David Frum

10.04.12

Does Venezuelan Political Rhetoric Remind You of Anything?

Francisco Toro describes an increasingly possible defeat for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

For much of the past 14 years, while Hugo Chávez stayed on top of the country’s politics by embodying the aspirations of a broad swath of down-and-out Venezuelans, the right-wing opposition was busy spewing vitriol at Chávez himself. Displaying a sometimes tragic lack of self-awareness, the opposition spent years digging itself deeper into that hole: Its relentlessly negative approach created a cartoon villain version of Chávez that people just didn’t recognize as the real thing.

The hyperpolarization only turned off swing voters, while cementing the soft-core Chavistas’ loyalty to the president and confirming most people’s suspicion that the opposition was embittered and out of touch. This year, those roles have switched. The challenger, Henrique Capriles Radonski, having learned from the opposition’s long walk through the electoral wilderness, has come out as the voice of hope.

Hmmm... The time span's a bit longer, and the candidate certainly is much more of a leftist, but this does remind me of the state of electoral affairs in a certain country to Venezuela's north.