A sMUDdgy record so far

Treat at work

Today marks four months to the day since the opposition celebrated an unexpected and historic electoral victory hoisted under promises of change. Yesterday marked the three-month milepost since an emboldened MUD took control of Parliament, vowing to revive the institution while asserting its newfound clout.

So, how’s that going for us? Not great.

The original endorphin rush from seeing Henry Ramos shut up various chavista grandees from the dais has worn off, and a no-longer-concealable sense of drift has settled over the opposition coalition.

Today, all across Venezuela, tens of thousands of highly committed grassroots activists are sitting and waiting, confused, frustrated and disillusioned. They are desperately waiting for their party leaders to relay instructions on how to proceed. Some have no idea what to do about the six or seven candidates from their parties that have already decided to run for Governor of their state. Will there be primaries? Are we supposed to be collecting signatures for a referendum? Am I expected to pressure the CNE for a date on elections? What elections, exactly? Can someone please tell me what we’re campaigning for?

The malaise now falling over the opposition activist base should be setting off all kinds of alarms at MUD headquarters. Because let me let you in on a little secret: elections in Venezuela are not won in Caracas, they’re won at the voting center. When election time comes around, tens of thousands of activists swing into action: getting out the vote, witnessing audits, facing down attempts at intimidation, doing the actual work, on the ground, that can deliver a majority you can defend.

To chalk up their poor performance to the nasty, nasty government would be an insult to the voters who elected them.

MUD can compete, but only if it keeps its people on the ground, not to mention a bunch of diputados who grow more restless by the moment, busy and energized. Right now, they’re everything but. The regime-change plan seems stalled, with little clarity on next steps and a window of opportunity that will close in a few weeks. And the legislative front is not going much better, with MUD pushing a legislative-agenda-for-the-peanut gallery that doesn’t really address structural problems, and even then seeing it shot down at the Supreme Tribunal.

As things stand today, even if MUD could wave a magic wand and get its whole legislative agenda past the TSJ and implemented, it wouldn’t really make that much of a difference. And that, my friend, is depressing. Because shouldn’t it really be in the MUD’s best interest to do some serious legislating in anticipation of its eventual seizing of the coroto? Or does MUD think all of Venezuela’s problems will be kissed away once HenCapriPoldo gets sworn into office in 2019?

If we add to all this the colossal loss of credibility that the MUD risks through inaction, the opposition’s incentives for getting its shit together on both fronts are pretty obvious. And yet, maddeningly, it’s not happening.

Despite the ritual protestations to the contrary, MUD has yet to agree on a real plan for regime change. By “a real plan” I mean one you can operationalize, one that structures expectations and work plans for activists at the grassroots level. A real plan has priorities, timelines and goals: it’s about saying what you won’t do as much as what you will do. Since MUD can’t seem to agree on a real plan, it has announced it will do everything at the same time, a commitment-phobic “plan” of appeasement that not even Chúo Torrealba seems to take seriously.

Meanwhile, the legislative agenda is top-heavy with political bills conceived to advance individual party agendas instead of serious proposals for reform. And even in terms of rhetoric, it’s not like they’re punching at chavismo effectively.

Look, I’m not a MUD-hater. Nothing would make me happier than to see MUD succeed. But to chalk up their poor performance to the nasty, nasty government would be an insult to the voters who elected them. To shrug it all off with an “ay, pobrecitos, la tienen difícil,” is to lower our standards and expectations to an unacceptable level.

MUD needs to step up its game, period.

It’s objectively unacceptable and, frankly, irresponsible, that internal disagreements are still keeping our political leadership from acting with the seriousness that our country (and their survival) demands. They’ve had a 17-year learning curve and the privilege of serving the world’s most patient electorate. At this point, MUD’s inertia had better be down to ineptitude, otherwise, we’re in the realm of conspiracy theory.

The opposition has proven its organizational chops when it comes to elections, but it has left much to desire in terms of broader political stewardship. Failure to reach consensus on a coherent strategy is on the MUD, and the MUD only.

The real tragedy is that MUD leaders remain completely unaccountable, because, in a polarized scenario such as Venezuela, people will vote for you only because the other option is that much worse.

 

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