The concession speech you didn't hear

Juan Cristobal says: – If I were in charge of the opposition (hear hear!!), I would demand my concession speech was carried on cadena nacional.

Before you scoff, think about all the effort the government put in forcing the opposition to commit to respecting the results. Somebody in the opposition should have taken his word for it and said, “Fine, we’ll concede, but as long as you give us a cadena.” Who knows? They might have said yes.

I would then have conceded, but said something that touched these themes, themes that need to be a central core of our message in the coming months and years:

“Desde ahora comienza la batalla para revertir este resultado y volver a enmendar la Constitución para que la democracia continúe siendo una realidad para todos y para que la tolerancia y la alternancia en el poder que soñó el Libertador en el Discurso de Angostura prevalezca.”

One of the things our message has been lacking is punch. Even when down, Chávez sounds threatening. But we manage to sound defeatist even when we win! Is it possible that our meekness is working against us?

Show some sack folks! There are four years left in Chávez’s term and an economic crisis in our hands. It may be hard to tell, but the winds are actually shifting in our favor. If we recover the AN we could change the Constitution back. Plus, 5 million dejected people voted for you – they need for you to throw them a bone, give them a little bit of hope. It would also be nice to take back the Liberator as a symbol for all.

“Venezolanos, muchos de ustedes votaron por la esperanza que representa Chávez. ¿Ustedes quieren saber qué es el socialismo que promete Chávez? Esperen unos meses, cuando todo suba de precio, cuando suba el desempleo, cuando Chávez no pueda cumplir sus promesas, cuando los Mercales y los Barrio Adentro comiencen a cerrar. Cuando sigan los malandros matando sin que nadie se preocupe. Eso es el socialismo chavista – ineficiencia y corrupción. Cuando eso suceda, cuando la decepción del socialismo chavista se haga evidente, aquí los recibiremos con los brazos abiertos. Porque aquí no hay ni escuálidos, ni vendepatrias, ni pitiyanquis, ni fascistas ni golpistas. Aquí lo que hay son hermanos y hermanas. “

The opposition needs to tackle the ideological battle in Venezuela straight on. So far, Chávez has tried to frame socialism as a lovey-dovey free-for-all where poor is rich, rich is rich and we all get along.

BS. We need to start talking about what chavista socialism really is – a wealth-destroying machine that threatens to bring all of us down.

We are at the threshhold of a massive economic crisis caused by Chávez’s reckless policies and, yes, socialism. We need to hit him back with that, and there is no better place to start than with a high-profile speech that many chavistas are bound to be watching.

“No crea, Sr. gobierno, que estamos desarmados. La revolución está armada, pero nosotros también, y si ustedes quieren morir por la patria, pues nosotros tambien. De usted depende que esto no explote – sea sabio y entienda lo que le conviene.”

This gets back to the meekness theme, but also goes a bit further.

Chávez loves to talk about how there would be a civil war without him. We need to tell him straight on that, yes, civil war is not impossible in Venezuela, but it depends on him, not on his absence, and that we are not afraid of him nor of it.

Too many times it seems like we’re trying to run from the legacy of Plaza Altamira and appear as more comeflor than we really are. It comes across as dishonest.

Perhaps we should tell the government we have our own locos desatados, and that they have their guns too. No use in denying they exist – everyone knows they do, and the government should know we can’t control them.

But aside from that, it helps to get the message across that Chávez does not have the monopoly on crazy-bravado talk. Two can play that game.

“No crea, Sr. gobierno, que el pueblo se come el cuento de que nosotros estamos en contra de las misiones. No lo estamos! Estamos en contra de la corrupción en las Misiones, de los módulos de Barrio Adentro que no funcionan, de los hospitales que están por el piso, de los regalos al extranjero, de los dólares para los ricos y para los conectados del gobierno, de los Mercales con estantes vacíos mientras que los buhoneros y los militares matraquean al pueblo, de Misiones que prometen empleo pero no dejan nada, de la falta de vivienda. Las misiones han ayudado, pero el pueblo venezolano merece más!”

“Pero sobre todo, deje de mentirle a la gente metiéndoles miedo. No estamos en contra de las misiones, estamos en contra de la exclusión, de la corrupción y de la idiotez a la hora de formular política social. Queremos misiones, pero misiones sin ladrones y sin exclusiones.”

This idea that we are against the Misiones may be hurting us with crucial constituencies. It’s not enough to say “it’s not true” – we need to spell out what our vision is with respect to social policy. No, we are not against them, but no, we are not for them either. I’ll be posting on this particular topic in more detail in the coming weeks – the opposition needs a “Misiones” policy, but more importantly, it needs a “Misiones” message.

“Mañana comienza la próxima batalla. El reto de la oposición es conquistar la Asamblea Nacional en el 2010 para imponerle la tolerancia y la convivencia a un gobierno que se cree dueño de todo. Queremos una Venezuela donde quepamos todos, donde todos tengamos una voz en la mesa.”

This is the crucial part. The National Assembly elections are all that matters for the year and a half. If the opposition doesn’t get its act together for this, it may be our last chance for a very long time. It would be nice if they began talking about primaries or some way in which they can work out the details of presenting a unified platform.

Seriously folks. It’s back to the drawing board.