November 27, 2006

Rosales and this campaign season: The Good, the bad and the ugly

Katy says: After a brief trip due to work and family obligations, I am back at my desk full-throttle for this exciting election week.

This is a good moment to recap the Rosales campaign. Because regardless of what the polls or chavistas may say, anything could happen this Sunday. Chavez could win by a landslide, or his victory could be close, or Rosales could win, or Rosales could win but the CNE could declare Chavez the winner anyway, or Mrs. Rosales could have a baby with a pig's tail. Let's face it, when it comes to Venezuelan politics, logic is secondary and Macondo rules.

So before everything goes haywire and the unpredictable happens, before the talking heads start saying that they had predicted the unpredictable all along, let's recap what has worked, what hasn't, and what made us turn away in disgust.

The good

1. The energy: Rosales has been an enthusiastic campaigner. The impressive street demonstrations are simply a reflection of his hard work, his complete dedication to hitting the streets and talking to ordinary Venezuelans about their problems. Whether you love him, hate him or find him frustrating, he left it all on the mat, and that's something anyone can respect.

2. Evelyng! Mrs. Rosales has not only proved to be an effective campaigner, but her steady tone, her unwavering support and her maternal side - cute toddler in tow while addressing hundreds of thousands - have been a sight for sore eyes. It has done wonders to differentiate Rosales from the candidate of the Mysoginist Revolution.

3. The unity: Rosales has not only pumped up the opposition vote, he has also managed to galvanize once-deflated opposition political parties. Some people may think this is a bad thing, but we tend to forget that no democracy movement can survive without political parties, and in our country, no political parties can thrive without leadership. Rosales has been the catalyst of an enormous leap forward for the opposition's institutions.

4. Mi Negra: Some of us on this blog have been critical of Mi Negra. It remains to be seen whether it worked or not, but it certainly helped unify the candidate's message into a single idea. And that's a necessary - but obviously not sufficient - condition for winning.

5. The defeat of abstentionism: Never mind the statistics, our friend Alek Boyd went from throwing the towel to being Rosales's link to the blogosphere . That says a lot about the defeat of the abstentionist movement.

The bad

1. The polls: Whether you love them or hate them, whether you think they are paid or scientific, whether they reflect fear or simply pocket-book economics, we sure wish they looked a little better.

2. The appeal to Ni-nis: Rosales managed to bring together many different factions of the opposition, but it's hard to deny he has failed to connect with many Ni-ni voters. How big a deal this turns out to be remains to be seen, but one wishes he would have reached out to these crucial swing voters a little more.

3. The love campaign and the response: Chávez's love initiative was repulsive, the Rosales campaign's answer - to point out the many ways that Chavez DOESN'T love the country, but has rather punished it - was ineffective.

4. Globovisión and company: I've said it before, but it bears repeating that having a big media company as one of your main backers raises questions about your legitimacy and does nothing to conquer swing voters. Globovisión's coverage of the campaign has been excessively partial, and in that sense it has done more harm than good.

The ugly

1. "Red, oh-so-very red": Rafael Ramírez's speech to PDVSA workers, breaking the law by demanding their full support for the President, was a sad sign of the Revolution's complete moral decay. Watching that video made me ashamed to be a Venezuelan for the first time since... since Ruddy Rodríguez decided she wanted to be a pop singer.

2. The geezers and the has-beens: The Rosales campaign gave out way too many soapboxes for old-time politicos, for politicians who head parties whose militants number in the dozens and for repentant chavistas. Yes, Leopoldo Puchi, that means you.

3. Parasites, sweaty brows, attendance sheets: Chavistas regularly tried to make issues of non-issues, such as Rosales's allegedly referring to poor Venezuelans as "parasites" (he did not say that), or his wiping his brow after kissing Mi Negra poster-girl Gladys Ascanio as a sign of his racism (he was sweating profusely in a very warm afternnon). None of these got any sort of traction. They also kept coming back to Rosales having signed the attendance sheet at Carmona's swearing-in, which seems like a minuscule thing when compared to the real issues facing people such as crime, unemployment, the erosion of civi liberties or the end of private property and private education.

4. The truth behind XXIst Century Socialism: While Rosales published a complete government program, chavismo has no such thing. Only last week a video made waves in the Internet where Chávez explained that his idea for XXIst Century Socialism consists of a precambrian mix of bartering and communism. He even went so far as to declare that every community will have its own currency. Throwing a curveball like that at a point in the campaign where everyone is wrapping things up shows chavismo's usual contempt for voters. Watch him claim a mandate for this nonsense if he wins.

Did I miss anything? Do you disagree? Feel free to comment, but respect the rules. I will enforce them mercilessly.