The visionary rodent


It’s been more than a month since the Presidential election, and we are still arguing about what happened and how we move forward.

Too much of a good thing?

One thing I haven’t really seen is serious introspection on the part of the Capriles campaign or the candidate himself. I guess he is busy running for Governor in Miranda, but it would be nice if they could say what they could have, or should have, done differently.

Now, I’m on the record saying the campaign was pretty good (“perfect”), so I’m as guilty of this as anyone. But still, looking back on it, maybe there was room for improvement.

For some reason, this post by the Bipolar Capybara keeps coming back to me.

Written a few months ago, it was eerily prescient of a big flaw in the Capriles campaign’s unerring, hyper-focused message discipline that we praised so much … but that may well have spelled his/its/our doom.

We didn’t think so at the time, but we should have: when the guys on your side are making fun of you for not saying anything substantive … perhaps you have a problem.

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  1. “hindsight is 20/20”. Maybe if he didn’t do that it could have been worse.

    And no, the Capybara wasn’t on his side necessarily. I like to believe he played a neutral’s sifrino part, just that the Chaverment is easier to poke fun at.

  2. Find your message, keep it simple, drive it home relentlessly.

    Even my niece, who is just learning spanish, looked at the Capriles campaign poster in our kitchen and asked me: “Why does it say: ‘there is a shirt’?” The shirt, the hat, the phrase: whatever- the message gets through, even if you can’t read it.

  3. They could not have worked any harder, that’s for sure.

    But sure, there was room for improvement. They could have done some things better.

    One thing’s for sure — they don’t wish they had taken a different position on misiones, as you’ve been suggesting they should have.

    In Venezuela, misiones are THE symbol. If you’re not for them, you don’t get to talk to millions of Venezuelans — it’s that simple.

    The misiones are not one of many policy issues — they represent the idea that oil wealth can be distributed in a way that changes people’s lives.

    A lot of recent CC comments have gone something like this: When Venezuelans voted for Chavez, they voted for continued corruption/crime/immorality/whatever. But they voted for Chavez DESPITE these things, not because of them.

    They voted for Chavez because of the promise represented by those misiones.

    I see your big-picture point — that unless we have a more honest conversation about the inefficiencies of these programs, it’s hard to make progress over the long run, etc etc. But I would remind you that reaching voters in Venezuela is really, really hard to do. Most voters only saw a tiny snippet of Capriles from time to time.

    We don’t get to, you know, show PowerPoints every night.

    • I agree that the Misiones aspect was not one we could touch easily, and yet … couldn’t he have tried to articulate a little more clearly what his Misiones would look like?

      As for not having access to people, I disagree. Capriles was talking to hundreds of thousands of people in his rallies every day. He could have used that opportunity to put some meat in the Hay Un Camino bones.

      • The people at his rallies already agreed with him!

        So don’t think a meatier discourse there would have helped him much.

        As for whether or not it’s hard to reach Class E voters in Venezuela — there’s really not much room for discussion there.

        That’s why Chavez was happy to take the short-term hit for dumping RCTV — it has paid dividends over and over.

        If you want a proper target for your anger/disappointment, how about switching from the Capriles campaign to Cisneros and Venevision?

        • Speeches at the rallies would have made the news, where it would have reached other people (undecideds). But maybe I’m wrong (see? That right there is introspection. If only the Capriles folks understood that)

          • But these rally speeches barely made it on to the news — only at the end, in the final days — and only (for most Venezuelans) in miniscule fragments.

            There is a more sophisticated argument to be made to the people — but it is hard to make it 20 seconds at a time.

            The Capriles strategy was to take the misiones off the table, and then attempt to create an advantage on crime and jobs.

            That’s what they were trying to do in the short and infrequent moments in which they could communicate with Class E Venezuelans.

            Hey, maybe it even worked.

            There were a lot of voters who were worried about the secrecy of the vote. Really worried. Maybe those voters preferred Capriles but made the reasonable assumption that Chavez would win and decided to play it safe with their vote.

            Which means that the failure of the Capriles campaign would have been a failure to reassure about the secrecy of the vote, rather than a failure to persuade.

        • SO, what I’m getting is that there is nothing we could have done differently, and we still lost by ten points. Therefore … we are unelectable! I guess we can agree on that.

          • I think there are things we could have done differently, but the fight was so uneven in so many aspects that maybe the messaging effort could have been lost anyway.

          • Well, the thing is, anyone is unelectable against Chavez! Not even Jesus christ would have beaten Chavez, had he been the candidate of the opposition. And I’m not joking here.

          • I think there’s a lot of things that we could do, but all of us are so afraid of doing them that we don’t do squat… and no one wanted to risk his own pellejo to do them

    • “But they voted for Chavez DESPITE these things, not because of them.”

