October 21, 2005

Building a resonant historical narrative...

Well, now that I've convinced everyone that I'm a Venezuela de Primera zealot, I'll take a moment to criticize their message. While I'm wowed by their discipline in targetting the Ni Nis, reading through their website still leaves me with an uncomfortable feeling. And the reason is that, for all their poll-driven message-honing, the result seems weirdly out of context.

Take the rhetoric on their website and substitute the word "Peru" or "Guatemala" for Venezuela and...very little changes. Instantly, you have Peru de Primera, or Guatemala de Primera. Nothing in their message situates them in the very particular circumstances of Venezuela in the last few years. Nothing they say betrays an awareness of the incredibly tumultous times the country has been living. It's like they're arguing in a vacuum.

This explains, I think, why the group hasn't really generated much "buzz."

What their message fails to do is to place the here and now into an emotionally resonant narrative structure, to build a compelling little story that explains the recent past, what's bad about it, and what they would do better.

Chavez is very good at this. In 1998 he sold an immediately appealing little tale that made sense out of people's historical experience. "The country is rich," he said, "but you are poor, and you're poor because the rich don't care about you and stole what is yours. I'll put that right." Very simple, very effective.

Venezuela de Primera doesn't have a synthetic little historical narrative like that. At least, not an explicit one.

I can understand why: it's very hard to build a narrative about the last few years without talking about Chavez or sounding like the traditional opposition. And they know that talking about Chavez and sounding like the traditional opposition are two sure-fire ways of alienating the Ni Nis - an electoral dead-end.

It's a tough one. Still, if they don't want to come accross as the Party of Martians with Good Intentions, they need a resonant historical narrative...