How do we correct the “tragedy of voting for the familiar” and the “regression to the mediocre” in the Senate?
Sixty-five candidates are vying for 12 senatorial slots this May. They represent 17 parties or are running as an independent. Eight are incumbent senators while four were former senators, for a total of 12 who have held the position and seeking another term.
Despite the number of “senatoriables,” I am having difficulty filling in the 12 slots, and I think I am not alone. The quality of senators has gone down dramatically since the 1960s, and the quality of senatorial discourse and campaigning has also gone down.
Reasons for this decline include a national electoral system that relies heavily on name-recall; the weakening of political parties and campaigning based on a platform; the rise of celebrity candidates and the worrisome blending of showbiz and government fed largely by media; the entrenchment of political dynasties; citizens’ short attention spans and forgiving attitude to erring politicians; and Filipinos’ tendency to vote for the winnable rather than the desirable.
Of the 12 slots, only 4-5 re-electionists are worthy of my vote, and I am being generous. Three re-electionists spent time in jail on charges of plunder. The rest are just plain mediocre, in my opinion; their lame political ads demonstrate their underperformance in office. And yet, in the latest poll surveys of Pulse Asia and SWS, most of these re-electionists dominate the ranking while better-qualified ones languish in the long tail of the relatively unknown.
How do we correct the “tragedy of voting for the familiar” and the “regression to the mediocre” in the Senate? We must educate ourselves by finding out about the unfamiliar candidates via Google or other means. We must also conquer our reluctance to vote for a new name and to stand our ground for desirable candidates, even if they have a slim chance of winning. Lastly, we can use social media to campaign for new candidates.
In other words, we must vote out the old, the mediocre, the corrupt. Instead, we must vote in the new, the refreshing, the bold. In the end, “the untried but worth trying” is better than “the tried but found wanting.”