Winning on strengths

Published November 4, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Dr. Jun Ynares
Dr. Jun Ynares



“So, how do candidates win elections?”

In our recent columns, we shared with our readers how we have addressed questions asked us by young political aspirants in the coming 2019 polls. We have been answering their queries based on two things: insights based on our own experiences; and the experiences of our elders who have occupied elective posts in the past.

The question we had earlier mentioned is among those most frequently asked. Often, we jokingly say that winning in the elections is a “stroke of luck.”

I mentioned two “lucky” situations.

First, winning by “default.”

Second, winning by “technicality.”

“By default” is when no one else had filed a certificate of candidacy for the post one is vying for.

“By technicality” is when the other candidates are disqualified for failure to meet requirements or certain deadlines.

Then, there are two situations that do not depend on “luck,” we are quick to point out to these young political aspirants.

One is winning based on the weakness of one’s rivals.

The other is winning based on one’s own strengths.

It is interesting that there are many political aspirants who opt to base their campaign for public office on the “weakness” of their opponents. Their call to action is “vote for me because my opponent’s weaknesses are worse than mine.”

When one listens to such a campaign pitch, one would realize that the so-called “weaknesses of my opponents” are either “imagined” or “fabricated,” or are actually “strengths” of their opponents which they misinterpret to voters.

For example, we noted that there have been social media posts regarding the bid for reelection of Manila City Mayor Erap Estrada. The former president has been the object of attack by ranters calling attention to his age. “He’s 81,” they point out, apparently believing that age is a “weakness” and an “election issue.”

We also recall the time when Governor Nini Ynares made her first bid for the post she occupies today. The black propaganda machinery of her political foes went on a blitz which capitalized on her being a “woman” — as if “gender” were a weakness and a relevant election issue.

The brilliance of both Mayor Erap and Governor Nini is that they have both proven that the “weakness” they are being accused of by bashers are their very strengths. Governor Nini has shown that attention to details and “household management” where women have a clear advantage over men have proven to be beneficial to her constituents.

Mayor Erap’s age, on the other hand, has been viewed by Manileños as an indication of wisdom and experience and proof of his dedication to public service.

We recall a moment in the US presidential elections where the late Ronald Reagan was among the field of aspirants. It appeared that his opponents had wanted to turn the fact that Reagan was “old” into an issue. He was asked that question during a televised debate. His answer was classic:

Reagan said:

“I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

Some US political observers noted that his handling of that “weakness” issue may have won him significant votes in that election contest.

We believe that trying to win an election by focusing on portraying one’s opponent as “weak” is in itself a “weakness.” It deceives voters into making a “weakness-based” choice. The better way would be to inspire them into choosing on the basis of “who is better.”

The “better choice” would be the candidate who can present proof regarding two things that truly matter to constituents: character and performance.

Character guarantees constituents that they will be listened to and treated with respect by those whom they voted into office. The track record of performance is the assurance that the aspirations they have expressed to those whom they voted for will be translated into concrete and responsive projects, programs and accomplishments.

“Strength” is what defines our value to others.

It is the expression of the innate talents we possess and which we put into the service of our fellowmen.

The comparison of the “strengths” of political aspirants for an elective post is what makes for an informed and wise voter decision.

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