From 1920 to the early 1990s, Mexico experienced a degree of political stability that was unique in Latin America. This book has argued that the stability was largely a result of the institutionalization of the regime, its effectiveness in achieving economic growth, its adaptability to demands from society, the high degree of elite unity, its willingness to use coercion, and its location next to the United States which provided support for its regime and economic relief in the form of investment and emigration. These conditions created what has been called "the perfect dictatorship." However, the conditions within which these factors operate have changed dramatically in recent years, and each factor that previously contributed to stability may now contribute to instability. If the political system is to remain stable, the regime must be adaptable enough to respond to the widespread demand for liberal democracy, which includes conceding governorships, state legislatures, the congress, and eventually even the presidency itself to opposition parties if they win these offices in fair elections. In that case, Mexico would in effect have a new regime within a continuing, stable political system. At the end of the twentieth century, democracy may be the only route to continued political stability in Mexico.
Like Lyndon Johnson, who did not want to be "the first American president to lose a war" (he apparently forgot the War of 1812), or Winston Churchill, who "did not become the king's first minister to preside over the dissolution of the British Empire," no Mexican president wanted to be the one to preside over the disappearance of the revolutionary regime that had held power for seven decades. It is not surprising that the president and the regime resisted a change of this magnitude. However, Carlos Salinas had the opportunity to play a historical role. He could either be like Porfirio Díaz, the recalcitrant conservative who refused to adapt to demands for more democratic participation and who thereby provoked the Mexican Revolution, or he could be a creative, "transformational" leader like Rómulo Betancourt, who went beyond "normal" behavior in an effort to lead his society to a new level of development. 44