2016 National Elections: The Vote of the Powerless and Frustrated

Person voting
Person voting
Person voting

Behind all political action is rationality, or the capacity to justify and explain an act as a result of both calculation and emotional attachment. Moreover, it is a process based upon one’s understanding of the political arena.

Simply put, we evaluate, judge, and act as political animals in accordance to our understanding of how the political arena works and our place/role in it. From this fact we can define the frustrated vote as a result of an intense need for social change tied to a clear sense of powerlessness.

It is not irrationality but a result of it.

A frustrated vote, like an emotional outburst is based upon a contraction of perception that can make citizens ignore vital factors surrounding their choices (e.g. civic values, plausible effects). Thus, the primary beneficiaries of frustrated votes are candidates who can appeal, amplify, and harness social frustration, and autocrats who can substantiate promises of immediate action by trumpeting simple solutions to complex problems.

This is the kind of vote that gave government offices to dangerous creatures ranging from violent dictators to politicians (trapos) who can hide their shallow minds, administrative incapacities, and corruption behind empty rhetoric and flattery. However, we must understand that the character, promises, and ideas behind the probable recipients of frustrated votes are in reality, criticisms poised against the incumbent system.

To be specific, support for a populist leader is reflective of our need for proper representation and empowerment, while support for an autocratic “man of action” is a reflection of our need for strong leadership that “can get things done”. Simply put, a frustrated vote is but a product of social problems affecting, shaping, and framing our consciousness and rationality as citizens.

Galit tayo dahil alam natin na sa kasalukuyan, ang mismong pamahalaan ang nagsisilbing ugat ng marami sa ating mga problema bilang isang lipunan.

We are all angry not only because of the government’s sustained failure but because we know we are chained to the effects of their inadequacies. Thus, a frustrated vote is an act emanating from weak citizenship and a common history of failures characterizing a weak political system. To elaborate, social frustration is produced by a political system based on political alienation and disempowerment, and collective history constituted by wasted potentials tied to sustained failures in public affairs.

To illustrate, at the national level, we were promised greatness and public welfare by politicians for decades, and for decades disappointments outweighed actual achievements. Old, festering problems like corruption, widespread poverty, the ineffective provision of social welfare, a weak armed force, and an underdeveloped economy lingers on while promises of resolution piles up ever higher with each passing election. Other social problems that these politicians tried to sweep under the rug of our short-term memory now sticks up like sore thumbs, adding to the overall collective memory of a socio-political gangrene we can call sustained government failure.

Another factor that must be taken into account to complete the picture is the reduction of many of us to the role of disempowered spectators that are regularly unleashed every three years. We, disempowered citizen-spectators, are trapped between two rocks like the legendary Bernardo Carpio. On one hand, we are restricted to the act of surrendering public welfare – our welfare as a nation – to an undemocratic system of representation dominated by an incumbent oligarchy who are against each other but are united by the goal to keep the citizens subservient by all means possible.

On the other hand, most of us are trapped by the drudgery and hardships of everyday life to an extent that our attachment to the public sphere is reduced to mere creation and sharing of opinions (and yes, this article is a product of being sandwiched between these two boulders).

To conclude, it is evident that many of us are reduced by and kept within disempowering conditions by a political system based upon the civic castration and disempowerment it created. However, the means to break this vicious cycle, as far as the ideals of a strong democracy is concerned, cannot be found within the electoral process. The fate of our nation can neither be the property of the victors nor reduced to the great gap between the hard-work of many and the parasitic existence of the elite. We must embrace the fact that our frustrations as a society cannot, and will not end with a simple casting of ballots.

Kung lagi nating sinasabi na walang magbabago kahit na mag-eleksyon, ito ay dahil may katotohanan sa ating pananaw; isang katotohanang batay sa ating patuloy na pagtangkilik sa isang prosesong ibinibigay ang ating kapangyarihan bilang isang pamayanan sa iilang inaasahan nating magsisilbi’t hindi bababuyin ang pamahalaan.

Galit tayo dahil alam natin na pagkatapos ng halalan, marami sa atin ang ‘di makakayanang hawakan ang kinabukasan natin bilang mga mamamayan.


Anthony Lawrence Borja
De La Salle University
Lecturer – Political Science Department

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