The big showdown in Caracas, over the seating of the new National Assembly, won by democracy campaigners but challenged by long-ruling Chavista leftists, is quite a letdown after the stunned, can't-believe-this-is-happening joy of the Dec. 6 legislative victory.
After all, the opposition had tried for more than a decade to unseat these Chavistas, only to be thwarted again and again by legal maneuvers, ballot box stuffing, and kid you not, beatings on the floor of the assembly.
Most insulting of all were the phony imprimaturs of free and fair elections, given by international observers, most notoriously Jimmy Carter.
And then suddenly opposition won. In the Dec. 6 vote, the margin of victory was so big, the election was simply impossible to steal.
Yet it didn't stop the Chavistas, who, after losing at the ballot box, turned to the courts to keep their legislative power. (As Russia's Vladimir Putin has more or less put it, when democracy fails, try "legal dictatorship.")
Venezuela's leftists challenged several seats won by the opposition, mostly from jungle districts in the far south (well known areas of government distrust and dissent, by the way) and claimed they really won them.
A Chavista judge threw out most of their cases, but let them challenge four seats legally. Why? At stake was the opposition's super-majority, which would enable the new legislature to free political prisoners, investigate drug traffickers in Venezuela's cabinet, and throw out the incompetent, detested President Nicolas Maduro.
Inauguration day came around and the opposition refused to let itself be cowed by left-wing legal maneuvers. Ignoring the challenges, they seated all their national assembly members and upheld the will of the people. They refused to be trussed again this time.
They seem to have won, "for now," as the late Hugo Chavez used to say. But it's quite likely the challenges will continue.
This raises the question of why the left has such a hard time accepting defeat. One could argue that the dictatorship of Cuba's Fidel Castro and the Soviet communists he modeled his dictatorship on is at the root of it.
Power forever! Let the descamisados at the balcony fist-wave and cheer!
But there is also the 2000 example of Al Gore, unable to get the result he wanted in that election in Florida — howling fraud, demanding recounts in selected counties until he got the result he wanted, and making a nuisance of himself. That's a defining moment too.