ON Wednesday afternoon in Washington (very early Thursday morning in Manila), US Vice President Joe Biden put an end to weeks of speculation by calling a formal press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House to announce that he would not seek the Democratic nomination for president.
The reaction to Biden’s decision, from political supporters and rivals alike, was respectful disappointment. Whether or not one agrees with him – his political outlook appeals to the same crowd as Hillary Clinton’s – all agree he would have been a worthy candidate, and wished him well for his impending retirement.
The reason Biden gave for finally deciding not to run was that there was no longer time to properly carry out an election campaign, due to the amount of time he had to devote to his family in the wake of the death from cancer of his eldest son Beau’s – the Attorney General of the Bidens’ home state of Delaware – this past May.
We realized what we just related is a completely alien concept to our political class, so let us explain it in clearer terms: A popular politician, and in total contrast to those who set their sights on the highest offices in the Philippines, one with unquestionable qualifications to run for president (36 years as a senator and eight as vice president), considers the death of a family member a practical and emotional liability to a political campaign, and a reason not to proceed with one.
Aiming for sympathy votes is a twisted and tawdry way to use the death of one’s notable kin to market a candidacy; and is even worse when the kinship is presented as a substitute for actual qualifications for office. And it makes fools of the voters. In effect, our candidates are asking us to vote for them as a proxy for a dead person, and disregard their own lack of qualifications; the subtext is that questioning their fitness for office is somehow disrespectful of the deceased.
Is it little wonder that we are constantly struggling to hold clean elections, when this is the low standard we accept for people running in those elections?
Whatever happens, we expect that the Philippines is going to learn a lot of lessons from the outcome, and not all of them will be welcome ones. Hopefully one of them will be to demand more from those who are vying for our votes, beginning with a little respect. Being public figures in their own right, the notable kin in question may be remembered in any way their many admirers wish; for those who survived them to suggest that remembrance should be a vote is the height of selfishness.