Talking to the NiNis

Another area where the Coordinadora Democratica failed disastrously was in to thinking through its target audience. By and large, the traditional oppo was happy to talk to hardcore antichavistas only. It never really put together a message to attract the political center. It still hasn’t.

This is a serious problem. For all the talk about polarization, both hardcore antichavismo and hardcore chavismo have remained minority positions in Venezuela over the last two years. The largest single piece of the political cake has remained the “Ni Nis” – the politically orphaned people who question both Chavez and the opposition. According to survey and focus group data gathered by Hinterlaces, 51% of voters were politically non-alligned in March 2005. In the 20 months preceding that study, the NiNis averaged 47% of the electorate.

According to the study, 30% of the Ni Nis identify with some of Chavez’s values, but would welcome new political alternatives. They don’t consider themselves chavistas, but they voted against revoking Chavez. Half of NiNis broadly question Chavez, but see a few positive aspects in his discourse and his government. 60% of this group voted to against Chavez in the referendum. The remaining 20% of NiNis oppose the government radically, but don’t identify with the traditional opposition. In fact, the one thing that brings NiNis together is that they all reject a traditional opposition they see as a holdover from the despised ancien regime.

So the traditional opposition has pretty successfully alienated a large political center. The good news is that 69% of the people Hinterlaces interviewed in March ardently wished for a credible alternative to Chavez. They wanted a fresh face, one that isn’t fixated on Chavez, with a positive vision for the future, and free from the stench of puntofijismo.

You can see where I’m going with this. If the polling data can be believed, the country is ready and waiting for a group like Venezuela de Primera. Run by a frighteningly bright guy, disciplined in its message, free of cuarta republica dinosaurs, armed with an optimistic message of renewal taylor made to the demands of NiNis, fully conscious of where the traditional opposition went wrong and determined to learn from those mistakes.

They say the definition of crazy is someone who keeps doing the same thing and keeps expecting different results. By that measure, the traditional opposition is certifiably crazy. Roberto Smith, at the very least, is sane.