Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Our Own Hugo Chavez?

ALBERTO BARRERA TYSZKA, writing in the NYT, points out some parallels:

MEXICO CITY — Long before becoming president, when he was a soldier, Hugo Chávez organized cultural activities, most notably beauty pageants. On a stage, microphone in hand, Mr. Chávez served as host, pumping up the audience and announcing the winner. The showman in him already struggled to emerge from under the uniform. Mr. Chávez said he imitated the proceedings he had seen on television in these improvised contests. This is how he learned to play to an audience.

When he tried to seize power through a coup d’état years later, in 1992, the resulting media frenzy sent him another sign. His military failure turned into a political victory: When Mr. Chávez appeared on TV to call for his colleagues to give up, he won over the audience. One minute on the screen was more effective than tanks, machine guns and bullets.

That was the start of his political career. He didn’t rise to power through social struggles. He became president without ever holding public office or a representative position that would have required him to negotiate or compromise. From his first election as president, in 1998, to his last one, in 2012 — shortly before his death at age 58 in March 2013 — Mr. Chávez became an expert in using television as a form of government.

Now Donald J. Trump is proposing the same thing to the United States.

Beyond their ideological differences, Mr. Trump, a populist right-winger, and Mr. Chávez, a leftist strongman, share the same telegenic vocation. They both built a career via television spectacle. Every Sunday, Mr. Chávez appeared on a program called “Aló Presidente,” in which he would sing, talk about current events or appoint and dismiss ministers — reminiscent of Mr. Trump’s television catchphrase “You’re fired!” There was no time limit for “Aló Presidente.” The longest episode lasted eight hours and seven minutes