      More so than that Lucia, they voted for Chavez also from, in no particular order, fear, money and convenience.

      The incredible get out the vote machine Chavismo inflicted on voters, coupled with using state resources to bury the opposition put paid to any “excellent campaign” that any candidate could have fielded.

      Juan, the opposition is no so much un-electable because of a message failure, it is unelectable because the cards are so stacked against them that no one can win, it is nowhere near a level playing field.

      If you add in the almost meek behavior from the MUD towards the CNE, it is no wonder we lost.

      It is an actual wonder we did get 6.5 MM votes.

  4. Chavez solo hay uno. No one gets to beat Chavez, by being a tapa amarilla version of Chavez. It is a stupid stance, no, not stupid actually, unelectable, innit Juan?

    Getting voters on board with PowerPoint every night… Now there’s quite the succint explanation of the utter uselessness of the current crop of oppo leaders, and their advisors…

  5. Q: What was the objective of the opposition?
    A: To gain as many voters as possible in a long hyper-polarized environment.

    I agree with Canuck. Find the message, keep it simple, drive it home relentlessly. To this end, Capriles navigated brilliantly. Six plus million is nothing to snuff about, moreover where the other side had vast advantages (no limits to communications nor funds, the latter used to coerce votes from a list of housing applicants). I don’t think it was the time to flood the communication channels with too much or too-conflicting information.

    • Syd: Just answer me this:

      What is anyone gonna do with 6.5 MM votes when the communes are given Constitutional Rango? When governorships and Mayoralties become worthless figurehead positions while the money and the power goes elsewhere?

      What are 6.5 MM Venezuelans going to do about this?
      My belief is, NOTHING. Not a thing.

      Because not one person in the opposition is willing to stand up and draw a line in the sand.
      There is no time left for “sticking to the message” if that message is the same one Capriles used.

      They keep calling for people to go out and vote, as if this were a Democracy and the Marquis de effin Queensbury ran the CNE.

      Wake up and smell the Nicaraguan COFFEE, hon.

      I mean, I respect your thoughts and opinions, but it is time to think differently and to become confrontational because that is what “Venezuelans” truly understand. Sure, there are some of us that want things to go the “right way”, the peaceful way, the DEMOCRATIC way, but that does not happen in places like Venezuela today.

      A majority of our countrymen sent a very clear message, they are OK with the last 14 years, and are OK with whatever comes next from the Venecubocracy.

      • Roberto N,

        I can’t fully agree. I don’t think the numbers indicate that so many Venezuelans are ok with chavismo. I don’t think it is so 2-dimensional. I think the majority of voting decisions were based on lesser of two evils, including consideration for the risk to personal economic status. From the ever increasing number of protests, rather than from the election results, it is clear that people are not quite ok with the current government. I see the election results to mean that they were not convinced that the new candidate would guarantee personal short term improvement. And I do emphasize short term. The reason for such weight in the short term is that it is very difficult for the hungry to think long term; I would not hold that against them.

      • Roberto:
        (1) I do not bash Capriles for his campaign. He stuck to the peace and inclusion message that overwhelmingly voted him in, in February. That is, after Venezuelans considered various messages on the anger-confusion-love-in sprectrum, presented by mostly ‘pollitos políticos’. Es lo que hubo, vale. Y esa es la gran tragedia, después de tantos años.
        (2) I do not malign all 6.5 million who voted for the opposition. Nor do I think simplistically, by automatically considering the majority of voters to be OK with the last 14 years and what comes next. Life’s a little more complicated than that, my friend.
        (3) Like any product that doesn’t make it to market, Capriles’ message has expired. Finito. It was time to go back to the drawing board. I do not know what will come next.
        (4) December 16th will reveal ‘otra dimensión desconocida’. I’m not hopeful. I don’t see a político on the horizon who can break through the riddled impasse, who has the strength of personality and oratory, who has great credentials and experience, and who can command respect.
        (5) In the meantime, please stay away from the gun counter at Wal-Mart. Especially after all that Nicaraguan coffee, hon.

        • Extorres:

          If X number of those 8 million held their noses when voting for Chavez, then what’s to say they won’t hold their noses too when it comes time to form a commune?

          And where is the person or movement that will inspire them to let go and breathe normal?

          I understand that they were worried, I get it. So where is the person/movement that they will trust?

          My belief is that that person/movement does not exist in Venezuela at the present time, nor will it come to exist in time to stop what is coming down the pike, unless it starts the day before yesterday.

          I have very serious concerns regarding the elections on the 16th., because even if a miracle occurs and we get 22 governorships that will still not stop the Chavernment from doing what it wants to do and install Communism until the cows come home.

