One Premise and Three Theses on the Visibility of Sausage Making

Premise: It goes without saying that NiNis aren’t hanging on the edge of their seats watching every twist and turn of the MUD sausage-making saga. Nor, for that matter, are most Venezuelans, many of whom are probably in Margarita or La Tortuga or Aruba reflecting on the Passion of the Christ (right), and the ones that aren’t are probably stuck at home with no electricity. This kind of inside baseball – particularly at this time of the year – doesn’t reach beyond the 0.5% of obsessives, e.g., you – if you’re reading this – and me – given that I’m writing it. The consequences of of the sausage manufacturing operation are indirect. People don’t have to pay close attention to absorb the general sense that the MUD is just the same musiú with a reworked cachimbo.

First Thesis: A first dimension of the Sausage Making-NiNi Interface comes in the form of reconfirming the pre-existing impressions, feelings and attitudes that NiNis (and, indeed, most normal, non-political obsessive people for that matter) have about the way the opposition makes decisions: a handful of party leaders, out of reach, cutting deals, thinking of their (or their parties’, or their friends’) interests first, trying to put their buddies and cronies "dónde hay." NiNis don’t need to follow the detail to come away with the impression that there’s not a lot of meat on the bones of the opposition’s rhetoric to the effect that "no, really, we’re different now, we’ve changed."

Second Thesis: A secondary aspect of the Sausage Making-NiNi interface feeds back on and reinforces the first. Because the MUD process allows politicians who specialize in the backroom a distinct advantage over politicians who specialize in the street, it yields a slate of candidates top-heavy with glad-handlers and inside-operators and skinny on people who can go out, talk to normal people, make them feel like their concerns are understood, and fight for them. For the same reason, it ends up creating an opposition political class that conforms to the negative talking points chavistas have been running against us for years to a T: insensitive, distant, navel-gazing, unsympathetic to the concerns of real people.

Third Thesis: A final part of the interface has to do with the stability of Opposition Unity. Designating politicians as part of an elite consensus inevitably leads to clashes with the people on the ground. The kind of Marquina-Goicoechea dynamic we’ve seen over the last couple of days is inevitable given a MUD style decision-mechanism, as is the public spats it generates. This feeds back into the second set of chavista talking points: the opposition as a fractious bag of cats where everybody thinks only of his or her own personal interests. The chavista talking points have traction only to the extent that our behaviour lends them some. Right now, our behaviour is lending it plenty of traction.

Having said all that, at this point any proposal at a general primary is lunacy. That’s a boat we missed months ago. Even a primary in Miranda is going to stretch opposition resources to the limit. There really isn’t any time at this point to go beyond that. The MUD mechanism sucks – and we have to make it work.

The Ninis aren’t paying attention, and can you blame them? Everything in this process seems to confirm some of their worse fears about the opposition. Is it any wonder they can barely afford a peek?