#ADWARS: A Tale of Two Campaigns

The ads MUD and PSUV are releasing ahead of December 6th tell the story of a campaign where the opposition playing to win and the government just wants to limit the damage.

How can you tell the MUD has the upper hand ahead of 6D elections? You could look at the polls, with the utterly lopsided advantage they show for the opposition. But you can also just see the ads each side is producing ahead of the legislative poll: the opposition is playing to win, making its pitch directly at people who might once have been reliable pro-Chávez voters, while the government’s given up all pretense of talking to anyone but its own base, apparently terrified that they won’t turn out at all.

The opposition’s structural advantage is obvious: there’s a seller’s market for “change” out there and change is exactly what they’re peddling. The government, meanwhile, is trying to shelter their message around the memory of better times and the defense of their “achievements”.

The opposition’s campaign is about the present, Chavismo will be stuck on the past.

MUD has it easy: the massive disaster on all fronts that is the Maduro administration helps them to simplify their overall message into a single slogan: Venezuela wants change (Venezuela quiere cambio). People are tired. Tired of shortages, tired of queques, tired of violence, tired of blackouts, etc.

Not only that, the MUD is focusing in giving the popular discontent a voice, as these ads show:

What’s the target here? Those who probably supported the late Comandante Presidente but don’t have the same love for his successor. They’re not worried about its base vote whatsoever because they’re already in the bag. Undecided, either “ni-ni” (uncommitted) or even soft-core chavistas, who don’t have the chance of voting for alternative options as those were blocked to run.

It’s not the greatest ad campaign ever conceived, but that’s not the point. The message is quite clear: the situation sucks, you can do something about it, vote for us. Thanks. These ads practically write themselves. Gracias, Maduro!

The catch is that many will never be broadcast, because of communicational hegemony, and the fact that

Some will say the ads don’t present concrete proposals or even what the MUD really stands for. But that’s the thing, they don’t have to. This is Protest Vote 101, period. You know, the one Maduro says doesn’t exist. The same guy who based his entire presidential campaign on a dead man’s last wish and yet, squandered a previous 10-point lead to end up winning by a squeaker. I know, right!

So, the PSUV-GPP coalition had quite a dilemma for their own campaign: Do the same thing as before and pretend everything is fine or double down on the “economic/media/electric/whatever war” argument and make the campaign about defending the revolution and the homeland.

The answer is both: 90% of the former and 10% of the latter. I’ll give you: We’re brave people (Somos Pueblo Valiente).

Chavismo is sticking to the past in more ways than one: This isn’t just about remembering the good old days when the Comandante Eterno dominated unopposed, the misiones were amazing and oil was at over $100+ per barrel. This is about the historical responsibility that you, as children of Bolivar and Chávez bear.

YOU MUST VOTE FOR US, NO MATTER HOW TERRIBLE THINGS ARE RIGHT NOW. Otherwise, you’re not only betraying them and yourself, but your children and all future generations.

Perhaps, I’m reading too much into them. You be the judge:

You may have noticed that there’s not a single reference to the current crisis. And that’s the point. This campaign is directed to the most hardcore base of Chavismo, the one who believes that Venezuela is really the greatest nation on Earth and is currently under siege from the worst of what the country and the rest of the world offers: the anti-patria, the oligarchs, the bourgeoisie, the Empire, you name it.

And they’re doing this in tandem: the Communication Ministry has rolled out its own parallel version of this campaign as well, financed with public money, natürlich. Party and State, side-by-side, acting together as one and the same.

Some will say Chavismo is running a defensive campaign. Indeed it is: Under the “defending the revolution” theme, lies the core idea of galvanizing the true believers by piling on the mythology and symbolism that has been built over years of cadenas and propaganda.

But here’s the 10% I mentioned before. That’s where the “brave people” angle comes into play. Even if it’s not implied, the call for bravery is the soft admission that the revolution is in grave danger. That even if Maduro or Diosdado are not to your liking, even if supermarket lines are not “sabrosas”, even if things are not like they used to be, and even if the current crop of candidates kinda blows, this isn’t about them. It isn’t even about you.

“This is all for Chavez, you dum-dum. Are you actually gonna let him down and vote for escualidos?”

Clearly, fence-sitters are not the target. Neither are softer chavistas more driven by necessity that by ideology. The government grasps that all it can hope for at this point is to try to make sure the hardest of its hard-core actually turns out to vote on 6D.

That won’t be enough people to win Parliament, but it might be enough to prevent a 2/3rd majority. It seems to be all they’re vying for.