MAKE YOUR VOTE COUNT!
As we shake that tacky campaign jingle from our wits we realize that May 10 draws near. Unless the administration pulls out a 5th ace from its deck of cards, our future is decided by the end of May. Here’s a cheat sheet for you women out there—the last-minute, undecided, yet thinking voter.
By Gang Badoy
We hope you’ve got your short-list. Unfortunately for us Filipinos, this political race track is full—all lanes have hoofmarks dug deep from start to finish, save for one horse. Kilusang Bagong Lipunan’s (KBL) standard bearer, Vetellano Acosta was disqualified sometime early March. Many of us only heard of him when news of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) giving him the boot hit the six o’clock news. Acosta walked away from the oval right when his recognition rate was at its peak. Imagine that. In any case, we are still left with eight horses to bet on and the last lap has just begun.
Let’s start with certain truths about us. My trusted friend, writer, publisher and sometimes political pundit Erwin Romulo summarized his experience, “Men tend to stick to what they know while women are more open to seeing what a candidate is—just as in dating. Guys tend to go with what they know and will change only if something drastic convinces them otherwise.” Not comfortable with just one observation, I asked Reproductive Health Advocacy Network honcho Elizabeth Angsioco to balance out the gender opinion. “I think that women also look into the candidates’ ‘softer’ side, like how they treat people,” says Angsioco. “We’ve dropped one senatorial candidate because of first-hand reports regarding this. Questions like ‘Are they perceived as caring persons?’ come up. This is also in relation to their partners, children, mothers, siblings. In short, women, beyond looking at macro issues, qualifications and track record, also consider ‘soft issues’ in making their choices.”
Knowing this, we proceed:
five things to remember before voting:
1) Know that a vote is not hereditary.
Our first step is to do away with our ‘inherited politics’—the politics of our parents. Yes, the color of our hair and eyes are genetic skips from our parents but sometimes so are our political hues. This doesn’t mean to say that in the end we can’t share the same shade of green, yellow, orange or blue as them—we can! It’s just as important that we know that it is truly ours. And if we have to hide a certain colored batch of T-shirts when we go to Sunday lunch until we have decided, then so be it. Given that our country has a rather psychedelic set up of political parties, this first step could also be determined as irrelevant.
If your eyes were even half-open throughout the last six years you pretty much dismiss party affiliations all together. The important thing and I cannot say this enough—It has to be truly your call. It is, after all, your vote.
2) Figure out your fears.
More often than not fear is a good fuel for action. In fact, if you wrote down your biggest fears for the country—the first three items on the list would possibly contain your life’s advocacy and mission. More often than not, sifting through your nightmares determines what’s important to you because you will gravitate towards things and activities that will assuage these. Are you most horrified by hunger, poverty, gender inequality, preventable diseases, miseducation of the next generation, global warming, war? Which one is it? Once you’ve answered this, you are now in the ante-room to the cavernous chamber we loosely call “policies.” Ah, see? It is not that complex after all.
3) Differentiate principles from policies.
Obviously a spin-off from item #2, we have to decide now which we prioritize. Closely observing candidates can be a complex activity. Reporters research for us and we read them. The complexity of the news item compared to the simplicity of the TV ad or the catchiness of his/her campaign jingle spins before us. Since ads are created to transmit clearly into the minds of the average audience there is a tendency for us to reach out and grab what is simpler to understand. And yes, it is the method of the ad agency that grabs our attention more than the convoluted research of the investigative journalist. Now, it is possible to give in to sloth. When we are on lazy gear, we naturally cross over to the principles we already understand. To paraphrase an article I read a long time ago: What does “budget deficit” mean? I don’t exactly know. What does “adultery” mean? I know! Therefore virtues can replace politics, with voters leaning onto the simpler question of principles rather than the harder question of policy. The ideal is a balance of both but since we are aware that none of our horses in this May 2010 race is perfect—then it is time we decide which gets the premium ribbon from us. Know the difference between these judgment approaches and acknowledge which one is your priority. Set your own criterion! Then you are ready for item #4.
4) Do not be flotsam to survey tides.
We try to watch and listen during the so-called debates with its time-limitations and network steered biases and come out as befuddled as the unintelligent aspirant. Then worse—we wait for the instant end-of-debate polls telling us which candidate “won.” Though it is true that this poll can be included in a wider more thorough statistic, it tends to make us lazy. These trends and surveys merely assign the decision to others and it can possibly become our bottom line for voting. And yes, this is where we hear the familiar, “I’d vote for candidate X but since he’s so low on the surveys I’ll just vote for Y because I don’t want Z to win.” You’ve either said this yourself or heard it from your most analytical friend. There is nothing I can do if this is the route you’ve decided to take. I am in no position to say it is wrong or right because your choice to vote for second choice, candidate “Y” can possibly be just a firm result of item #2, right? (repeat after me, “Figure out your fears.”)
5) Have a little faith in the science.
Do not mistake the campaign for the presidency. History can remind us that managing a great campaign has very little to do with being a great president. Unfortunately the campaign period does not include a simulation of events and tasks designed to test the candidate’s abilities. There are no try-outs for the presidency, no auditions, no semi-finals, no Top Five. They don’t get to play The Sims-Nation and present their scores to us. Obviously election day is not a time for magic from all sides. If it is honest, elections are as exact as math or science. Election is a form of intelligent prediction based on facts, backed up by knowing personal and professional histories of a candidate and fortifying a choice with numbers and support. In the end, there is still a gamble, don’t you think? The risks are just reduced in proportion to our knowledge of the aspirant and his entourage. In a way we think before we vote because when we cast that ballot it is almost predicting a better-run nation under the leadership of our “chosen one.” So…if you have a little faith left in you, then vote for your choice and then cross out item #4 because you should never be flotsam to anyone or anything’s tides but yours.
The goal is to someday vote with faith in the system, our gut and analyses. There’s a science to this, I know it. I have a confession to make, I still feel uncertain about my personal voting method until today (the audacity to even write this piece!)—but I have resolved to keep working on it constantly even through the next six years. I have to make sure that I have this down pat in time for May 2016. (ends)
Now if only writing for Women’s Health can count for calories burnt and muscles built. -GBC