’s presidential election, but not by that much. As results trickled in yesterday evening, it became clear that the long-expected victory was a drubbing.

So far, Claudia Sheinbaum holds a thirty-point lead over her conservative rival, Xóchitl Gálvez, 58.3 percent to 28.7 percent, with third-party candidate Jorge Álvarez Maynez coming in at 10.5 percent. According to projections made by the National Electoral Institute, Sheinbaum’s final total was expected to fall within a range of 58.3–60.7 percent, outperforming all but a pair of final preelection polls.

According to the institute’s conteo rápido, or fast count, the landslide was expected to carry over into Congress as well, with MORENA and its allies winning up to 380 of 500 seats in the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, and up to 88 of 128 seats in the Senate. This would put the center-left coalition within range of its ambitious goal of achieving a qualified majority of two-thirds, which would allow it to pass constitutional reforms on its own (together with the state legislatures it controls). And not only did MORENA win the all-important mayorship of Mexico City with candidate Clara Brugada, the MORENA coalition is also set to pick up at least six of the eight governor’s races up for grabs.

To put MORENA’s victory in perspective, Sheinbaum is on course to best Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO)’s 2018 landslide victory of 53 percent by some five to seven points. Where AMLO received a historic total of thirty million votes, Sheinbaum will have received some thirty-five million. Similarly, Gálvez was running about ten to twelve points behind the conservative party’s total in that election. In 2018, the conservative parties Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and National Action Party (PAN) ran separately; this year, they ran in coalition. But instead of adding in numbers, the coalition wound up subtracting.

A Refusal to Be Goaded

True to her scientific background, Sheinbaum ran a disciplined, methodical campaign. Taking nothing for granted despite holding a virtually unchanged lead since announcing her candidacy, Sheinbaum racked up the miles, holding three times as many rallies as Gálvez. Where Gálvez veered from one uncosted policy proposal to another, Sheinbaum rolled out a hundred-point program that includes extending social programs and scholarships, continuing annual minimum-wage increases, consolidating Mexico’s push toward national health care, building a million affordable homes on a rent-to-buy plan, constructing seven long-distance train lines, avoiding the maquiladora experience of the 1990’s by mandating that companies investing in the “nearshoring” phenomenon provide higher wages and benefits, and — in what is certain to continue raising the shackles of multinational energy interests — a public sector–led energy transition building on Mexico’s state-owned oil, electricity, and lithium companies.

Throughout the campaign and over the course of three debates, Sheinbaum refused to be goaded by opposition candidate Gálvez’s scattershot series of attacks that got nastier over time. Gálvez, playing to the hilt a go-negative campaign strategy, attacked everything from her character to her family to her record as Mexico City mayor, winding up with a series of dog-whistle insinuations about Sheinbaum’s Jewish heritage.

Sheinbaum also refused to be goaded by those who repeated that she is going to be a puppet of outgoing president AMLO: every time someone would try to insist on the need to create a more individualistic image — as if she were marketing a new brand of cereal or detergent — Sheinbaum would calmly explain that she represents a social movement and that her administration will proudly be the segundo piso, or second floor, of Mexico’s Fourth Transformation. And she did it all with the poker-face persona that served her in good stead as mayor of Mexico City — one that, eschewing the attempt to force a lofty oratorical style, asserted her authority with understated consistency both in interviews and on the stump. Voters approved.

Sheinbaum’s victory also came despite a coordinated international campaign of media and bots that attempted to paint AMLO and MORENA as being in collusion with drug cartels. This is only a chapter in a nonstop media onslaught that sneered and slandered its way through AMLO’s administration without deigning to learn a thing about what was happening underneath its very limited radar.

For the election, a gaggle of foreign journalists touched down in Mexico City, marveling that such a “machista” country could be electing a woman president — and so comfortably. Once again, all of the comfortable tropes — election of state, voters bought off by social programs, a religious populace in thrall to the “handpicked successor” of a messianic leader — were trundled out, anything to avoid granting agency to Mexican voters or seeing what has been happening on the ground: a policy-driven process of party realignment in which working-class voters, scattered across parties in the 2018 election, have concentrated in MORENA while maintaining the party’s cross-class coalition largely intact.

After a victory acknowledgement in the Hilton, Sheinbaum made her way to Mexico City’s main square, the Zócalo. There she paid homage to the social movements of the past, from workers to students, teachers to farmers, and read out the names of women who have played pivotal roles in Mexico’s history. As the latest member of that list, Sheinbaum will have an enormous electoral mandate, even larger than AMLO’s. As of October 1, the presidente will now be the presidenta.