Politics, finally

Why I welcome the incoming MUD majority's decision to choose the new A.N. president by secret ballot, and you should too.


MUD’s soon to be installed caucus (fracción parlamentaria) will meet privately today to choose the next President of the National Assembly by secret ballot, after efforts to stitch up the decision via backroom-deal failed.

There’s been quite a lot of handwringing in opposition circles about the need for a vote at all.

[yop_poll id=”1″]

Personally, I’m kind of appalled…at all the handwringing.

For all the opposition’s supposed rejection of anti-politics, the second a bit of political competition breaks out suddenly people reach for the smelling salts. That’s internalized chavismo, as though competition for powerful positions were somehow undignified or beneath us.

Nada de eso, people. This is politics. There’s power. There are people who want power. And so you have competition. That’s entirely natural, fully to be expected and 100% legitimate. That this needs stating at all strikes me as strange, and worrying.

Both Henry Ramos and Julio Borges lead major political parties in Venezuela, both are fully within their rights to aspire to leadership roles. And because both belong to a coalition that takes liberal principles seriously, it’s natural and right that they compete for that power role openly and that a decision is made through the vote of the people they aspire to lead: MUD’s deputies.

After all, the skills it will take to win a majority of the MUD caucus and obtain the A.N. presidency are very much the same skills it will take to run the National Assembly effectively: coalition building, glad-handling, horse-trading and the kind of micro-level understanding and attention to the needs and priorities of incoming A.N. members that a parliamentary leader needs to have in his blood. Competition allows us to discover who is better at this stuff. We need it.

So let’s not be more papist than the pope here. It’s the other side whose conception of politics is centered on stifling competition and stitching up decisions behind closed doors. They’re the anti-politics party. We’re the pro-politics party.

Well, this is what politics looks like! And not a moment too soon.

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  1. In my experience, the process is two-pronged. A) Some are especially skilled at attaining positions of power. B) Some are especially skilled at wielding power, at being able to get things done in a competitive arena like an assembly. A and B are not always the same people. A little room for course correction is also needed moving forward. No doubt there are some “sleepers” out there that will vitalize the party given the chance.

  2. Just to balance your poll above there is a similar one running in ND right now.
    As of 5.50 am this morning & 603 votes Allup is ahead by 88.2% (535 votes).

    The man makes my stomach turn.

    • Let’s be honest, you compare two very different audiences … The mass ND visit fits better with the profile of the classical opposition: “salidista-leninista”; take a walk through the forums is like stepping back in time to the “Coordinadora Democrática” era, you wont be surprise if you find some Patricia Poleo impersonator shouting “ni un paso atrás” with a pinch of bailoterapia included. Instead CC readers, well, read and understand; sometimes the comments are about as good as articles and perceive that little detail tells us that this environment does not resemble the average. The big question: our deputies will look more like the average Venezuelan or may reflect a little beyond their narrow interests? Put another way: Have we ND deputies or deputies CC style?

  3. Mr. HRA has a tremendous responsability, no doubts he will be elected president with the votes of VP, he represents the hatred polítical past of “adequismo” at its fullest, he has been in power longuer tha Chávez-RIP- But most people voted for solutions to their socio-economics problems not for an “avenger” who can mop, again, Mr. Diosdado Cabello.
    No doubt his polítical experience and background as “diputado” is invaluable but what we need is to continue adding up votes from “chavismo” not losing even one due to confrontation

    • We cannot afford to missread the situation. We need gun powder now, people to defend our victory como sea.

      What you are saying is true, but two things:

      1) Chavistas, maybe more than anyone, respect the ability for self-defense, hacerse respetar.

      2) The way to win them over, with a 2/3 mayority (which must be defended in order to be had), is no longer by sweet talk but by passing legislation that begins the economic healing process without forgetting that few people could survive such a process head-on.

      This isn’t time to show ourselves, it is time to prove ourselves. If it means leaning on a chavista figure or two, playing hardball, we cannot shy away, the loss would be tremendous, and chavistas will respect it if the legislative action taken meanwhile is effective and caring.

