THE VIEW FROM RIZAL
A young aspiring politician approached me a few weeks ago to ask me how to “campaign”.
One of his questions struck me. He asked, “What’s the best way to hit my opponent?” I asked back, “What do you mean by ‘hit’?” He explained: “How do I tell people things about my rival that will make sure they do not vote for him?” His remark made me realize how some aspirants for political positions have come to view the meaning of the term “campaign” and how it is done. To them, it is more of “campaigning against” than “campaigning for.” It is campaigning to make sure the rival does not get elected than making sure that the candidate himself is elected.
We will not debate the thinking that “campaigning against” is a necessary component of an election bid. Our view, however, is that a more relevant and meaningful campaign focuses time, efforts and resources on making sure that the favored candidate wins the preference of the greater number of voters.
We had been on the campaign trail a good number of times. We are set to go on the campaign again come the 25th of March.
In these campaigns, we have had tons of experience of being the subject of our rivals’ efforts at “campaigning against” us. We have seen the cruelty of black propaganda operations against us, the malice of demolition jobs, and even the terror of several assassination attempts.
Sometimes, we would wonder how much our nemeses have spent just to make sure that our reputation is damaged or that our lives are put at serious risk.
We have also seen the futility of the “campaigning against” strategy and why this is a bad investment.
Three things happened in the face of massive well-funded efforts by our rivals to “campaign against” us.
One, those who are already for us dug in and raised their resolve to stand by us and to campaign even harder to get us to win the election.
Two, the undecided voters went to us as they felt that the demolition job done by rivals were unfair. They became “sympathy votes”.
Three, those who would not vote for us simply stayed away from the polls. Their votes did not go to the aspirants who resorted to the “campaign against” strategy.
In others words, this method backfired. It did not bring victory to the users of the strategy.
The lesson is this: “campaigning for” produces better results. This is political campaigning done the old-fashioned way.
The “old-fashioned” political campaign has three essential elements: making known who the candidate is; what he has done; and, what he intends to do.
These translate into “character”, “track record”, and “plans” or “platform”.
These three provide voters a solid basis with which to choose who they will vote for. These indicate to them how a candidate would perform his role should he win the election.
We also call this “strengths-based” campaigning. It operates on the assumption that the strengths of a candidate’s character, track record and platform would be more than enough basis for voters to prefer one candidate over other aspirants.
“Campaigning against” is “weakness-based.” It creates the impression that the candidate who uses this strategy cannot rely on his own strength to win the election. To win, he needs to show that the other candidates are not fit to be voted into office. It creates an eerie feeling on the part of voters that the user of this strategy is merely hiding his own weakness by focusing on the unfitness of his rivals.
We learned one of the best campaign methods from former Rizal Governor Ito Ynares.
His strategy has always been this: work hard and perform your duties so well that you do not even have to campaign when election season comes.
“Outperform everyone,” he would always tell his mentees in the field of public service.
This is the voter-centric strategy Governor Ito believes that as far as voters are concerned, there is no substitute to “performance and track record”. He says this must be the primary basis for choosing who to vote for.
The candidate is aspiring to be a servant of the people. The servant is best judged by how he performs his job, not by the inability of his rivals to do it.
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