What we're up against

As the death of Luis Tascón brings back to mind the government’s long-standing willingness to abuse state power, it’s worth stopping to realize quite what we’re up against on September 26th’s elections for National Assembly. Take this item, almost at random, from the news: 50 army soldiers spotted in Barinas setting up for a PSUV rally. Or this one: 1.5 million PSUV patrulleros ready to go door knocking ahead of 26S.

Each, in its way, shows the massive structural imbalance the opposition has to overcome ahead of these elections. Because it’s not just the rigged Election map. It’s not just the over-representation of rural states and the blatant gerrymandering. It’s not just that the opposition is shut out of most broadcast media. It’s that the government openly uses its control of the state, the bureaucracy, hell even the army, to build a massive ground operation that the opposition is structurally unable to match. 

Think about it: if an opposition politico wants to hold a rally and he needs 50 to help set up, he’s going to have to sweat for those volunteers. If it’s PSUV, one phone call and one order do the job.

And if PSUV wants to build a massive ground campaign that reaches every street in every neighborhood in every city, town and village in the country they soon realize that…there are public employees in every neighborhood in every city, town and village in the country that can be more or less openly coerced into doing it. 

What’s hardest to pinpoint, though, is how all of the different aspects of ventajismo build up on top of one another into archaeological layers…because it’s really all of them together: the massive money advantage on top of the gerrymandered districts on top of the opposition’s lack of access to broadcast media on top of the army’s open partiality on top of public employees and their family’s justified fears for their livelihood on top of a Statewide List mechanism that doesn’t actually add proportionality to the electoral system on top of PSUV’s 1.5 million "forced volunteers"…that’s a lot of "on top ofs", you know?

Lets be clear: the macro-social framework sucks for chavismo right now. If you try to forecast its electoral performance on the basis of its crumbling popularity, it’s hard to imagine how they get more than 80 seats.

But los rusos tambien juegan. Chavismo knows it’s working with a deeply skeptical electorate now. For chavismo, using its multiple layers of advantages to turn out a base that’s fed up is what this election is now about. 

Can it work? Honestly, I have no idea.

I just know that chavismo’s wholesale abuse of state power to maintain their hold on the state started with the Tascón List – but it sure didn’t end there.