  4. The problems are with perception, in order:

    1)The MUD has sold better than they thought the message of Unity, so any difference is terrible since people are scared that the MUD will dissolve for petty infighting.

    Which leads to:

    2)People are so used to the PSUV approach aka “the orders from above are absolute”, that any attempt of compromise and differences seems huge and foreign. Which is kind of depressing, when you think about it.

  5. Politics is about the handling of confrontation in ways that allow for collective decisionmaking to be made without trauma or violence. In a liberal democracy the basic method is the polling of people but that alone doesnt make things work for the best , the party or person winning the poll may not be the best equipped to make the decision or carry it thru , there is no wisdom in numbers only legitimacy which is that state of social life where there is the least conflict and the most potential harmony. Still once a poll is won the winner has the political task of making all the political players and agents (including the losers) work together and accomplish common goals , that requires a lot of effort and talent , if a person wins a poll but is divisive and cant make people work together having won the poll doenst get him the best results . So for politics to work its magic its essential that a person once it wins a poll acts with the intellegence and balance that helps different people join in a common and effective effort.

    Polling gest us half way in the business of politics (breaking stalemates) but the rest of the way its the ablity to bring different people together to work as a team , thru bargain and discussion and raw leadership.!!

    • Bill – Didn’t mean to say the exact same thing you just stated very eloquently – your post went up while I was typing. When more than one person sees the same things, maybe those things are right.

  6. The thing to watch is the agenda developed. The voters do not have concerns about “who is in power”. They want food on their tables, and an empty stomach is impatient. Perhaps shameful to say, but I doubt that most care who puts the food there, or which philosophy it is based on – they want pay, and the convenience or necessity of translating that into food to buy. Philosophy is fine, and it is senior, but you cannot be much more than “darkly philosophical” if you’re starving, and at that point, politics be damned.

    The vote was for change. That change must be in the agenda, and that agenda must be senior to whoever is there to implement it, or not. An apple is an apple, and though there are differences among apples, and surely, minor differences of perceptions and opinions about those apples amongst individuals, those individual differences cannot override the fact that an apple is there – if individual differences override the existence of the apple, then we are no longer talking about apples, but only about individual differences fueled by the insanity of pretense. The agenda is the apple.

    Power is literally nothing – nonexistent – if it does not create desired effects. Misuse of influence and decision is like plowing a harvest back into the earth, and calling yourself a farmer. The basic philosophy of crops is to grow and be eaten. The basic philosophy of a population is to grow and eat. A misunderstanding of both or either could result in a lot of disappointment. Ducks like to travel in rows, one after another in procession; not rowdy-rows as in disagreements and fluffed feathers trying to look big. It’s a subtle distinction there, between rows and rows.

    So far, the six points of the agenda developed look good. I hope they find someone who can get all the chavi-duckies in a row behind the MUD leaders, and a vote is not just a good philosophical idea: it is also a practical one, to see who is able to get and marshal that support, and thus, handle power. To implement the agenda.

    (It’s a new year – just trying to be funny.)

  7. “The basic philosophy of a population is to grow and eat”.

    That rings true, but the population only speaks during elections, demonstrations, and rebellion. The elephant in the AN is the PSUV which is perhaps not completely unified politically. Perhaps some of them also care more about “feeding the population” rather than “saving their own asses!” If the focus is on feeding the population without the emphasis being throw the stinkers out, maybe then… somethings can get done? That doesn’t necessarily mean letting the villains free to sabotage progress.

  8. These are all shrewd comments but I suspect that since the nation has gone so far downhill, a genuine leader – not just a force from one side or another, but a champion for all – will need to rise to the level of the challenge. If necessity is the mother of invention, there is such a person amongst those newly elected.

  9. “…as though competition for powerful positions were somehow undignified or beneath us.”

    No, it’s because “politics” has been associated with “stealing” in Venezuela and all of Latin America, thanks to the brain-damaging campaign driven by communists since the 60s when they tried to invade Venezuela.

    THAT’S where antipolitics comes from.

