Elections are fast approaching and the talk of who to pick for the various positions are starting to heat up. Debates on the relative merits of experience, integrity, honesty and a host of other virtues (not to mention vices) now fill the news cycles and drive the chatter in social media.
In all of this, one thing that might be useful to remember is that candidates are just like specialist doctors, you pick the one that fits your specific disease. If you have cancer, you go to an oncologist. If you’re pregnant, a gynecologist. And if you break your leg, you see someone trained in orthopedics. A bad choice can easily lead to misdiagnosis, improper treatment, maybe even death.
So following the same logic, choosing a candidate should be a two step process. First, a voter needs to identify what the biggest problem the country is facing. Is there a breakdown of law and order, are we being threatened by an external enemy, do we need to get more investments coming into the economy? In other words, what is the country “sick” of. And second, basing on the answer to the first question, who is the most qualified to solve the problem and “cure the sickness.”
In the book “The Marketing of the President,” which offers many excellent insights into the emergence and growth of the use of marketing principles in political campaigns, author Bruce Newman argues that a candidate is not just a bar of soap to be sold to unwitting voters. Rather he is a “service provider and offers a service to his consumers, the voters… By taking note that the candidate is really a service provider, the distinction between campaigning and governing becomes clearer. The actual delivery of a service that a candidate offers to the voter does not occur until he begins to govern.”
This clarification of what a candidate truly represents is especially important in the Philippine setting where politicians routinely get elected based on promises that they have absolutely no intention of fulfilling. It has become so bad that it’s really only a matter of time (and an ambitious lawyer) before Filipino voters file a class action lawsuit for false advertising against these elected officials.
Going back to the analogy of candidates as doctors, at the rate they are going, all of our political leaders would be liable for malpractice. Imagine going to a dentist’s clinic expecting to have your tooth pulled and coming out with a new pair of eyeglasses. It is simply unimaginable how such a large and prominent group of people, so-called leaders no less, can routinely lie to so many people and not only get away with it, but get rich while they doing so.
But then again there are always at least two sides to every issue. In this case, not all the blame can be placed with the candidate. After all, one cannot fault the crocodile for biting your hand off if you were stupid enough to put it in its mouth. People who blindly accept everything that oozes out of the mouth of crooked candidates have to bear their fair share of the blame for making our political system the mess that it is today.
Looking towards the 2016 elections, we can see that choosing the right candidate really requires an understanding of the many complex problems that needs to be solved. Corruption, despite the best efforts of this administration, continues to exist. China is literally camping at our doorsteps. Millions of poor Filipinos still face the direst choices every day.
And for us in Mindanao, there is the added complication of searching for the right leader who would be able to rightly place us in our proper context within the larger national picture. A candidate who would fix the country while at the same time reminding the war-mongers and carpet-baggers in the capital that Mindanawons are just as good, if not better, than they are.
This is not going to be easy. Nothing worth doing is. Sadly not everyone with the desire to vote wisely is equipped with the intellect to do so. Those who do therefore have the bigger task of educating the rest that the Philippines is like a patient afflicted with many ailments and most the doctors claiming they can cure it are quacks. The trick is to know which one isn’t.