A brilliant friend and colleague, A. Locker, invented the Split. He passed away in 1992. R.I.P.
No, he is not the mortem discussed in this post.
The Locker Split holds that in Western nations, when election results are unknown, the best guess is 53% - 47%. To test the split, I will go ahead and call the American election next month 53%-47%. For that matter, having no idea who the candidates will be, I will do the same for the 2016 U.S. presidential election -- assuming there is one.
The reasons for the Locker Split are complex. He and I discussed them at length. They boil down to the consummate political manifestation of the socio-economic correlation of forces in Western societies. That correlation is what makes them Western in the first place.
In Sunday´s Venezuelan election, President Hugo Chávez won with 55% to 44% for Henrique Capriles (other candidates took 1%). Plus-or-minus 2 percent: we are in solid Locker Split territory.
The turnout was a healthy 81%. Of 18,903,937 million registered voters, Chávez won 8.062,056 versus 6,468,450 for Capriles. The margin for Chávez: 1,593,606.
It could have been otherwise.
If 796,804 people had switched to Capriles, he would have won. More people live in Columbus, Ohio.
There is another way Capriles could have done the impossible.
Approximately 5 million registered voters stayed home. If Capriles had convinced and mobilized just one out of five of them, Venezuela today would be singing a different song.
A song the C.I.A. and State Department for years schemed and dreamed of.
Combining a swing voter conversion with an effective Get Out The Vote drive would have created the upset of the century. But what interests us are not the political implications of the Venezuelan election -- which are enormous -- but why the United States government failed to get it together and beat Chávez.
Look at the numbers again. For Chávez supporters and opponents alike, a mystery remains: why, after all these years, do the C.I.A. and State Department not have a grasp of basic election mechanics?
I will go ahead and do the unheard of: reveal what Washington´s dilemma is and why it cannot be solved. Unheard of, because the following discussion has never before appeared in public. It is covered by an omerta, the Italians call it: a silence more silent than silence.
Strictly insider stuff, our discussion is unlikely to surface ever again. The reason: wherever there is omerta, there is a mafia. More on that shortly.
Washington´s problem in one word: gators.
That is what they are called in the election trade. They lie low in the water, barely breathing must less moving until election season arrives, whereupon they open their eyes and thrash about madly. Their behavior gave rise to a new verb: to gator around. If you want to see surprise flash on a D.C. politico´s face, mention it. Please don´t tell him where you heard it: thanks.
Gators are deceptively quick. Before you know it, they can break your legs, eat you alive.
The gator corps consists of election consultants. Most are third and fourth generation scions of well-known but long-dead politicos; flotsam-jetsam from loser political campaigns who have no place to go, beg for help from state political party hacks and land on consulting firm doorsteps; House and Senate office staffers who were, ah, let go; lobbyists´ sons and daughters whose expertise in political campaigns consists of having attended Exeter or Andover where they roomed with you-know-who in tenth grade.
No sooner do you win your party´s senate or house nomination than gators will phone you, email you at home and abroad. Talk about a hard sell: before you have time to say "Wait a second!" they will be on the first flight out of D.C.
Their spiel: they know how Washington works. They know everybody, everything. Above all, you will need big money. To raise it, you must have a reputable poll to which big league lobbyists can "relate." You don´t know a pollster who fills the bill? Not to worry: the gator will reach for the phone. Before you can say "Hold on!" another gator will be on the way.
Gators 1 and 2 will shake hands and take you to lunch at the nearest Subway. Over a turkey sandwich, they will excitedly explain how your poll will raise enough money to pay for the poll and plenty more. In fact, you will be awash in megabucks; it´s all so simple. You´re on your way, pal.
If you hire one of these out-of-state election consultants to work in your campaign, here is what you will see:
A guy sitting at a desk. Reading, taking notes. The days pass; you wonder, look over his shoulder. What he is doing: learning. Learning that the capitol of Florida is Tallahassee, not Miami; learning that your state has a lot of retirees; learning the governor´s name. In brief, learning what any in state 12-year-old knows. He will progress from there: he will learn a lot of rich people live in West Palm Beach, learn that Sarasota votes Republican. Yes, he will help you raise money, but please take a look at his rented monster Cadillac loaded to the gills with the latest goodies. You will do a Three Stooges double-take.
D.C. election consultants constellate around the two major political parties. They all know each other, and one hand washes the other. A community, then. It is time to add the qualifier mentioned above to the term gator: mafia.
The gator mafia has two major traits:
(1) It is a classic manifestation of the Peter Principle. With a handful of exceptions, D.C. election consultants are as well paid as they incompetent. If you wish to screen them before taking them on board, I wish you the best of luck. On election night you will discover your screen was a screen door on a submarine.
