I come before you today to bury Hugo Chavez, not to praise him. But let us strip away for one moment Chavez's odious politics, if that is possible, and look at the man for who he was.
Here is a guy who essentially imposed his own vision of the way things should work on everybody, with such complete ruthlessness and fury that everything was swept before him. To his defenders, here, in some form, was authentic "people's power," long talked about but seldom seen.
Do not try to convince these people that Chavez overstepped in any way, shape, or form. For them, whatever Chavez may have done is of no consequence next to the sins of the "neo-liberal consensus" and "laissez-faire capitalism" that is in much clearer evidence everywhere.
For you see, not even Hugo Chavez can really create a capitalism-free zone. Like the patriarchy, like racism, the evils of capitalism cannot be truly killed, even by a full-on Bolivarian revolution with all the trimmings. The demon must be resurrected a thousand times only to be killed again and again. You can point to the fact that much of Venezuela is still incredibly poor, but this is not due to any failing on Chavez's part. Chavez himself blamed this on "food hoarding" by rich people and nobody seems to really have a problem with that explanation. After all, the people of Venezuela continued to re-elect Chavez in elections that even Jean Chretien praised as "normal."
Each and every person on the left subscribes to the Guillotine Doctrine, which Chavez practiced in one of its purest forms. The Liberals water it down a lot, and the NDP water it down less, and so on and so forth. But if you look at Chavez's example, there really is no reason why they should water it down at all.
Why, for example, should the Liberals be seized with pangs of conscience over the power plant or the deficit or ORNGE or any of the messes they made? Why should they seek after solutions proposed by Sandra Pupatello and the rest of the "neo-liberal consensus"? They had no reason to do so. The people are behind them, as this poll by Forum Research makes clear.
The right can be shamed into awkward silence by memories of the Mike Harris government, whereas defenders of Chavez have no reason to feel shamed at all. Chavez himself felt no reason to apologize for anything he did, and neither did Chretien, Trudeau, Obama, Wynne, and all the rest of them. The Occupy Movement occasions clucks of sympathy from the Governor of the Bank of Canada. The Red Squares and Idle No More are treated as discussion partners in a conversation that's only going to go one way.
These people have liberated themselves from any semblance of shame. They have crossed over into a world where what they say is always right by virtue of the fact that it's them saying it. We are not ever going to enjoy that level of trust, as the Rob Fords and Danielle Smiths and Tom Flanagans of the world find out too late. When they fall, it's all the way.
This is your "neo-liberal consensus" that dominates everything, that supposedly prevents progress.
People believe there is a conspiracy by rich people to oppress them, and they believe they have the world coming to them. The left dangles the false promise of a perfectly equal world before them every election, and more often than not, it works. The demon is killed one thousand times and brought back to life again and again.
And we have nothing comparable. We can't convince people that the government is not really concerned with helping them. And so long as we can't, people like Chavez are going to enjoy the status they do, in life and in death.