Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Populist Rhetoric

Masterfully played by dishonored Erap Estrada, the populist rhetoric is now being employed by the contenders for the presidency. In impoverished and developing countries where poverty is prevalent, taking a populist stand can get you places. It can make a monster appear angelic in the eyes of the poor. It is a very successful way of winning the hearts and minds of the people especially those who "think" that you can relate to them. It gets into one's nerves at times. Take the case of Manny Villar who takes you back in youth and tries to convince you that he is poor. Everytime his commercial comes up, I quickly change the channel.

But the practice has gotten Hugo Chavez to perpetual power and has somehow legitimized his presidency despite subverting their constitution. The same cannot be said about Manuel Zelaya of the Honduras who was kicked out of office by the Honduran army. Zelaya tried to change their constitution in the guise of change. At least the Honduran judiciary and congress were independent enough to abide by their laws. But the people of Honduras who have been tricked into believing that reforms are coming continue to support Zelaya who is a member of the oligarchy. Now if only the world could accept that democracy can be manipulated.

Gloria Arroyo is also using the populist strategy through her "social programs" aimed at the poor. The difference is that Filipinos are now more discerning. Her advantage however comes from a weak judiciary and a congress who seems to be fond of "loot bags" and junkets. Will the populist rhetoric work its magic for the contenders in 2010? I don't think so. The Villars are not so popular with their constituents nor with investors whom they've eased out to give way to their businesses. I should know, I was one of their victims. Mar Roxas may have a shot but has to change his strategy at some point to a more believable one.

Only time can tell if indeed this ploy still works. Judging from the dynamic Philippine political landscape, this may not be a formula for success.


manuelbuencamino said...

Everyone uses populist rhetoric but it only works for some. I don't know why it works for Erap but not for Loren, Mar, Gloria, or Manny. Maybe it's a matter of identifying with the candidate. If the voters perceive the candidate to be "one of us" then most everything he says and does will be popular.

Jhay said...

It's simply because Erap had a charisma compared to the contenders today. It was even built up by his career in showbiz. A variant of which explains why actors and actresses have been winning elections in many years.

Jesusa Bernardo said...

Interesting your use of the word "dishonored" to describe Erap, mschumey07. Made me look for the applicable 'equivalent,' "bogus" or "usurper," to use for Gloria.

Perhaps, it's the fact that Arroyo never had genuine mandate to occupy Malacanang that partly accounts for her dire lack of popularity.

Why populist rhetoric works for Erap can be explained by how he put at least some meat into it. What got the (Edsa 2) ire of the utilities magnate in the first place.

Dean Jorge Bocobo said...

There's more to Erap than "actor". Remember he was actually a politician, as a local and national leader, for far longer than he ever was an actor. That he was fatally flawed is undeniable, but that many poor and not-so-poor people knew it but loved him nonetheless is equally true. Populism is not necessarily a bad thing, because I think the love of the people can change even a scoundrel. But someone they do NOT love, they may never follow or hope to change for their own benefit.

That is why I place "intelligence" and even "sincerity" well below whether the people genuinely love a leader or not.

For even the intelligent and the sincere can be corrupted by power. But the people's love can be an implacable force of reform and transformation.

roundstone said...

This brings us to the topic of electorate segmentation. Borrowing from corporate lingo, the A&B does not 'count' in elections (other than their political contributions) because for every head in Forbes Park, for example, there are 5 CDE servants (1:5 ratio). If not dictated upon or 'brainwashed' and if they vote out of self-conviction, they would most likely vote like the rest of the CDEs.

So, what does the corporate world do? They talk the language of the 'market'.

This is probably the same as already well-born actors and actresses doing 'bakya' roles because that is where the audience is... Compare, too, the programming of our free TV vs. that of Japan's, South Korea, Germany and England. We are too full of soap operas or if not, hogwash news reporting about drunken kills.

My point: the rhetoric is 'market driven'.

Jesusa Bernardo said...

Yes, roundstone, rhetoric is (almost always) "market driven." The question is what makes one work from the rest, particularly in situations where the speakers are all veterans in the political scene. Is there not collective wisdom of the people in judging who serves their interests best?

roundstone said...

We sure wish that should be so. But then, that is already "very intelligent burgis thinking". I hope I said that without malice but how else can we explain several people dead when they flocked to ULTRA for the Wowowee event - and not having the money to go back home? Is that plain stupidity, naivete or DE mob penchance for self-pity? Or, do they [no, CAN THEY] at all think beyond the next meal? Can we, in fact, criticize them?

Judging from the wowowee instance, and until all our electorates are functionally intelligent, how are you to communicate with them, if you were a presidentiable?

Every time I see Mar Roxas' padyak ad, I would cringe and say OMG! Villar's ad is less "cheesy" but still very much on that range, to my perception. I am sure we all cringed on GMA's paper boat SONA antic! Blame it on our TV networks who bombard as primetime with soap operas though some soaps now incorporate values formation.

If we were the presidentiables, we wouldn't reinvent the wheel too. We would also speak the CDE language, no? The alternative might be running a hundred years from now.

Jesusa Bernardo said...

@ roundstone
If you're referring to the fatal Wowowee event years back, I think that's an act of desperation on our kababayan's part.

Re Mar Roxas' "padyak," yes it deserves an OMG. I don't think it's enough (even with Korina around) to overcome his being the first one to resign from Erap's cabinet, but won't resign from Gloria's Senate.

As for the TV networks, they're guilty not only of bombarding us with soap operas but also of being a pawn of Gloria's illegitimate government (is it ACDC or ADGO--attack, defend, but more of gloss over?).