The Political Disconnect

We are witnessing worldwide a disconnect between political leaders and their constituents. This explains their declining popularity be they Obama, Merkel, Kan or Aquino. Even Qadaffy is losing it.

The gap between the governors and the governed is widening.

There are reasons for this. Leaders address issues that too often are irrelevant to the man in the street (See Priority Bills below). They forget Tip O’Neill’s adage that all politics is local.

Once ensconced in power, leaders get out of touch, believing the rosy scenarios delivered by their sycophants. With the pomp of high office, it is easy to believe all is well in the Middle Kingdom.

These presidents retreat to their bunkers when faced with criticism and shoot bearers of ill tidings. They fire the whiners in their cabinet.

Leaders forget what got them elected. On the stump they promise change and leadership. Once in office they get weighted by the administration, the politics, the ceremonial and, at times, the money.

Lastly, leaders rarely internalize the problems of their constituents. They intellectualize them, deny them, or misunderstand them. What they do not do is feel them.

In the U.S. Obama has been criticized for being emotionally detached, for treating problems as an academic exercise rather than a personal experience. Contrasting this is the growing popularity of the Tea Party, a grassroots movement grounded on gut issues like taxes, jobs, religiosity and big Government, the stuff Americans care about.

In the Middle East, the leaders have chosen to deny the concerns. They are now paying the price.

In the Philippines, Aquino morally recognizes the problems of the nation but, like us elite, does not feel the pain. He lives in a disconnected world. He never understood why buying a Porsche was politically incorrect (It is not his fault, he is simply the product of his aristocratic upbringing).

We have a President that despite the checks and balances is near omnipotent. He has vowed to be all to the Filipino, the person he calls his “boss”.

So if the promise has been made and the power is there, why has the citizenry in the last 15 months, 21% into the new Administration, not seen a palpable improvement in its circumstances?

A peak into the Administration’s Thirteen Priority Bills to Congress might provide an inkling of the problem.

The list rightly included the RH Bill (if barely) but here are some of the others: Amending the People’s Television Network Law, reorganizing the Philippine Statistical System, imposing stiffer penalties for stealing or tampering with government risk reduction equipment (what about other types of equipment?), expanding the coverage of the science and technology scholarship program. All deserving legislation perhaps but they hardly rank as urgent in a country with serious problems.

We are a culture that emphasizes quantity over quality. Our legislative agenda is measured in kilograms. I would rather we fast tracked just a handful of laws that are impactful- the RH bill, the “sin tax” measures, the Rural Electrification Act. We should not overburden a Congress unaccustomed to multi-tasking and hard labor.

We believe in form rather than substance. It’s about the laundry list, not the laundry.

We stir the surface of issues but rarely get to closure. We do not drill deep. We brag about eliminating corruption but how many big time criminals have been jailed? How many Public-Private Partnerships, the reported cornerstone of our Economic Plan, have been finalized?

The problems of our country have been reduced to PowerPoint presentations, numbers flashed on the screen. Our leaders deal with them as such, in abstract terms. The result? A Government that is disconnected from the daily struggle of Filipinos, the pollution, the congestion, the delays for bureaucratic clearances, the abject school conditions, the poverty. I could go on forever.

How do we get a Government that is relevant to the public? My suggestion is to strip our leaders of their trappings of power and drop them (some preferably without a parachute) in an urban ghetto or rural barangay for an extended time. Let them feel how 90 million Filipinos live.

Then might they understand we don’t need macro plans hatched from a 10,000 feet ivory tower. What we need are grassroot initiatives crafted, piece upon piece, from the daily experience and hardships of the average man.

Until that happens we are all pretty much on our own.

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About Leo Alejandrino

The blog is principally a commentary on Philippine politics and economics.
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3 Responses to The Political Disconnect

  1. Thoughtrift says:

    Awesome article. I hope this wakes people up. I will be sharing this with a lot of people.

  2. manuelbuencamino says:

    PNoy took O’Neil’s advice to heart. That’s why he stood by Virgie Torres against Ping De Jesus, Rico Puno against De Lima, and Mark Lapid against Bertie Lim.

    That KKK thing is O’Neil’s adage at work. But what is true of PNoy is also true of all elected leaders, without exception. They know who brought them to power: their KKKs. Without their KKKs, they would not have the wherewithal to court votes.

    The problem is elected leaders pretend to be directly connected to the people when in fact the leader is connected to his KKK and whatever benefits redound to the people is only incidental. And note that unless both the leader and his KKK are crooks and idiots to boot, they can actually do more good than harm. So it’s best if the people know where their leaders are coming from, that way they will be able to assess their leaders’ performance without any illusions.

    Finally, the partnership between KKKs and leaders is a universal phenomenon, it is not unique to the Philippines.

  3. quetzalcotl says:

    Amen. Thank you for sharing this.

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