Last week, a Leadership Forum was held in the Ateneo de Manila where putative presidential candidates subjected themselves to questioning for the first time. Today Inquirer editorial called the exercise an example of Maturity unfolding. It suggests that the public is keen on watching candidates confront each other, and that dodging debates, as Joseph Estrada, Fernando Poe Jr. and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did, won’t wash with the electorate anymore.
It’s interesting to compare how a grizzled old veteran like Amando Doronila (in a nutshell, he says Nobody got away undiminished) and young observers who blogged their reactions, compare to each other in terms of their reactions to the debate. I particularly enjoyed the blog entries of So far, so good, Philippines Rising, jessie’s wicked world of reality and Jolly Life. The respective media teams of the various candidates will gain a valuable insight into what young people, in particular, thought of the whole exercise.
But once again, let me revisit John Nery’s February 10 column, in which he pointed out that there was something remarkable about how The 2010 race is set. The public, acting as a communal self-limiting mechanism on politics, has, quite early on, narrowed the field. And let me point to another, more recent column of his from April 7, on how The vice-presidency is subtraction:
[M]y hypothesis: Since the snap election, the principal role of the vice-presidential running mate has changed. To be more precise, since 1986 the winning presidential candidate’s decision-making process for selecting a running mate has turned from addition to subtraction.
In other words, the main value of the vice presidency in election politics is tactical: It provides a presidential candidate the best way to sideline a strong rival.
The classical dictum of electoral politics, as famously expressed by the late Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez, is that “politics is addition.” But since 1992, in the absence of rules and other mechanisms that foster majority presidencies, the opposite has become political conventional wisdom: from “dagdag-bawas” to coalitions formed, not to create large movements, but to hobble others, politics has become subtraction. It has also, as a result of demographic trends, become less national, in a sense. We saw this emerge in 1986, when, for the first time since national elections for the presidency began in 1935, the “North-South” rule was junked, in putting together both the administration and opposition presidential and vice-presidential teams.
Marcos-Tolentino and Aquino-Laurel were both all-Luzon tickets; and while in 1992 and 1998, no single ticket won, both Ramos-Estrada and Estrada-Macapagal ended up all-Luzon presidencies and vice-presidencies. When, for the first time since 1986, a unified ticket “won” both the presidency and vice-presidency, the Macapagal-de Castro ticket was an all-Luzon one. And there’s a simple reason: Luzon matches the votes of the Visayas and Mindanao combined; and in particular, the extended National Capitol Region, which encompasses, in political reality, vote-rich areas of Southern Luzon, is a bloc capable of giving the presidency to a candidate in closely-fought, multi-candidate contest.
Consider the implications of the data in this image, which distills the relative populations of Luzon vs. Visayas plus Mindanao, and the accessibility of radio and TV to the population.
I bring this up because of a column Tony Abaya recently published (see Crystal Balls) in which he boils down the points put forward by Tony Gatmaitan, another grizzled veteran of the political game. I’ve slightly re-ordered the relevant details, as reported by Abaya.
First, here are the issues that will matter in the presidential campaign:
That the issues will be the core issues of economic recovery, accountability, graft and corruption, peace in Mindanao, poverty alleviation, foreign policy, the environment.
Second, that the personal characteristics the electorate wants to see in candidates are:
That the qualities being sought by voters in a president are: magaling (good, competent), madaling lapitan (easily approachable)., mapagmalasakit sa mga mahihirap (will work for the benefit of the poor).
Third, that the electorate, as a subset of the larger population, is as follows:
32.4 million voters are expected to vote, out of 45 million registered voters.
Fourth, that the candidates will be competing on the basis of what has been demonstrated before, in terms of the vote-getting power of past candidates:
[T]he previous top vote getters in a presidential/vice presidential election have been Estrada (10 million) and De Castro (15 m); in senatorial elections: Roxas (19 m), Legarda (18 m).
Fifth, that if these are the benchmarks in terms of what is “doable,” in terms of courting votes, then the political math works out as follows:
In a three-way race, 11.8 m votes or 30 percent are enough to win. In a four-way race, 9.1 m votes or 28 percent; in a five-way race (most likely), 7.8 m votes or 24 percent, would be enough to win. In the 1992 seven-way presidential elections, Fidel Ramos won a plurality of only 23 percent.