          I too, Syd, am not bashing Capriles’ message during the campaign. I am advocating getting more confrontational now, after the campaign. When was the last time Venezuela was able to hold off major change? When the students spearheaded almost daily protests in large numbers that eventually led to a “Victoria Pyrrica de Mierda” speech.

          “December 16th will reveal ‘otra dimensión desconocida’. I’m not hopeful. I don’t see a político on the horizon who can break through the riddled impasse, who has the strength of personality and oratory, who has great credentials and experience, and who can command respect.”


          And as for the gun counter at Wal Mart, or anywhere else, don’t worry. It’s been so long I would probably shoot my foot off, whether or not coffee was involved. I know how to make Crepes Suzette, but it doesn’t mean I have them for dessert every day either.

          • Roberto N,
            “what’s to say they won’t hold their noses too when it comes time to form a commune?”
            “where is the person or movement that will inspire them to let go and breathe normal?”

            Sadly, as of this moment, nothing and nowhere, respectively.

            “So where is the person/movement that they will trust?”

            chavez clearly has the TV persona advantage and communism is a strong sell movement to the ignorant and disenfranchised. Trying, therefore to counter chavismo at its person/movement strengths head-on goes against basic martial arts strategies.

            I see the solution more in terms of grappling techniques, using their own inertia against them. Putting out a request for a constitutional referendum regarding oil money uses their own constituyente advertising in our favor. By emphasizing the distribution of said money uses their own “for the people” lies in our favor. The key is that, even if we don’t win, the seeds of discontent are sown within their ranks by getting their own people to wonder “why is it we’re not getting our money”. That is enough to get their house of cards to crumble under its own weight even if they are successful pushing forth past the 16th.

            If I’m right about people holding their noses, then how good do you think 4k USD/year/person smells to the hungry, and not so hungry.

            To those who think it’s money to the lazy, what choice do you prefer: a lazy free country, or a lazy communist one?

  6. I have this sense of the entire campaign suffering from a huge principal-agent problem. Even when the centrally designed strategy was pretty good, the variance in the regional/local implementation of such strategy was dismal. I guess naming local/regional candidates as campaign managers was the only political feasably option available at the time, the lack of accountability/monitoring mechanisms, and metrics of measuring performance, showed at the end of the race. I guess this is a feature of the fragmentation of the oppo side under the unity umbrella, but in a perfect world we should have a national campaign, deploying into battle states/municipalities, that depend entirely of the central command of the campaign. That did not happend the 7O. I have the sense that it costed a few percentage points in the final result.

  7. I think Capriles ran a great campaign. He did what we he thought was gonna get him the most votes. Now we now than in Venezuela that is not enough. A near perfect campaign, and we still loose by 10 points.
    On one hand we had a candidate that promised: progress, education, and work; on the other a messiah that promised to keep giving away crumbs… Venezuela chose the later. Better to get crumbs than to work, educate myself and earn more, Que flojera pana…

    What disappoints me is that after loosing for such a big difference Capriles has not been able to chance the message. What has he to lose by turning a little more reactionary? Don’t you people think that he would gain more by making an stance against the CNE and the abuse of power from the government, that to keep the peace and love mantra?

    Venezuela es un pais lleno de gallitos que nunca votarian por una pollito…

  8. Our first step out of denial is to understand that they like him. It is extremely difficult for us to understand this, and we rationalize it by wrongly assuming that they were bought, forced, or blackmailed into voting for him, when the easiest answer is that they trust him.

  9. In a sense, you are right. The MUD is unelectable if the only thing they have to offer is a poor man’s Chavez.

    I understand the logic behind the decision of embracing the Misiones: they are very popular and are in demand. But they are nothing but a pirate version of the real deal. As I have stated before, some of the misiones were there with a different name and less resources. It is stupid to give credit to the chavismo for something that it’s not especially original and is faulty as hell. The hospitals are in total disrepair, the Mercal is useless unless you get a real job and Mision Vivienda is the sputtering in the post-electoral stage.

    A neoliberal reform program is not the solution. Nobody likes when the police comes to your party just when everybody is having fun. Nobody likes the party-pooper neighboor who call the police either. But it’s necessary to have a credible proposal of how things should be done. The whole “if I get elected nothing is gonna change” that Capriles repeated over and over again was not only stupid, but also a non-starter with chavistas and non-chavistas.

    What about pointing out the dire state of our hospitals, prisons and schools? What about unemployment, public debt and the murder rate? We have come a long way since the “Chavez vete ya”, but the connection between the public outcry for a better life and the political leadership is still missing.

    The anger is out there. What we need is the right leadership to focus it in the right direction.

    • Capriles and his party and others speak out — many, many times — on ths issues you mention: hospitals, prisons, schools, crime, jobs. There’s no way to plausibly claim those issues were not raised duing the campaign.


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