Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Is Barack Obama the New Hugo Chavez?

People familiar with my expertise about Venezuelan authoritarian president Hugo Chavez often ask me some form of, “Is Obama like Chavez?” I get this from Venezuelans and Americans.

The answer is both “yes” and “no.” To put it in the most concise format possible, what follows is a brief comparison, or you could say, my 255-page dissertation in a paragraph.

Obama and Chavez are alike in that they...

− Both ran successful bids for election on a “change” platform.
− Both appeal to people who believe the government should have a wide and deep scope of power.
− They were about the same age when winning the presidential election for the first time.
− As candidates they ran as relative political outsiders, but not are not as outside the system as they like people to believe.
− Both are, or already have, installed new bureaucracies on top of old ones.

Obama and Chavez are different from each other in that....

− Chavez has overtly advocated socialism as the preferred economic policy option.
− Any media support for Chavez is the result of either coercion (shutting down inconvenient outlets) or taking ownership of the media.
− The U.S. electorate includes a much stronger entrepreneurial streak.
− Obama is more intellectual while Chavez is the macho military man.
− Obama does not support the narcotics trade in Latin America.
− Obama does not appear to support eradicating our two-party political system.

To summarize, the United States has a stronger tradition of democracy and boot-strapping “I can do it” mindset. Part of the difference goes back to our country being settled by Pilgrims seeking to establish a themselves in a new, self-sustaining community while Venezuela was initially “conquered” by Spaniards seeking loot to bring back to the Old World. The Venezuelan people are inculcated through the educational system that their country's oil wealth is sufficient to provide for the whole population.

What these two presidents really have in common is that they appeal to electorates who are convinced that a government really is capable of guaranteeing them jobs, “fair” prices, free health care, quality education for everyone, a “decent' retirement, good roads and utilities, and of course, freedom from invasion and from anarchy.

It will be interesting to see how each country adapts to the eventual reality check on the limits of any government to solve society's problems.

This is a guest post by Dr. Laura Mixon of Mixonian, a blog dedicated to improving communication and presentation skills. She specialized in Hugo Chavez' communication techniques in her dissertation.


support barack obama said...

I do agree, they have their own share of similarities. I hope Obama can really lead the country to make it better. I'm actually looking forward on that. I know he can do it.

fairkaye said...

While I appreciate hearing from you, I wonder if you really read the post or thought about what it said. The last two paragraphs (as does history itself) clearly indicate that there is no government that can give people everything they want.

Anonymous said...

The comments favoring OBama,are based on nothing but wishful thinking. Almost every move Obama has made is based on wishful thinking. I believe the law in physics which says"To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." We are now feeling the reaction part, our over indulgences. You can't really pay yourselves out of debt by more spending,and more inflation.

I totally disagree with the wishfull thinker.