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Subeditors at work ?

January 16th, 2006

The NYT reports the victory of Socialist Michelle Bachelet (briefly a refugee in Australia) in the Chilean presidential election under the headline “What Is Missing in This Woman’s Victory? Coattails?”

I would take this to mean that there were also Parliamentary/Congressional elections at the same time, and that Ms Bachelet’s party had lost, but the body of the report implies the opposite saying her win “assured another four years in power for the [centre-left] coalition, which has governed Chile without interruption since Gen. Augusto Pinochet was forced to step down in 1990. “Has anyone got any idea what the NYT sub-editor who chose this headline was thinking? As pointed out in the CT comments thread, this is a reference to the point made about halfway through that other female elected presidents in the region have been the widows of political leaders.

In other news from the Chilean campaign, the much-vaunted privatised pension scheme introduced under Pinochet is in serious trouble. Even conservative candidate Sebastián Piñera, brother of José Pinera who introduced the scheme, described it as being in crisis.

The success of the Chilean scheme was always illusory. It was introduced not long after Pinochet’s mismanagement of the exchange rate had generated an economic crisis and stockmarket crash. So early investors got the benefits of above-average returns as the market recovered. These were enough to hide the high administrative costs (between a quarter and a third of contributions) and poor design of the scheme. Once returns fell back to normal the problems became apparent. The government is still footing a huge ‘transitional’ bill, and coverage is patchy at best.

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  1. Katz
    January 16th, 2006 at 16:53 | #1

    The subby’s reference to “coattails” is a bit mystifying.

    Trying to read meaning into context it is possible that the reference may mean one or both of the following:

    1. Bachelet improved the position of the Left in Chile and therefore cannot be said to have risen to power on the efforts of her predecessor.

    2. Class is alleged to have trumped gender. Thus, “coattails” may be said to signify gender, specifically the male gender.

  2. jquiggin
    January 16th, 2006 at 17:50 | #2

    It’s been pointed out at CT that there’s a reference to coattails buried about halfway through the article

  3. January 16th, 2006 at 21:20 | #3

    A socialist, a former political prisoner and exile, and a woman. Sure makes our local scene look boring. Congrats and good luck to Michelle.

  4. January 17th, 2006 at 00:54 | #4

    CS: If she is going to run Chile luck is a key factor. Particularly being socialist, she is naturally inclined to lower the standard of living and bankrupt the country, only luck can save Chile now.

  5. jquiggin
    January 17th, 2006 at 08:55 | #5

    As noted in the post, and spelt out in more detail in the article, Steve, the socialists (and their coalition partners) have been in power for the last 14 years, which suggests they are either very lucky or doing something right.

  6. Vee
    January 17th, 2006 at 09:15 | #6

    With no more information than a televised news blurb and this post. I took it as a reference to gender

  7. January 17th, 2006 at 10:31 | #7

    here is some information.

  8. January 17th, 2006 at 10:33 | #8

    JQ: The ability to win elections in no way confers competence. (Example, NSW & Qld state governments). The way Chile has been run is nothing for them to jerk their thumb at. (granted that Chile comes with quite a few home-grown problems)

  9. Bring Back EP at LP
    January 17th, 2006 at 11:53 | #9

    Steve at the Pub,
    The reason the socialists and partners have won every election since Pinochet left is that they embrace market oriented policies.

    Having said that I wouldn’t have voted for her

  10. Philippa
    January 17th, 2006 at 12:28 | #10

    When I read this article in the NYT this morning, I too was surprised to find the reference to ‘coattails’. Some way through the article there is an explanation – Ms Bachelet was elected on her own merits, not by being a spouse of a successful politician. Was there not a sentence somewhere in the article to that effect?

    I found it an unusual thing to say and I would have thought not the most important thing to say about her election. Not only does there appear to be no successful politician/husband, it is not clear to me that there is a husband at all! (Not that that should be particularly relevant, but if a man had been elected after bringing up 3 children on his own with the earlier life that she experienced, something might well have been made of it!)

  11. January 17th, 2006 at 13:11 | #11

    Yes Phillipa & JQ, “coattails” does stand out because of the way it is used (rather than how it is used).

    The author of the NYT piece seems to have done tremendous amount of reporting from South America. Perhaps osmosis has given him a few unique south american idioms?

    Very quaint. A very concise yet pituresque way of making his point!

  12. January 17th, 2006 at 15:07 | #12

    EP at the LP: She looks rather “hot”, her daughters even more so. Would definitely vote for her!

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