November 24, 2008

Disjointed Morning-After Thoughts

Quico says: I detest more-than-one-topic-per-post posts, but I'm too frazzled and sleep deprived to do better:

1. Los tres cochinitos
Meet the new leaders of the opposition. These three. Ledezma, Ocariz and Capriles: three big wins in Caracas area districts with lots of poor people. Unfair as it is, the other oppo winners from last night have a built in handicap: they just live too darn far away from the big TV studios and news rooms. So these three now become the visible heads of the opposition, the de facto leadership.

They'll have to cooperate. But don't kid yourselves, they'll also be competing. If you've ever seen The Weakest Link, you know the drill: making nice along the way may be necessary, but if you want the big prize, you just gotta knife the other guy in the back at the end. It's nothing personal. Business...just business.

So, which of these three would you rather see end up with the ring? For me, it's an absolute no-brainer...

2. It's the Parapara problem, stupid...
The standard journalistic frame about Venezuela, for the longest time, has been rich vs. poor. What last night suggests is that that's an increasingly outmoded frame. It's not rich vs. poor, it's urban vs. rural. The opposition can compete in poor urban areas. It's in the countryside where we got served again and again and again.

The Parapara Problem is still kicking our butts. In recent years, we've barely ever heard opposition figures pose the problem in City v. Country terms. The oppo leadership hasn't even seemed aware that it had a problem in the countryside. Last night's results are so stark, the urban/rural divide so obvious, you'd hope they'd realize they just can't compete nationally without a rural message and a rural organization.

Then again, our Top Leaders are now all confirmed city slickers, people who wouldn't know how to plant a yuca if their lives depended on it.

Who will lead the big oppo rural revival?! We'd hoped for Julio Cesar just didn't pan out.

3. Next year
2009 will be the first year since 2003 without a National Vote. (Unless Chávez manufactures one somehow...)

4. It's the oil cycle, stupid...
Last night may be remembered as the last election of the Chávez Oil Bonanza. Venezuelan oil prices ended last week just a smidgen above $40/bbl. That shock hasn't really fed through to the real economy yet. Oil markets - like all markets - are inherently unpredictable, but there's a reasonable chance that last night was Chávez's last go at High Oil Electioneering. And there's just no way to make the maths work to avoid a deep adjustment before 2010 if oil prices don't recover soon.

In Venezuela, it's foolish to interpret any election result without placing it in the context of the oil cycle: it's not that the opposition won 5 big urban states + Caracas last night, it's that we won 5 big urban states + Caracas in the boom part of the oil cycle.

5. Unity Über Alles
On this blog, we were fairly dismissive about the opposition's fixation with unity during this cycle, interpreting it as one part sound electoral tactics, two parts panicky squalid hysteria.

In the end splits really did cost us in Bolívar, Barinas and imaginably in some other places like Anzoátegui and Libertador, where we might have poached more votes from the other side if we hadn't been so disunited. The only place where Chavismo paid the price for their splits was Carabobo.

6. Who needs LL?
Juan Cristobal is a blogging GOD for starting to believe in Ledezma's chances before anyone else. (And, I gotta wonder, did Cadena-gate cost Aristóbulo?!)

7. Cosmic Payback
In a small, cosmic way, I feel that forcing Jorge Rodríguez to sit through weekly meetings flanked by Antonio Ledezma, Emilio Grateron, Gerardo Blyde, Carlos Ocariz and Miriam do Nascimento will be some tiny measure of payback for the sheer hell the man put us through back in 2003 and 2004.

8. All that is solid melts into air
What the hell happened in Sucre State?!

9. Who's afraid of the big bad turnout?
Last year, the chavista line was that they lost because turnout was down to 55%. Last night, turnout hit an unprecedentedly high (for a regional election) 65%, truly remarkable...and we still held our own.

10. The final map

Caution: Red objects on this map are smaller than they appear.