Why vote?

We’ve all heard it: we need to go out and vote on December 8th. But why? What difference will it make if your mayor is red or blue?

The answer is: it won’t. With all due respect to the hard-working folks at several of our most important municipalities, the era of innovative public policies at the local level … is over. With the looming fiscal crisis, the hyperinflationary warning signs, and with the price of oil going south, it’s simply common sense to expect a deep crunch in public spending. And where will the crunch happen? Where will they cut?

They will begin with opposition local governments.

Local mayoral posts will become a hotbed of protests against the government for “their rightful budget.” They will mobilize to get their fair share, and the crumbs they do get will be spent on paying overhead and labor costs and little else.

Sure, it will be a relief if your municipality wards off the red attack, but that’s cold comfort. In the meantime, the most pressing issues will remain the same or worse. Crime will remain out of control. Inflation will continue to soar, while official statistics go the Argentine way. Having a blue mayor will not replenish the shelves. Your garbage is probably going to spend unhealthy amounts of time on the curb.

However, there is one important way in which December 8th matters: it serves as a dress rehearsal for whatever is coming.

Capriles has already said it. In 2014, he and the MUD will go after Maduro. Whether it is via some sort of referendum or a Constituent Assembly is not clear, but that’s the goal.

However, in order for that to work, he needs to convince his opposition loyalists of his main case – that fraud cannot flip elections when the margin is comfortable.

I don’t know if this is the correct strategy or not, and I’m sure each person has their own opinion. What seems undebatable is that December 8th is some sort of litmus test on Capriles’ strategy, and his leadership.

Capriles could fail to deliver on December 8th. Maduro could win the popular vote, or the MUD could win by a whisker. Anything other than a 3-point victory (just to throw a number out there) will leave Capriles’ strategy on reallllly shaky ground.

If Maduro wins, how will Capriles be able to rally disgruntled, disillusioned opposition voters that the solution is electoral in nature? If, in the middle of a severe economic slump; with a dithering, bumbling fool as a President; with oil revenues drying up fast; how can you not win an election?

Sure, there is the issue of lack of media access, lack of funding, and the fact that there is still some money in the pot to be spent on goodies. There is also the CNE, etc. etc. And yet … how can Capriles convince us of the next step if we hit a wall in a couple of weeks? Can he recover from another close-but-no-cigar election?

I may be wrong, but I doubt he can.

December 8th really is a referendum on Maduro. But it might as well also be a referendum on Capriles.

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