Sixth, the electorate will be courted, not by means of old-style barrio-to-barrio barnstorming and stump-speeching sorties, but by means of what’s called the “Air War”:
In 2010, television and radio would be the main field of combat and will account for 50-55 percent of candidates’ expenses: ground level logistics and organizational expenses 30-35%; and cyberspace – internet, texting propaganda – only 15-20 percent.
(Gatmaitan first put forward the idea of how cellphones and to a much smaller extent, cyberspace would matter, politically, in 2008, see my entry for May 14, 2008 see, also, a May 8, 2008 news report by ABS-CBNNews.com ).
At this point, let me put forward what all the candidates have in common, in terms of viewing the public as an electorate, and that is, they are approaching things according to the perspective of the advertising industry. Let me put forward my personal opinion that Advertising methods and approaches have become dominant, in no small part, because of changes in the composition of society. Formerly significant sectors, organized as blocs, have shriveled away and except, perhaps, for the mobilizing power of some churches and parties, there’s no other way to attract and mobilize people, except by means of the strategies employed to get the same people to buy soap, etc.”
The advertising industry looks at the broader population by breaking it down into segments, based on income and lifestyle:
Another way of subdividing things, on the presumption you vote according to your wallet (and the lifestyle its contents can buy you), with AB being High Income, C being Middle Income, and DE Low Income:
You could then zero in on various subsets of these groups, whether in terms of age, or in terms of location (particularly useful for courting regional voting blocs, or where households are more likely to vote as blocs), or say, in terms of urban versus rural populations:
So this would be the picture, nationally:
And here is the equally-relevant (if not actually more so) picture of the NCR:
So if you’re a candidate in a crowded field, what do you do? Who do you go after? Again, let’s reproduce the breakdown:
Class AB, your Captains of Industry and the Boards of Directors, will probably have its heavy-hitters flee the country or go on vacation come election time, or make their clout felt by financially supporting candidates. In any case, statistically, even in a close elections, their votes matter less, because liable to be too independent to court as a demographic.
Class C, the Middle Class, has two components, really.
C1, the Upper Middle Class, is your aspirational class, your Professional Classes who have their own vehicles and own their own homes, your Upper Management, aspiring to the status of, and sharing many of the values of, AB, will vote as AB does. That is, unpredictably. Even if you got them as a demographic, you’d have to ask if the resources and time required would be worth it.
C2 your Broad Middle Class, Midlevel to Lower Management, with a steady income but still renting rather than owning homes, may feel more ambivalent about, if not resentful of, AB, yet shares with AB and C1, a resentment and fear of, E. Therefore, it can be nudged in one direction or another, as a demographic.
Though one politically-active advertising person I talked to says Classes ABC are better off treated as one chunk, with similar aspirations (and perhaps, prejudices?). And put together, ABC can compete with D and E.
Class D, the Working Class, according to one advertising person I spoke to, can be broken down as follows:
D1 holds jobs; your salaried employees in factories, etc.
D2 occasionally works, whether seasonal work or without the benefit of permanent jobs, for example your SM salesgirls.
Put together, Class D has the lion’s share of the votes. Will it likely share more in common with E, in terms of the values that will mobilize its members to vote for one candidate or another (emotional or idealistic or pragmatic appeals?); can it be mobilized in solidarity with, or opposition to Class E? Whatever the case, Class D is large and broad enough for all candidates to be willing to exert effort to actively compete to get a piece of that segment.
Class E, the Unemployed, is, perhaps, almost exclusively the preserve of the Machine politicians, in that they are more likely to already be incorporated in the command vote networks.
This is a picture that essentially underlines what is a perennial frustration of the blogger demographic, which everyone basically assumes is a largely Middle Class one: that as a constituency, the Middle Class is relatively unimportant, politically:
Appeal to idealism? Reform. A Better Philippines. A Fresh Start. Change.
Appeal to pragmatism? Jobs. Benefits. Security. Stability. Discipline. Order.
Ideally, appeal to both sides, the Yin and Yang, of as many people as possible?
Or bring in the Fear Factor? Here is where the Republican Playbook (its continuing evolution can be seen in this entry in The Treatment and in a Miami Herald story), used to such effective advantage by the present administration, comes in:
Next time, I’ll explore, further, information that might be relevant in exploring the pocketbook-as-vote-getter.