Random thoughts on politics

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 20, 2015 – 12:00am

Tis the season of politics. Everyone is speaking his or her mind on issues, candidates and topics like governance, qualifications, citizenship, etc. It can get people pretty primed to shout loudly and forcefully about their bets.

This is how it goes. Politicians announce or give strong hints that they will be candidates. What happens next is people take notice and begin to like or dislike them. People make their choices. What is actually happening to many voters at this stage is they get too excited and announce allegiance to their bets this early. The most rabid and fanatical fool themselves into believing that their chosen candidate is perfect, flawless and infallible.

Here are some thoughts about politics, candidates, voters, surveys, campaigning, etc. I have put them down mostly in nugget form so they are easier to digest. Here goes.

* * *

Have you heard of The Three Bears Theory in choosing a candidate?

Do you recall the story of Goldilocks entering the house of the three bears and trying out the chairs, the porridge, and the bed?

Papa bear’s chair was too big, his porridge too hot, and his bed too hard. Mama bear’s was the complete opposite. But baby bears’ was “just right.”

I like looking at the candidates’ characters, records and platforms and see which of them will seem to have the right answers most of the time. In general, I avoid extreme disadvantages, or vulnerabilities attached to candidates. Some may be too corrupt, or too impatient, or drastic, or too inexperienced.

* * *

Politicians are like fish. No fish can live in pure water. But you can’t get the water too dirty either without paying a huge price.

Is your candidate too compromised morally? I, for one, will not vote for any candidate who is tainted with corruption. Because even if he/she does bring progress, I will curse every infrastructure he/she builds knowing that some of the money was pocketed while building it.

There is no perfect candidate. Every one of them is human with faults. Some do have more sins than others, though. Right at the outset, we must be able to tell which one we will not be wasting our time considering.

I will grant that no one is perfect, and everyone is partially right. But I would choose the candidate that I think is, or will be, more right than others in most situations.

All politics is contextual. All politics is local, as former US Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill once said. No politician exists in a vacuum. They are always immersed in local realities. They are always coming from a political or social situation or a narrative. The candidate we should choose is the one (in our opinion) who can best solve our problems and can move us forward considering the entire context. He will not be faultless. But he will be the most likely to deliver!

* * *

There are always ready, willing excited candidates who will run at the drop of a hat. Then, there are the reluctant ones.

In my experience, the reluctant ones are the truly deserving. More often than not, the reluctance comes from a conscience that does not want to deliver less than what is expected of them. They give a lot of thought to whether they are qualified or not and how much they can do once elected. They stay up late wondering if they will be effective, and whether they are being true to the call to serve. These are the ones I like to support.

* * *

When we look at survey numbers, we should see them not as static figures. To know their implications, we should ask whether the numbers are on the way down or up. While Vice President Binay seems formidable with a 30-plus approval rating, it’s quite a step down from his previous 70-plus approval rating last year.

Political capital such as popularity is not something you can put in the bank for use someday. It must be used when it is there, otherwise it may disappear. Perhaps integrity is the only political capital that does not lose value.

* * *

Every presidential candidate must somehow be able to connect to the electorate in an intimate way. And how much more intimate can they be than as a member of the family? Looking at the candidates in the running now, I ask myself, what family connection narratives does each one present?

Ferdinand and Imelda for a while projected themselves as our “Ama at Ina ng Bayan” (father and mother of the people) until we decided we’d rather be a nation of orphans.

Tita Cory was our favorite auntie, the tita who cared for us and did her best when we lost our parents. She could be trusted with the family fortune.

FVR was some sort of distant uncle who would send us money for our needs. We were not too warm to him. We never really knew much about him but he was “all right.”

Erap tried to be the “Ama ng bayan,” but he was the wayward father who was a drunk and a womanizer. He eventually had to be sent away.

Enter Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. She did not want to be a called an “ate,” but in our eyes she was. She was the brightest oldest sister who went to school, and would deliver us to a better place. But sadly, we discovered that our “ate” was involved in shady activities and so she lost her esteemed place in the family.

P-Noy, the son of our beloved Tita Cory and the son of Ninoy, a hero, was easy to trust. The fruit, after all, does not fall far from the tree.

I imagine Grace would be another ate figure, a pleasant adopted sister who grew up away from the family but has come back to stay and claim her place. She will also play the “father’s daughter” too, out to avenge his loss in an earlier election. Duterte would be the strict uncle whom we fear but who promises to protect us and keep us safe. Binay would be the compromised father figure, who we think is involved in illegal stuff, not too far from how Erap was. At best, we would be his “other” family since he already has his whole family in political positions.

Mar Roxas would have the most unique position among the candidates. He will not be a blood relative but the best friend of a member of the family who has become part of us. Although coming from a more privileged background, he will be a dependable “kinakapatid” (god-brother) who will always be there when you need him. He is loyal to the family and is well-accepted and trusted. And he can be relied upon for financial assistance when needed.

Which narrative will be the most attractive for voters? Which one will play out successfully? We will find out soon enough.

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