December 4, 2007

A Fat Man in a Palace

Lucia says: With all respect to the brave and energetic students, the moderate political opposition, and the tea-leaves-reading Baduel, the story of this referendum is Chávez.

The conventional wisdom is that Chávez is an immensely talented politician, with a common touch, loads of charisma, and a crafty talent for turning his anti-American agenda into votes.

It’s true he’s got the gift of blarney, massive self-confidence, and – sometimes -- a real way with words. But the real story behind Chávez’s success has always been the increase in oil revenues and the misiones they funded. Many, many Venezuelans – the entire crucial center, in fact – have supported Chávez despite his antics, despite his ideology and despite his narcissism.

That Chávez himself has never really understood this was crystal clear during the final days of the campaign. He could have spent those final days talking about the proposal to give the misiones constitutional status, he could have focused on buhonero pensions and shorter work hours, and on funding community councils. And most of all, he could have dialed down the crazy.

Instead, he let the crazy fly.

He looked befuddled in his concession speech because he didn’t, couldn’t, understand what had happened.

Katy nailed it: he’s become just a Fat Man in a Palace -- surrounded by Yes Men, disconnected from a shifting political dynamic. Not just drinking but inhaling his own Kool-Aid.

In the end, it's no surprise that man who imagines himself on par with Christ and Bolivar may have an especially hard time integrating reality.

What comes next? No one is predicting that the Chávez team will undertake a sober assessment of the unexpected defeat. Mostly, his people are too busy cringing in palace corners, hoping their heads get to stay on their shoulders a bit longer. Surely, Chávez won’t wait for the Venezuelan people to achieve the requisite maturity -- a barrage of far-reaching legislation is headed our way, as if the rebuke-by-vote never took place.