04 November 2008

Political Future

Politics--and history--are the order of the day, but in true Jenius fashion, this is about Me.

Over at Puerto Rico: A Paradise Lost?, The Insider has quoted Me extensively regarding his support for Rogelio Figueroa's Puertorriqueños por Puerto Rico (PPR) party platform:

"When I want expert blogger insight on Puerto Rican politics, I read Gil the Jenius. A quick search of his blogs shows that Gil does not have much confidence in him to say the least, describes him as an advocate lacking the experience and know-how of a political leader, and even “Egofabulous” with a questionable wardrobe during the final debate.  

(Boxed quote: ) "Rogelio is as useful to Our politics as a baby bottle is to an auto mechanic."

If the man was as visionary as one might claim his platform is, I would think Gil might have plans to vote from someone other than Spongebob."

First, some housekeeping: Yes, I did vote for Spongebob and Pepe Le Pew...and no one else, and I will soon post a response to The Insider's expanded take on local alternative energy production.

Back to the kamikaze. I have indicated before that I did meet with Rogelio and his "executive team" to discuss rewriting/editing the party's platform and (I mention now) to serve as a consultant to his party's campaign. I will also point out that I have never done that before and after this experience, will never do it again.

I knew very little about Rogelio and his party before the meeting, so I did the basics: For one, I read the party platform off its website. Killed two birds with one stone since I was going to have to rewrite it (I thought.) What I read struck as Me as idealistic and off-target with the average voter, aiming at environment and energy when the voter wants economy and employment.

But I didn't disagree with it.

In fact, I recently found a column I wrote for PuertoRican.com, dated January 28th, 2002, in which I outlined 5 basic points a platform had to have to successfully launch a new party in Puerto Rico:

1) No status position. It would literally push the status issue to the backest burner, where it belongs.
2) Clean Government. Really clean, not “whitewash” city.
3) Refocus to high-tech economic growth. This Island is twenty years’ behind the times with its neurotic focus on manufacturing as primary economic engine. 
4) Revamping education to world standards. The Knowledge Economy doesn’t work with 50% functional illiteracy and a fraud-ridden, ill-designed Educational system.
5) Reducing the Government’s size through privatization. Controversial as all get out, but economically sound, especially in terms of foreign investment into Puerto Rico.

I later expanded these same points in a column dated February 4th, 2002. And though at the time I wrote the columns to suggest that then-Federal Prosecutor Guillermo Gil be the main candidate of that party, I did so on the basis that he was a political outsider who could launch reforms from his power base.

But notice that in all 5 of the points I dropped online in 2002, the PPR and I are in substantial agreement. (I'd link you to an English version of the platform, but the PPR doesn't have one. If that doesn't tell you We're a monolingual country, what will?)

So why am I down on the PPR? (Make no mistake: even if they get 10% of the votes, I'll still be down on them.) Two words: power base. Back in 2002, Guillermo Gil had one if he wanted to use it; in 2008 Rogelio doesn't have one and he's unwilling to build one.

My first inkling that Rogelio was off ego-tripping was when he told Me that, very early that morning, 6 people on the street came up to greet him as he came into his office. And that, he pointed out with a touch of excitement, was after only one TV interview! I let it slide, but when he repeated it, I pointed out that at that early hour, 5 of those 6 people were homeless and didn't vote. (His party offices are not in prime urban real estate, if you catch My drift.)

I suggested he had to overcome his inexperience in politics and build a power base by running for the Senate, as an at-large candidate, to give him and his party time to learn the ropes, develop a network of relationships and get a true feel for what they were up against. I also suggested finding two spotless outsider candidates to run for governor and head beggar (okay, resident commissioner). He asked Me why and I explained that the gubernatorial candidate would carry the message to the people and against the opposition, and though that candidate would lose, Rogelio and the party would become stronger through exposure, by not only getting the word out, but by attacking the points the PPR wanted to highlight as crucial.

I said the PPR was not a "governing" party, but a "political activism" party, i.e., one that could participate and create changes from the inside. For that reason, the PPR had to do two things: (1) Get Rogelio and one other candidate elected as legislators and, (2)  Preserve and expand the party's franchise by achieving more than 5% of the votes.

In a talking points memo I drafted on June 2, 2008 (e-mail Me and I'll send you a copy; it's in Spanish), the first 3 points in that memo are about what I have just written. The PPR had a perfect "outsider gubernatorial candidate," a successful, semi-retired business man who'd made significant contributions to both major local parties and, as I immediately pointed out, was immune from attack by them because he would know "where the bodies are buried." We had to explain that point to Rogelio.

Despite My bluntness--or maybe because of it--Rogelio kept insisting he could--no, that he should--run for governor. I asked him point-blank if he could garner the 900,000 or so votes needed to beat the incumbent and his major party opponent. Rogelio said that of course he could, that he thought he could get a million votes. I then pointed out what I'd learned in doing the basics: On Google (at the time), Governor Aníbal Acevedo pulled in 14,000 results, ex-governor Pedro Rosselló pulled in 11,000, Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño had 8,000 and "Rogelio Figueroa" less than 200, of which, I pointed out, the first 6 were of a roofer in Florida with a bad reputation.

Later, as topics and themes were rehashed, the meeting plunged into a battle of egos when Rogelio practically yelled at his campaign advisor and stated, in no uncertain terms, that he (Rogelio) was the party and the only ones who challenged him on that point were the attacked advisor and Me. I left the 4-hour meeting fully aware that six months before the election, the PPR, a party that came together as an extension of environmental activities that fully 85% of Puerto Ricans didn't know or care about, was in the hands of an ego-tripping neophyte.

And that My first foray into politics was simply confirmation that the process sucks, the egos and ids run rampant and that straight talk backed by good, even great ideas, has as much impact as snowflakes on a volcano.

Do I think the PPR has good ideas? Yes. But at the platform level, all three parties have good ideas. What distinguishes the PPR from the rest is that, at least in technology and the environment, they speak from experience and careful thought, not just as political crows trying to squawk a pleasing tune. As for the people, well, the PPR had the usual bunch of spineless yes-men and yes-women that accept trading dollars as partial payment for the abdication of their dignity, self-respect and intelligence.

Can Rogelio get his party past the magical 5% mark? Sure. But the war, if you will, is not 2008: It's 2012. I advocated the PPR winning the battle it could now in exchange for a greater chance at winning the war, with better resources and knowledge, in 2012. Rogelio chose to put himself out there, thinking with his ego rather than his brain, and thus placed the PPR's none-too-secure future in even greater jeopardy.

A kamikaze. Egofabulous. As useful as a baby bottle to a mechanic. And soon to be a footnote in Our political swamp's history.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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