Vote for Leopoldo, pray for Maria Corina, but bet on Henrique

Wilson at 29
Even though this headline does not apply anymore, I was not going to let it go to waste, having been planning a post with that title for a few days.  The line comes from noted US historian Samuel Eliot Morison who recalled that the first time he voted was for the election of 1912 between Taft, T. Roosevelt as a dissident and Wilson for the Democrats.  Young and inexperienced he asked for advice and one of his friends told him that line that for some strange reason always stayed with me for its nearly exquisite understanding of politics: "Vote for Roosevelt, pray for Taft, but bet on Wilson." (1)

Until Monday night this had been pretty much my feeling as to what the outcome of February 2012 should be, or at least how should I think about it.  Alas, Leopoldo and Henrique tied the knot yesterday and I have not been able to pull out an adequate historical quote.

The thing is even as I was tweeting live the debate of Monday night I was also getting ready to write that post that will never be written now (to the relief of many I presume).  In the debate for me it was clear again that Lopez and Machado were the superior candidates to Perez and Capriles.  Not that Perez or Capriles are bad and whichever of them wins I will become a rabid supporter of their cause for next October, but in a primary you do indeed have the privilege to vote for who better represents a combination of what you think is needed , who represents your ideas best, etc...  and you can vote for that person without any consequences even if you know that s/he may come in dead last at 1% of the votes cast.  Voting for the apparent winner just to ease your low self esteem has never been my cup of tea, and even a counter argument if any for me as some pro Capriles folks are advancing (you all know who you are).

Thus I decided long ago that I would pick my choice as late as February 11, if needed.  In other words I was going to proceed by elimination rather than by an active choice.  As such until Leopoldo announced his reversal I had eliminated already Medina, Perez and Capriles.  And now it remains for me to decide between Machado and Arria who I will vote for on February 12, knowing full well that unless Capriles is found in some bed having sex with a 5 years old it is nearly impossible for him to lose the primary election.  Which will not happen as Capriles may be many things but a pervert he is not nor he needs to be (though the official dirty campaign has already started this early so you can imagine what will come next;  and at tax payer expense on the national radio network of Venezuela, as this RNV example will illustrate).

Thus the title of my projected post, since Leopoldo was the best combination of what I wanted for Venezuela, energy to win, smarts, etc, etc...  And yet Maria Corina Machado hints so badly at what we all secretly want, a classy revenge with a real new way to do things in the country, while the inevitability of Capriles looming for whatever reasons those may be closed the rewrite of the Morison line.

I discarded Medina first because even though I grew to like him during the campaign, as a real example on how people can change for better, even much better I would add, he still does not have all what it takes, no team, and too disperse a mind when intense focusing is essential as of October 8.

Perez of Zulia I was OK early, but during the campaign I started to dislike him and came to see him as the puppet of some weird Maracaibo mafia allied with the remnants of the AD/Copei mafia.  I am surely wrong about the mafia part but I am not sure that someone who gets elected such such compromises may have the ability, or even be allowed to make all the tough decisions come October 8.  Amen of a lousy campaign so far, always a sure sign that you may not be able to run the complexities of a country in crisis (there is a reason while the US vets its candidates through grueling campaigns, as the best way to asses the ability of the guy to perform under heavy stress).  Thus, even if Tal Cual (and Teodoro) favored him from the start, it is not enough for me to follow just as it is not enough for Lopez to endorse Capriles for me to abide.

Which brings me to Capriles.  For all of his success and hard work (I am a fan of him for many reasons, already giving him an assured reelection in Miranda in 2010 for his gumption in water works) I do not see him as the guy best able to face the difficult situation that awaits us next year.  I have been complaining recently that Capriles's Primero Justicia is becoming a mere bad copy of old COPEI, but the Capriles campaign makes me afraid that he is a bad copy of the old Carlos Andres Perez campaign of 1988.  Then CAP promised to improve on Lusinchi work and instead started a plan of economic liberalization that led us to El Caracazo.  CAP was right in what had to be done but he did not campaign on it and today we are still paying the consequences for that miscalculation of his campaign.

Through the campaign I have never seen a clear hint from Capriles that he truly measures the task ahead, and that he comprehends fully the situation the country is in.  I mean, surely he has an idea, surely some folks at PJ must know, but I have not seen that hint that would reassure me that he fathoms the abyss.  In fact the whole campaign of Capriles can be summarized as some form of chavismo light, a "I will be efficient" theme and that the "best" of populism will be preserved, that all that matters is that me and my guys are in charge.  Well, it is not, and even if Arria or Medina or Machado may exaggerate on occasion they are at least showing me that they truly understand what is at stake, what awaits them.  Capriles does not, and his calm, composed, intentionally boring presentations at debates, with a repetitive message targeted to the chavismo dissatisfied with little intellectual demands, with allies that give him a chavismo light quality label turn me off completely; besides worrying me sick that he will fail, and that electing him may turn  out to make things worse in the long term (Ortega's return in Nicaragua, anyone?).  October 7 is not about fixing potholes even if that is the only thing that 90% of the country wants to hear.

I am not asking him for a blood and tears speech, I know he needs to be elected, but at least he should make it clearer that some sacrifices will have to be made otherwise the Caracazo that awaits him will make the previous one a child's game.

So I am left to decide between voting for Maria Corina or Diego Arria.  Both today came forcefully out in stating that they remain in the race until the end and, I presume, getting a not insignificant share of Leopoldo's vote, and who knows, maybe of Perez vote now that it seems he will not win.  The good thing about Leopoldo endorsement of Capriles is that now it is much easier for some of us to vote our conscience.  And this blogger will.


1) I should not assume that everyone is a history buff like me.

That line meant at the time that Teddy Roosevelt was immensely popular yet controversial for breaking the GOP ranks, while Taft represented the safe and secure business establishment.  Thus the rather weak democrats had an opportunity to benefit from that GOP division, which they did ushering in 8 years of Wilson administration.

That is why this line is so good because it reflected so concisely the dilemma of the majority republican of the time absolutely unable to make up their mind between a political star (and successful ex-president but always perceived as reckless) and and a dull but safe administrator.  They knew full well that it opened the door to an untested intellectual (never a plus in US politics) who indeed became president (and was for that matter the last intellectual to hold the presidency).