Personally, I wouldn´t pay one of those guys to take out my trash. Which raises this question: why does anybody hire them? How do they put hamburgers on the table?
(2) The federal government´s hands are tied. Washingtonian contacts rather than competency founded the gator mafia; inbreeding did the rest. If the C.I.A. coughed up megabucks to a made man consultant to "oversee" the Venezuelan election, it was not because it respected or liked him, but because it was stuck with him.
With gators dripping off both arms, what is the government to do? When in D.C., there is only one recourse to Beltway Bandits: other Beltway Bandits.
The C.I.A. could of course emulate professional baseball teams run by people with high school diplomas. They send scouts to scour the country for talent. Last time I looked, there were elections in all 50 states. The C.I.A. could arm itself with the facts -- honest-to-god election returns and not what some guy with a hat says -- and get out there. It could ask around about good campaign managers, press aides, fundraisers, pollsters.
Or could it? In reality, scouting for election campaign talent is not an option. As indicated, the government is up to its eyeballs in uncles´ brothers´ nieces´ nephews´ brothers-in-laws who just graduated from Georgetown and, well, ... you know ...
We pointed out (The Big Movida: The Third American Revolution, p. 76) that in the Fourth Reich ruling America today, (i) solutions to problems are known but cannot be implemented, and (ii) money is made not by solving problems but by creating them. D.C. election consultants are key players in both courts. They are a shock-troop solution buster, and they create problems by the trainload.
Mark my words: Hugo Chávez´s victory will turn into a huge money-maker for the very people who were paid to defeat him. You just saw the third trait of the Fourth Reich: nothing succeeds like failure.
You also just saw the mortem in this post.
Footnote. It can only be described as indecent exposure.
(1) Hillary Clinton´s State Department did not congratulate Hugo Chávez for winning the election but rather congratulated Venezuela for a high turnout and generally peaceful voting. The upshot: Washington´s hatred of Chávez is now naked worldwide. So are the Kewpie-Pie lawyer and backdoor man antics in which the Clintons and Barack Obama excel.
The Venezuelan election exposed a thrid item: the State Department´s ignorance of the most rudimentary election etiquette. After a free and fair election, you always congratulate the winner: period. Not to do so is more than undiplomatic, it is dangerous -- a stone rolled up on the edge of democracy.
I will say this of the old-school oligarchs I knew: they all had impeccable manners. Evidently, the archi-rich DDUUHH generation of today doesn´t know and could care less. Their sole instruction from all those private tutors: take the money and run.
Finally, Sunday´s election exposed that State Department, C.I.A. agents, and D.C. political consultants walking down the streets in Caracas don´t have the foggiest idea of what they are looking at. Hugo Chávez is strumming cords that are thousands of years old. Pre-Columbian Indians in what is now Venezuela had equalitarian economies ruled by local caciques. Those chiefs were hierarchically arranged in a loose confederation run by a senorìo, or top cacique -- often a priest.
Gentlemen, skip the cocktail party tonight and try something new: open a book. HIstoria de América Andina, Luís Guillermo Lumbreras, Editor, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Quito, Ecuador, 1999. Volume 1: "Las Sociedades Aborígenes," pp. 213-21. It´s all there.
(2) State Department spokesman William Ostick declared, "We believe that the views of the more than six million people who voted for the opposition should be taken into account going forward."
Well, Wiliam, not really ...
Following Ostick´s logic, George W. Bush should have "taken into account" the views of the majority of the voters who supported Al Gore in 2000. Bush did no such thing, and Ostick -- strangely -- at the time kept his mouth shut.
President Bush´s behavior was the rule, not the exception. Here`s why:
A winning coalition of voters and interests elects office holders. After the election, if somebody who backed the loser candidate wants to be included in that coalition he can be admitted; however, he must come in on the winner´s terms, not his own.
The reason: the applicant will likely have interests which conflict with those of members of the winning coalition. When all is said and done, that conflict is why he backed the loser in the first place. Opposing interests are particularly acute in economically polarized elections such as Venezuela´s.
If the winner throws open the doors and gives carte blanche to the newcomer, other members of the winning coalition will feel betrayed. They sigh, start looking around. The coalition meanders, dissolves.
Politicians commit the carte blanche admission error all the time. Local watering holes are overflowing with ex-office holders who will tell you who they used to be, who seriously believed they could be loved by everyone. Before you give them a handout, gaze into their martini-laced eyes. What you will see: it is impossible to be disillusioned without having had an illusion in the first place.
The fatal error´s most glaring example occurred in post World War II America. Democrats wanted money and naively admitted oligarchs with no questions asked. Contradictions welled up and killed FDR´s unbeatable Democrat coalition of the working and middle classes.