Fighting a good fight

If you design, run and manage campaigns, at the end of every battle, you just have to check if you remain true to your core and if you still hold on to your north star.


Note: This column originally appeared in The Manila Times on January 12, 2021.

Being a political worker for three decades now, I have seen promising individuals eaten up by the very political system they want to serve. My window to the character of a leader is shaped in the trenches and not while they are in office. In office, winning candidates return to their old selves; unless I am so lucky as to have an authentic one, who brings his campaign plans to reality through public service.

New kids on the block seem to know it all with the way they loosely use words such as perception management, spin, message manipulation and that all are public relations jargon. That’s the problem with people who seem to learn a skill of two via social media and readily throw some advice or two online as if they have actually run a campaign. It is one thing to join a campaign and be part of the campaign. But to design, run and manage campaigns is entirely a different thing. As one The Manila Times colleague would say, these are political technocrats. I wonder where those who seem to drop terms loosely an overnight expert belong.

Managing campaigns will also expose one to a situation where one is about to lose the election and maps out how to win, or when one is about to win and thinks of getting back at the opponent for all the sordid lies thrown during the campaign. Those campaigns involve a lot of soul searching and moments of discernment. As campaign manager, you want to win, but not at all costs. As campaign advisor, you go by scenarios and options.

The recently concluded elections in the United States has shown to the world what the “shining city on the hill” has become. To see a burning capitol with the Lady of Freedom blanketed by dark smoke from a fiery siege was a record of sorts. Washington DC was my city. I lived there for years, and the Library of Congress was a neighbor from C Street.
To see the anarchy; the breakdown of security; the destruction of windows, offices and historical artifacts was crushing for people who looked at the US Capitol as the symbol of what the best of democracy represents.

The United States was for people of my generation. We grew up believing that the model was always the United States. We have relatives there, who were able to fulfill the American Dream. We were educated the American way, and for some, getting into the US was the ultimate destination. But we also saw a nation divided between the haves and the have nots; among whites, blacks, browns and yellows; and among city dwellers and suburbs, among others. A great nation of tradition and much divide, we learned to value its teachings in almost all fields of human endeavor. The United States was the epitome of what a nation should be until the time of Trump.

Trump was not destructive to begin with. But he was of a different breed. Opulence, marketing and having it his way were some of the traits he brought into the office. There was not much collaboration, but more of command and control. There was not much consensus, but much getting his way; probably because he wanted to have a different America, a place where focus should be, first and foremost, America. He was noninterventionist. He fought for America and Americans, short of doing what Japan did decades ago. The global cop was gone, and the void was palpable. But Trump, as a leader, is a lot of ironies and complications.

And from Nov. 3, 2020 to Jan. 6, 2021, when the Congress certified the results of the Electoral College vote to the inaugural on Jan. 20, 2021, the incumbent president is now a subject of a second impeachment (sedition or inciting to violence or incitement of insurrection) or a Pence gambit under the 25th amendment of the US Constitution, declaring him unfit to govern and removing him. With less than 10 days to go before the inaugural, even the social media lords are closing their doors to Trump. From building followers and relying on Trump for business during the 2016 elections to the 2019 one and then the meltdown, they mulct, earn and play around using predefined algorithms to earn more, close some gates or tighten the noose to favor another camp. Social media is the new “public good” of capitalism, and since it is free, they can’t be reigned in by any regulatory regime. The irony of it all is that contrarian speech has been curtailed.

Hope is indeed undiscovered disappointment. Cost and gain are all set aside even while these were the same metrics used in designing a campaign effort. Hope is the currency of all candidates and those who will be lucky to be proclaimed as winner. The flip side is also hope for voters that the people they have elected will be true to themselves in office.
Individuals in political technocracy are often confronted with one single question that anchors one’s character: at what point will you cross the line? Or will you do whatever it takes to win an electoral contest?

 

If you design, run and manage campaigns, at the end of every battle, you just have to check if you remain true to your core and if you still hold on to your north star. Can you still look at your family and say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race and I have kept the faith”? And to add one clear line: I have kept my spine.

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About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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