Opinion, Pilipinas

Why not blame the voters?

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I find it strange that some people would absolve voters of responsibility in the kind of people that are elected to public office – good or bad.

The fact is simply this: people don’t get into elected positions unless they are voted for. That being the case, who else are you going to blame (or, to be fair, applaud) for how the elected official turns out?

But let’s go a little deeper into that.

The responsibility of the voter for how the elected official turns out doesn’t end at the polling place. In fact, it doesn’t even begin there.

A voter’s responsibility starts before he even votes. This is because, for the most part, no one goes into the polling place with his mind being a complete vacuum, devoid of opinions or knowledge – regardless of how uninformed those opinions are or how inaccurate that knowledge is. Especially in this hyper-connected era – where the public is routinely regaled by what politicians and prisoners had for breakfast – a voter goes into the polls with a great deal of information already swirling around in his brain. How he organizes that information and makes sense of it is a different story altogether, but the information IS there.

Because it is there, the voter is therefore able to (a) be content with what he thinks he knows and make his decision based on his surface impressions; or (b) decide to dig deeper, to organize the information into meaningful categories such as pros and cons, or perhaps to weigh what he knows of the candidate against his personal priorities. In either case, he is ultimately responsible for what he ends up deciding to do.

If he goes with his surface impressions, then he isn’t actually thinking the problem through. Without question, he accepts the public persona of the candidate and thus becomes vulnerable to misunderstanding what the candidate actually stands for or is capable of. He might then pass up a good candidate simply because the fellow got a bit of bad press; or he could fall for the beguiling attractiveness of a rotten apple, simply because the douche had a good p.r. team. Sure, he might get lucky sometimes, but the odds are stacked against that.

If he is more critical, on the other hand, then he stands a better chance of really arriving at the substance of the candidate. He has a greater opportunity to see through the smoke and mirrors, and thereby arrive at a more reasonable estimate of how good an elected official the candidate might turn out to be.

And when he finally makes his decision – whichever of these two routes he goes through to get there – the voter alone is entitled to the cheers and jeers that follow.

This piece, posted by GMA News Online, however, implies that the voter is practically powerless to make this decision.

However, the odd thing is, I have to make sense of what is going on—perhaps for the sake of maintaining my sanity. And voila! As always, I have my answer and it’s a convenient one. I blame the great unwashed of voters. Period. After all, they deserve the kind of government they voted for.

But on second thought, I asked myself, there’s something not right about this thinking. Since, no leader is immune to the corrupting influence of power and money, why blame the voters?

Really?

Yes, they can vote but they are not the ones crafting malice with the aim of sucking away the people’s money to instantly enrich themselves and their families.

Yes, they can vote but they are not the ones sabotaging or pilfering the economy and leaving the nation’s coffer bone-dry.

Yes, they can vote but they are not the ones entrusted with power to manage the affairs of the government.

Near as I can puzzle out the author’s point of view, he seems to be saying that voters are not aware that the people they vote for a capable of “crafting malice,” or bleeding the “nation’s coffer bone-dry.” He also seems to be implying that the voter cannot be held responsible for the choices he makes simply because he is “not the one entrusted with power to manage the affairs of government.”

As to the first two, I beg to differ. In my experience, voters are fully aware that the people they vote for will gain tremendous power which can then be used for good or ill. It’s just that most voters are hopeful that the person they vote for will actually use that power for good – which isn’t powerlessness so much as it is naivete.

With regard to the last, well, isn’t that the entire point of elected representatives? To hold that one is not answerable for one’s choices simply because one chooses to vest another with responsibility for governance is just a cop-out,

And speaking of naivete.

Having said that, I came to the realization that our best shot for a less corrupt society is to insist and demand from our leaders to control or moderate their self interests. If they can’t control or moderate themselves or if they simply refuse to do so, we can always restrain them with the shackles of the law. That’s my hope.

I have two problems with this statement. First, in the immediately preceding paragraph, the author makes the point that

In contrast, the privilege positions that the few possess speak volumes as to why they are unlikely to be blamed for the ills of our society.

So, if they are unlikely to be blames for the ills of our society, how can we then reasonably say that we can always restrain them with the shackles of the law? And if we cannot reasonably expect them to be hampered by the shackles of the law, how then can we use the law to demand that they “control or moderate their self-interests?”

I know hope springs eternal, but considering the premises laid, perhaps the author’s hope is a bit misplaced.

The second problem I have with this statement is that, while it scratches the surface of what I feel is the right answer (i.e., demand more from our elected leaders), it ignores the fact that voters can do better than just hope. They can vote.

As much as I blame voters for the quality of leaders we get, I am also convinced that they are our one hope for good government. They just have to know how to use their power to vote.

Consider this.

Yup. That’s a Lego brick. That single brick can stay like that and be a menace to all barefoot people in all the world, or it could be a part of this:

Or this:

Get it? Those are the Simpsons, by the way.

Every vote is a Lego brick, and we all have that one piece. We can be careless about it and just leave our vote lying around doing nothing. In that case, we can just as easily become a liability, especially when we allow our one vote to be recruited by people who are in politics for nothing more noble than personal gain. Or, we can find a worthwhile cause and contribute our effort – and our vote – to that cause, whether it be something as overarching as national renewal, or something as visceral as getting rid of a corrupt or ineffectual elected official.

 

 

 

About the author / 

james jimenez

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