Say what you want about the political situation, but there have been 1,092,484 new voter registrations for the first two months of 2021.
At this time of gloomy prognostications about the possible outcomes of the 2022 elections, the seeming avalanche of new voter registration gives some sense of hope to our nation.
Credit goes to each new voter who braved the pandemic, just to sign up in the election process, to those who sought to amend their voter registration records, and to those who wanted to vote again by reactivating their voter status.
Let’s encourage more new voters to register, including those turning 18 on Election Day next year. We need more young people to sign up to the political process because otherwise we leave our politics to the same set of traditional politicians and to their cynical and jaded supporters who share a common thing: A gross deficit of hope and of political solutions to our many pressing problems, and an apparent refusal to face the facts that action must be done on a national political scale.
But we cannot stop with massive voter registration drives and, in the future, “get out the vote” campaigns. And this is where it starts to become a lot more challenging.
Our new voters and reactivated voters should get something new, something fresh. They must have something to campaign for, to vote for, and to fight for. We cannot leave our politics to the same political parties, political candidates and political analysts that have dominated and “interpreted” our politics for practically the entire life of the nation. For if we do, these new voters and reactivated voters could themselves become cynical and jaded about the process, and thereby allow the traditional politicians to reduce them as pawns.
We who want more new voters to join the process should do everything in our power to prepare the nation and the electorate for the elections. There would be more than 18,000 positions at stake in 2022, as far as I know. The conventional political wisdom makes us raise the question, would there be enough number of candidates willing to run in the elections?
But new voters and many other voters are actually starting to ask the right questions: Do we have 18,000 patriotic, honest, incorruptible, competent, pro-democracy candidates who are ready to persuade us, to lead us and to inspire us to vote? Do we have parties and coalitions that have winning strategies, organization, platform and ideology that are compelling enough to challenge, defeat and replace the prevailing political narratives since 2016?
Throughout our history, we Filipinos have shown a capacity to surprise ourselves. And we could do so in 2022, but only if we widen our democratic imagination by looking beyond the stale political narratives that reduce us Filipinos into competing pawns of the traditional politicians, and by resisting the toxic trifecta of cynicism, black-and-white politics, and political gaslighting.
The pandemic’s deadly effects on our lives, and the disastrous pandemic response of the regime, offer at least two possibilities: To fall prey to the old politics of cynicism, hate, disinformation, historical revisionism, privilege, corruption, incompetence, treason and patronage; or to champion a new politics of hope, science-based solutions, broadly-shared prosperity, peace based on justice, accountability, merit, and patriotism.
One of the realizations many of us saw in 2020 and continue to see in 2021 is that the pandemic and the pandemic response exposed the problems that beset us as individuals and as a country. We must seize this opportunity when we see the problems to find and offer solutions, tirelessly and with patience that would outlast those who seek confuse and tire us out, and thus perpetuate the problems.
We must resist the temptation to find and field a new democratic superhero against a sellout supervillain tyrant. We have tried both, with one lead to the other in varying degrees of shamelessness and hypocrisy. Both types of leaders ultimately divide and blame the public — their victims — for the crises and problems they mired us in and grossly failed to fix, or made worse. Genuine democrats believe in the power of the people to take control of their collective destiny, in the capacity of the people to find the proper solutions through debate and discussion, and in transforming the political process, institutions and structures from playgrounds of the powerful but into a truly democratic process, democratic institutions and democratic structures.
Today, we register. Tomorrow, we change our politics.