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What does a vote mean?

/ 05:02 AM September 26, 2021

Recently, trying to know my reticent, newly Comelec-registered son better, I asked him, “What are you on the political spectrum? Left? Right? Center?”

He answered, “Can I not be any of those?”

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Well, yes, you can be apolitical, but not completely, I told him. You have to at least vote. But he showed no enthusiasm. He may have thought, “An individual vote? What an inconsequential act.”

Which led me to think, what does a vote mean? Is there an ideology behind it, or is it a mere statistic?

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Even arithmetically, there is a big disconnect in a system that is meant to be based on majority rule and yet in reality is based on a plurality that holds sway and draws its mandate from a minority of the voting population. Our country’s politics is ruled by patronage and is far from democratic, if by democratic we mean majority rule.

What good is a vote if it does not have at least a 50-50 chance of getting its intended result? Isn’t its value vitiated, ideologically and arithmetically, when it gets lost in the many possibilities presented by several candidates for the same post?

The lack of a majority (or its nonrecognition) enables the emergence of figures like Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte, who, once they captured the presidency, wielded its immense powers to push their minority agendas, ranging from denial of climate change to a war on drugs.

Hoping for a clear electoral majority decision with various competing groups is improbable unless there are just two or at most three candidates to begin with, although post-election, used as we are to compromise, a majority is built when local political leaders shift allegiance to whoever heads the national government. Thus, consensus or coalition-building becomes possible.

So maybe my son is on to something about the lack of a need for a clear political ideology. Maybe the political spectrum is subsumed by whatever system exists in a particular state, and therefore clear differences may not be relevant.

Or maybe a clear political stance is not possible in 21st-century society. Borderless variety is the order of the day. Globalization and the internet have brought power directly to the people, and they can say what they want to say and influence the government through their keyboard. Or they “vote with their feet” and leave the country.

Needing to show my son that I hold myself to the same standards I expect of him, I had to turn the question to myself, “What am I on the political spectrum?” If voter success is to be the gauge, I am the ultimate in failure, for except for Cory Aquino, none of the presidential candidates I voted for ever made it to the presidency. And even then, Cory had to be installed not via the political system but through the exercise of direct democracy by the people.

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I have to turn more inward, to the level of personal belief: I believe in individual freedom. I believe in equal opportunity, or at least in the mechanisms (education, easy credit, civil rights) to make equal opportunity possible. I believe in the need for a government to regulate, administer justice, and protect the national interest. I believe that every right-minded person has to be on the Left, because the Right has the preponderance of economic power and therefore privilege and opportunity, while the Left only have their bodies and wits as their assets. But I also believe in capital, the profit motive, and private property. So, to simplify, I guess I have to follow my son’s lead and avoid political categorization.

Like him, I am reduced to my individual vote, and I have to believe it matters. Otherwise, in the twilight of my life, I will have to stop doing it. And my son, with his open, non-categorical mind, just has to decide for himself as well.

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Roderick Toledo is a freelance communication projects manager.

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TAGS: 2022 elections, Commentary, Roderick Toledo, Voting
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