The majority’s priority


James Deakin

So that’s it then. Another milestone in Philippine democracy is in the history books. By the time you read this, or sometime in the next few days, we should already know who will be succeeding the Duterte administration. As of this writing—which is happening on the morning of May 9 while all the polling stations have just opened—I have no idea of who that will be. I just remain hopeful that whoever it is, it will be the will of the majority—because, that, in a nutshell, is the essence of democracy. 

But here’s where it gets tricky. Because regardless of who wins this one, there has been so much invested in narratives and tribalism, that it threatens even deeper divides down the line, which is counterproductive to a democracy. There is nothing inherently wrong in giving priority to the majority, so long as we stop looking at it as an all or nothing game. Regardless of the result, the other parties also need representation. And the danger of framing everything as good vs evil or right versus wrong or who is the better person, is that in most cases, those issues are purely subjective or prepackaged by publicists and campaign managers, and the losing party and all its supporters gets branded as losers, and to the victor go all the spoils. 

This is not basketball or a boxing match where the winner was clearly better at the game and therefore deserves to win. This is simply an election to determine which leader most people believe can solve their problems or needs and bring our country forward—as seen through their own individual perspectives. Losing doesn’t invalidate those needs or make them wrong or less important. We must remember this. People are much more than the candidate they voted for. 

Obviously a taxi driver living in Cebu will have vastly different priorities, needs and concerns than a farmer in Ilocos or a fisherman in Mindanao, and his or her choice of candidate will reflect that. That doesn’t make any one of them more correct or righteous than the other. It only tells you who there is more of. That’s it. Everyone is just looking to align with whoever they feel represents their own concerns, values and needs, as they see it from their station in life, and the basic idea of a democratically elected leader is to find out who there are more of and give priority to the majority. And herein lies the rub.

In our quest to inspire our community to join us and support our choices, we have managed to frame these campaigns in such a way that if you don’t happen to end up in the majority, that makes you wrong. Bullshit. There is no direct correlation. All it reveals is that there just happened to be less of you. And that’s ok. It takes nothing away from your needs and concerns. Not everything needs a majority to be important. Imagine if PWDs needed to be the majority in a country just to get their special needs met. That’s not how it works; but sadly, with the rise of identity politics and extremism, that’s exactly how it has turned out. 

And while I am certain that 650 words in an opinion column will have zero effect on the rabid supporters (both from the winner or the losers side) my hope is to at least warn the sensible ones in the middle, as well as the brands, businesses and especially the media to stop virtue signaling or riding a popularity wave—especially now that the elections are over. Be magnanimous either way. We had our chance to be heard and counted. Don’t gloat or heckle. You’re not only alienating a large part of your customer base or friend base, you are creating a divide that will only end in the collapse of democracy.

Remember. Every vote counts. Even the ones that were not for your candidate.