The turn-off

Recently, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles responded to chavista suggestions that he would do away with Chávez’s landmark social programs, the Misiones.

In a videotaped reply, Capriles doubled down, promising to improve the Misiones.

His response was wrong on many levels.

What did Capriles say?

Oh, that Mercal, the chain of government grocery stores, would multiply, and that shortages would go away.

He promised to rehabilitate Barrio Adentro health modules, expand Misión Vivienda, and start giving out food and medical subsidies for elder Venezuelans. He also promised free school supplies, eyeglasses, public transportation, and even backpacks for public school kids.

In essence, he promised Populism 2.0.

The problem for Capriles is that it all rings hollow. Promising more and more and more AND MORE money for the Misiones doesn’t get at the heart of why the Misiones are failing: because they are bloated and they fail to integrate civil society and, most importantly, the private sector. Capriles doesn’t even begin to grapple with the idea that all these wonderful things he is promising are simply out of reach for a financially bankrupt and bureacratically inefficient State apparatus.

But never mind. It seems like someone, somewhere convinced Capriles that all he needs to do to win an election is offer, offer, offer goodies that will simply fall out of the sky. Instead of talking to Venezuelans like adults and showing them that, yes, he understands the issues, he is simply promising things Venezuelan swing voters, deep down, simply don’t buy.

I hope I’m wrong, but I think they dropped the ball on this one.