Friday, November 23, 2007

On defining tyrants

By Libby
Updated below

As usual, an offhand post on Chavez I thought few would read, ended up engendering quite a debate here yesterday. Today, Charles at Mercury Rising expands on the genesis of Chavez' popularity and provides insights on how the rightwing dissenters lost their grip on power in Venezuela.

The right-wing is unwilling to acknowledge that Chavez came to power because the right failed to raise the standard of living–indeed, lowered the standard of living– of most Venezuelans. Their unwillingness to acknowledge that life was no bed of roses under their rule is the main reason that they have so little credibility now.

Another reason for their low credibility, of course, is that they have consistently lied, particularly in regard to the coup against Chavez. The reality is that for many Venezuelans, the standard of living has improved, children are getting better educations, non-petroleum based activities are starting to bulk up the economy, and–for most people– there is more freedom of political expression, if only because there are outlets that aren’t controlled by the right.
That's an important point that I didn't make yesterday. Prior to Chavez, the opposition parties held the power in his country. The social conditions they created are what made Chavez' populist policies so appealling in the first place. Which again, is not to be taken as advocating for his methods. As Charles says:

I sincerely hope that Venezuela’s right wing regains its footing, since political balance is the surest guarantor against the rise of dictatorships.

Indeed. We've witnessed ourselves what happens when one party controls the whole system. Which brings me to the other hotly debated point in yesterday's discussion, how to define a tyrant. Scarecrow at FDL comes up with a much better list of our own president's qualifications for that title than I did. I'd urge you to read it in full but here's the money question.

What will it take for the major US media to acknowledge that the Bush/Cheney regime’s actions and views on the limits of executive power represent an unprecedented threat to America’s Constitutional democracy, its national security, and its moral standing in the world?

For myself, I've given up on the media long ago but I'd ask what it will take for my fellow Americans, who continue to minimize and excuse our president's excesses, to take the threat seriously?

Update: Charles now has the specifics and analysis on Venezuela's proposed constitutional changes along with some unreported reaction from other Latin America leaders. It's a mixed bag but as it relates to the context of my point here, Chavez is still acting within the rule of law, not outside it as Bush has here.

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