  10. The traditional way of doing politics was in smoke-filled back rooms. The intense politics happened inside the same party, fratricidal wars. It was not AD vs Copei; it was Piñerúa vs Prieto or Pedro Pablo vs Abdon. And those confrontations cannot happen in the open. There has been a long learning process of doing politics this way. Intuitively, people reject that way for the same reasons they reject rotten fish; it smells bad. The seed of antipolitics lies there.
    It is good that they are moving to an open space now. It will be a long learning process.

    • Carlos : even if you use polls to advance the agenda of collective decisions making , in a healthy democracy its not enough because somehow an effort must be made to make people row in the same direction and that means lots of meetings , discussions , bargains and small groups working to forge shared plans agendas and consensus . Polls deal with big emotional topics but to get ahead you need to agree on the specifics of those emotional topics so lets not knock down that part of politics which happens in small smoke laden rooms , they are as essential to politics as the big sanctified ritual of open polls .

      If you have had any experience in collective decision making you must know that polls cant by themselves decide things , unless you go for the tyranny of those chosen by the mayority which takes over the decision making process to the exclusion of all others . The MUD in practice will have to continue operating in parliament as a collegiate body , where the opinion of all its members has to be heard and taken into account .!!

      • Bill, I understand the plasticity–in the artistic sense–of political decision making. In peer-review journals the smoke laden room takes the form of blind review and everybody is OK with that. Like sex, not everything in politics can be done outdoors. But in the Venezuelan tradition, the machinations behind closed doors were never to discuss the nuances of political decision making or to show sensitivity to the emotions involved. It was always to buy loyalty with corruption.
        It is so deeply ingrained in the psyche of Venezuelan politicians that they do not even see it. Maduro chastises the opposition for “buying votes” (no evidence offered) in the same speech that he recalls the cars, tablets, and houses given to PSUV friends to buy their vote. And he doesn’t see the contradiction. It is a sin if your enemy does it, but a duty to god and fatherland if you do it.
        I was a witness to such shenanigans. I was close to the election for Secretary General of AD Youth organization when Hector Alonso and Calaudio Fermin were vying fore the post. It was ugly. Same thing when Pedro Pablo Aguilar contested Abdon Vivas Teran or Rafael Caldera challenged El Tigre Fernandez. Ugly dealings in smoke-filled rooms. No Proustian remembrance, no Freudian introspection; pure Pavlovian reflects.
        The current leadership of the MUD is peopled with politicians trained in that culture. We run the risk of getting out of Guatemala to land in Guatepeor.

        • In California they experimented with having all big policy decisions or initiatives settled thru polls or ‘plesbicites’ , the public didnt understand the implications ( often conflicting) of their votes and ended by having California go broke !! There was a US Constitutional Expert come to visit Venezuela to give a lecture , after which he gave a press interview, he was asked about the California system and was all against it , he preferred for professionals and practical men to negotiate bargain and agree legislation as the method which offered the best results . Of course they were not talking about Venezuelan politics you describe ( or so we assumme) , Same as you Im repelled by corrupt hanky panky bargains by political practitioners behind closed doors , but I do think that some of that may be part of how humans operate to make things happen . As mentioned elsewhere Politics has three abodes : The Temple (dedicated to the worship of pure absolute principles) , The Gladiatorial Circus ( dedicated to Showmanship and Declamations of Principled Antagonism as a blood sport to entertain the masses and garnish their support) and finally the Market place where people haggle and negotiate and compromise and intrigue until they reach working agreements, this latter part is never pure and pretty. but in politics you cant avoid it because people in politics are humans and thus subject to all ordinary human failings. Im all for trying to have the market place operate in as clean a manner as possible , and that should be the goal , but one cant be naive and think that we can so totally sanitize politics so that the market place is always spotlessly clean ……I do wish it were , but I do have some tolerance for the necessity of behind closed door deal making as an inexorable part of the political process. Sometimes relying solely on polls just muck it up……

  11. I just sent my donation to Caracas Chronicles. It feels good doing it…unless you are a freebie addict. An effort of this magnitude does not come by simply because one wishes it. It takes a tremendous amount of effort, and, I imagine, real costs.


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