Blockhead voting

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Early in the campaign for the 2019 midterm elections, speaking on the platform of the opposition, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, the Liberal Party (LP) campaign manager, declared that the slate would focus on high prices, employment and poverty.

He was lying.

While surveys ascertain legislative requisites would probably cite prices, jobs and poverty as the principal concerns of Filipinos — whether these were directly related to the electorate’s impetus as they exercise their suffrage rights or not — the campaign the opposition eventually prosecuted was not even remotely related to Pangilinan’s declaration.

Rather than sober discourses the opposition had instead embarked on a campaign characterized by cheap publicity stunts, vicious vilification of the President’s family including his 14-year-old daughter, his advocacy for a drug-free Philippines, plus the spread of fears of a diabolical dictatorship under of a nightmarish future subjugated and virtually colonized by the Chinese.

Of the residual seven none had as much as discussed much less presented a well-thought out set of legislative initiatives to respond to prices, jobs and poverty.

There are several reasons for the opposition’s abandonment of those issues.

On the issue of high prices, while this was indeed a concern during the very early days of the campaign, the Duterte administration had quickly brought aggregate prices down and reduced the inflationary pressures induced by both global geopolitics and agricultural mismanagement.

So effective was government response that it had effectively taken the wind out of Manuel Roxas’ sails and whatever billows his floundering campaign now comes from hot air discharged on his own.

The macroeconomy’s liquidity levels and money supply which impact on inflation today show inflation at 3 percent. Indeed inflation has been kept in check even as we end the campaign period when, typically, liquidity rises, money supply goes awry and aggregate prices ratchet up as candidates release cash into the system.

On the issues of employment and poverty, it would have been ridiculous for the opposition to cite these as electoral issues against the current administration. Despite the braggadocio surrounding gross domestic product (GDP) when the LP was in power, the data to substantiate unemployment and poverty as electoral issues to vilify Rodrigo Duterte just isn’t there.

Crunch out the comparative numbers. Unemployment is now at 5.2 percent down from 6.1 percent under the LP. Poverty incidence is 16.1 percent compared to 22.2 percent under Aquino.

Worse, since Aquino’s GDP growth was non-inclusive, it was inherently elitist. It benefitted only those who were either cronies, oligarchs, political benefactors and the friends, classmates and shooting buddies cabal.

Thus thwarted by the undeniable data, the opposition had to rethink their tact. Denied economic ordnance and an intelligent discourse that would have indicted both Aquino and Roxas for having neglected the public welfare, whether in the areas of economics or illegal drugs, peace and order, the LP senatorial campaign quickly turned into the campaign of hate that they now desperately wage.

Shorn of substance, the resultant LP tact is to engage social media and advocate bloc voting by raising fears of an administration super-majority that they label a “rubber stamp.”

Note that we had a rubber stamp senate under Aquino. Its ink was moistened through Aquino’s illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program.

The focus on social media as a political arena is however especially tailored for the LP’s constituencies.

Social media influences weak minds and creates an illusory critical mass that mimics superiority in numbers. Such messaging efficiency spawns from insubstantial content from abbreviated messaging, tweets and sound bites. The Dunning-Kruger effect where there is created a “cognitive bias of illusory superiority” from an inability to recognize shortcomings fits perfectly with the bloc blockheads who backed an Aquino-Roxas tandem and now support the LP ticket.

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