October 23, 2005

Debating the NiNis

Today, I've decided to post the little back and forth between Daniel Duquenal and myself from yesterday's comments section. Being the Sunday Supplement, it runs a bit longer than my pledge allows. I'm insisting on the NiNi topic because I think the opposition as a whole has a real problem understanding their position, and it's really hurt us. Daniel, btw, is the guy behind Venezuela News and Views, better known as Daniel's blog. For newbies, I go by my nickname "Quico" in the comments section.



Are you bent on dicovering warm water?

All this is fine, and known for quite a while, starting with the opposition failure to connect with its own constitutency, even its hard core one.

One thing that you might want to look at is the NiNi voting intention no matter what. I bet you that you would find really interesting results there...

The problem in your argument is that after February 27 2004, you cannot be a NiNi anymore: you are with Chavez, you are against him or you do not give a crap. NiNi is actually a code name for people who do not give a crap about politics, human rights or whatever. They only care about what they can get now, in the present tense. If Nini are swelling again it is because they are not getting as much as they were getting or not as much as they were hoping.

NiNi are the product of nearly 50 years of crass populism. Until they do not go hungry they will not take a stand. Convincing them is an expensive and risk laced enterprise. The NiNi were agaisnt Chavez in 2003 and had a great time in the oppo highway bailoterapia, but came back to him in 2004 when Misiones were more fun, and are drifting again and wil go for again and so and so no matter who is in charge in Venezuela.

No, I think that what is better than VdP (by the way VdP sounds kind of VenDe Patria you know) is to create a party of the democratic right and accept that it will take at least 5 years until any possible long lasting electorate is built, amen of winning even the election of alcalde de Tucusiapon. Only when the debate gets back on concrete values and populism failure becomes more apparent (with 25 millons of us in here it should not be long until we run out of money) we will not be able to effect any positive change. The best chance for a real efficient social democracy in Venezuela passes through the previous construction of a real right (this is what happened in Chile by the way as the succes of Lagos is due to the existence of a true right wing opposition).

In other words, if you want to do something with the NiNi once and for all, a little bit of forcing the issues might be more difficult to do but might have better long term results. VdP, I do not see them doing it.

By the way, I love this debate. Something you will never see in a chavista page.
daniel | Homepage | 10.22.05 - 9:21 am | #


Alas, Daniel - this is just not what the polling data shows! Hinterlaces, which has done more careful study of these guys than anyone, goes to pains to differentiate NiNis from indifferents, which are a different group altogether. And their focus groups show clearly that NiNis very often have very clear, very definite political ideas. Being skeptical of chavismo in no way stops them from rejecting the TRADITIONAL opposition.

I think a lot of the problem we have here is with Language. NiNi is a misleading label. It seems to hint at indifference, or political confusion. I think no-chavista-antioposicion is more accurate, though obviously far less snappy.

Still, for sure it's good to have this debate...the problem is that it's taking place in the comments section of a blog that nobody reads instead of the pages of El Universal...

Quico | 10.22.05 - 10:49 am | #



I have to confess that the Hinterlaces polls and whole stuff was when I was very busy preparing trips etc. So I have not followed that closely. If there are still some alive links I would be glad that you send them to me.

This being said, if Hinterlaces used focus groups it would be a good approach. In particualr to test the resolve of NiNis. After the Tascon list I suspect that a lot of the so called NiNi are in fact oppo types that are scared. Eastern Europe circa 1980 was Nini land, an era where people were allowed not to show everyday support to communism but were certainly not allowed to express any opposing view. We all know how this ended a decade later.

They are also like all of these Cubans painted in the movie Havanna blues...

But perhaps you are right. We should start by defining what a NiNi is and how important a group it is based on an accurate definition of the group. I can advance you one thing: I will have a hard time in accepting the "ideological definition" of NiNism. You cannot be a NiNi in Venezuela after 02/2004. If you are you are either lying for for survival reason or you are stupid or you do not give a crap or you are dramatically misinformed. NiNi could exist again if the regime were to allow forms of dissent that could lead to questioning its hold on power. Then perhaps there would be real NiNi that would in fact wonder whether they want Chavez to remain, warts and all. Right now, this is not an option: chavistas have stolen too much money, violated too many things to risk to lose power and be investigated. It is always important to keep this last fact in mind when specualting on how the oppo can manage a credible challenge.
daniel | Homepage | 10.22.05 - 7:24 pm | #



The latest Hinterlaces study is here.

One thing you could do is go and talk to Oscar Schemel while you're in Caracas. Really engaging guy; knows more about NiNis than anyone.

I think a big part of our problem with imagining that NiNis really can exist after the reparos just expresses our personal bias - we find Chavez so execrable that we can't possibly imagine how someone could establish a kind of moral equivalence between him and the traditional oppo...but the voters are crazy, man, every pollster knows that! I mean, por dios, 45% of chavistas describe MVR as a rightwing party! En serio!!! The stuff you find when you actually go out there and talk to people about their beliefs is always screwy as hell...so I have no problem at all believing that 40-50% of the voters are real NiNis - politically engaged, lukewarm-to-angry at Chavez, and at the same time totally unwilling to put themselves under oppo leadership.

We might not like it, but the thing is reality really doesn't care how angry we get at it...that's ONE message we should've learned from the last few years...
Quico | 10.23.05 - 5:03 am | #



So we agree at least on the stupidity parameter (I beleive you used the term "crazy" but I am not as gentle as you are).

daniel | Homepage | 10.23.05 - 9:58 am | #



Whatchoogonna do, though?! Get pissed off that the voters are so dense? OK, well, I understand the frustration, but in the end you'll still need their votes.

I think the pataleta has gone on long enough. It's time to come to grips with the fact that like it or hate it, for whatever historical/sociological/political reason, right or wrong, crazy or sane, stupid or brilliant, THIS is what the voters think and this is what we have to work with.

What they're saying, in the end, isn't so crazy. The way Luis Vicente Leon puts it in his column today, they just want someone who is moderate, compassionate, effective and free of the stench of the cuartarepublismo. They want a forward looking message, a message of renewal and optimism. They're sick and tired of the oppo's negativism and fixation with Chavez.

OK, sure, we can keep on picking apart the regime's excesses per secula seculorum...but, to what end? Why bother comissioning all these polls and focus groups if we're not going to pay any attention to the results?

When oppo pollsters go out and ask NiNis what they want from an alternative leader, they get clear, crisp, consistent answers...and they have for a long time. So, crazy idea here: why don't we try giving it to them?
Quico | 10.23.05 - 11:00 am | #