It doesn’t seem possible to say much about Donald Trump that hasn’t been said before, probably a zillion times, probably better than I can. But from a Venezuelan perspective, I can’t help but feel a certain – what’s the word? – a certain consolation, I guess.
For much of the last 17 years, my life has been one long, belaboured, tortured explanation. An exegesis to people straining to understand how it could have happened. How we could have failed to see it coming.
“How can millions of people vote for such an evident fraud again and again, willingly, for years?”
I’ve done my level best to explain it, sure, and people tell me I’m pretty good at it. But it’s a losing game. The whole thing seemed so unlikely, a dark suspicion hung over my explanations: “he can’t really have been that bad…these opposition guys must be exaggerating, millions of people voted for this!”
It was either that or a smug, subcutaneous, “of course that could never happen here” kind of feeling.
Not from the Italians I talked to, granted. Or from the Russians or the Iranians I met abroad. Those guys seemed to get Chávez right away. You didn’t have to waste too much breath to explain it. They know, in their bones, the appeal of antipolitics, the way the siren-song of populist authoritarianism can ensnare the masses and hold them in thrall for years.
But the gringos I met? The Brits and Germans and Canadians and Japanese and French? Once they grasped the full extent of chavismo’s lunacy, they were just baffled, and struggled to disguise a measure of contempt. Chavismo’s hold over Venezuela came to look like an indictment of the whole gentilicio.
It was painful.
So this, if nothing else, I take away from the Donald episode. Whatever may happen between now and November – and dear God please let it not come to the worst – I know there is a whole family of questions about Venezuela I’ll never need to answer again.
It’s a tiny shard of consolation to pull out of the smoking wreckage of this U.S. primary season. It’s definitely not worth the damage it’s done. Pero bueno, it’s something.