Elections are upon us. What kind of voters are out there? What kind of voter are you?
Elections are not just about candidates for office. They are more about voters and their attitudes, needs, biases.
Voters are of many kinds. There is the voter who votes according to his wants, comfort or even whimsicality. This kind of voter is about himself, what he as an individual can get from the candidate without necessarily paying attention to what individual satisfaction means in the context of the greater good for the greater number. For this voter, he is number One.
He can be swayed by promises of freebies, whether no taxes, college education, medical care, movies, cakes, free transport, whatever and the sustainability of these promises do not need looking into. Neither does he expect to contribute to making these promises real. He just waits for them to become real for him.
Voters in the same category who see themselves first rather than as members of a larger community, go by their biases or what outrages them and under this force of emotion choose a candidate who they think will be the foil, good or bad, competent or not, against whoever or whatever they do not like. The choice is more of a reaction, an in-your-face gesture of contempt for the opponent one does not like, is outraged by for whatever reason. It is a negative but not seen as such. The voter just does it.
Then there is the same type of voter who will be tribal and choose a candidate solely on the basis of a tribal, regional or personal connection. Thus, provincemates, former classmates, friends of friends, relatives, distant or not, honorable or not, take precedence over any other candidate with better qualifications. Us first and foremost is the motto.
There is more to the above kind of voter who is driven by wants, comfort and whimsicality. This last is when the other standards become confusing even to the voter who is driven by them i.e. needs, comfort, identity. Confusion with some kind of impatience takes over and a candidate is whimsically chosen without rhyme or reason even by the faulty standards originally used. So, guesswork and capriciousness take over and we get really far out choices, votes unexplained by logic. Like choosing figures from left field such as movie stars, boxers, sports figures, comedians and such personalities, granted to be skilled in their fields, but out of sorts in the world of governance for which the public will pay dearly for their learning curve if they ever come to have one.
The next set of voters are those who insist they must have a winning candidate. So, basically their choice is based on what is described as “winnability” above any other trait.
In cases like this, standards are not applied, logic is not used and the pre-eminent compulsion is to have whoever one votes for to be a winner so one feels like a winner. Actually, it is more like a vote for the candidate who one feels is the sure winner and no other qualifications need be paid attention to.
Another kind of voter is the voter who sees elections as entertainment. For this voter the candidate must be charming, physically attractive, entertaining be it as a comic or a clever sound biter. The voter leans toward frivolous matters like showbiz behavior and what it brings. If the showbiz character played heroic, pro-poor, compassionate and big-hearted roles on celluloid in his former incarnation, that incarnation takes on reality in the voter’s mind and becomes a very real attraction to surrender his vote to. The old deception between appearance and reality takes precedence.
Then there is the voter who looks for authority or a boss to tell him who to vote for. This is the latter part of our feudal system at work where the haves told the have-nots or the bosses dictated to the underlings what to think and how to do so they could share the crumbs from the table. This voter does not use his reason or exercise a choice. No need to make a decision which might be too much of an effort. Just ask the boss, the neighborhood success story or the big man in business or social standing and follow blindly. These are the voters that are the currency of the politics of patronage. Let them be identified with the big boys, the dominant part, get the vicarious thrills and some crumbs from them and be part of the horse-trading between candidates, the beasts of burden, i.e, the horse under the rider.
Many voters proceed from negative feelings rather than cold logic. As an initial state under present circumstances, this can be understood. But if we had better information, more education, more detachment from our biases, it could be better and work out better. With the kind of media that we have that pits personalities and classes against each other rather than issues for discussion in terms of logic, it is cockfighting which calls for bloodletting that becomes the norm. It is a savage competition between persons using name-calling, raising tempers and creating poisonous prejudices that influence who they will vote for rather than what. Who becomes the dominant factor, what gets lost in the shuffle.
So, we are down to what we have always had in Philippine politics where political parties are now more ornamental than ever, issues are relegated to the lower tiers of political discourse. It is who – the one who will fulfill your needs – material and emotional, the one who will put you on the winning side of the vote count so you feel your vote has not been wasted or the one you identify with because he knows you and gives you the comfort of familiarity, entertainment, charm.
Obviously, we need another kind of voter to make better choices.
As someone once said “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”