How election ads can help the disillusioned make a good decision
Of all the elections I’ve lived through, this year’s race seems to churn out the most insufferable ads. I am voting for Vice President Leni Robredo and I’m glad her ads are made okay by careful concepts, clever production teams, and, of course, by her formidable track record. But in general, ads for 2022 feel a lot more off, a lot more disconnected, than they usually do.
It’s no longer just a matter of being entertained for a moment and, afterward, believing promises of free health care, free housing, free infrastructure, etc., etc. Every political ad just feels tired from the first, a lie in the next. Ultimately, the act of pinning our hopes on these candidates feels like we’re being recruited to perform for our preferred make-believe for the next six years when this one—the third year in this unbelievable pandemic—has only just begun.
I further trace my disillusionment to my imagining of a blameless and innocent Filipino voter, thinking of all the options laid out in front of them. Still brimming with optimism, they actually take the time to list down these promises on a table, make comparisons, and uncover tradeoffs.
But at the first instance, I am stumped: Can a voter still be so naïve after two years into this pandemic? After all the damage and heartbreaks incumbent government officials and their dynastic networks inflicted in the past two years and more, can voters still echo their candidates’ platforms, resonate with their beliefs and experiences, and remember in the years to come? I doubt.
At this point, all believing comes conditionally. I guess this explains why ads can feel multiverses away. The baggage that we all carry for believing that some form of government under whomever would bring us to better days is filled with contradiction. Our reasons for voting cannot be so simple anymore, that we wrestle with a myriad of questions and viewpoints before landing at a choice. And in the final count, voting becomes a real gamble, a weighing of impossible numbers like “16 million,” “three to six months,” and “30,000 deaths.”
Disillusionment is powerful and is one of the reasons why many voted for President Duterte in 2016 and why, supposedly, there are segments of voters choosing Ferdinand Marcos Jr., almost 35 years since his father, the dictator, was booted out of Malacañang. Being disillusioned is akin to sinking, and the impulse to survive is to flail and thrash mindlessly to the ceiling for air. It makes sense, therefore, for the disillusioned to choose convicted persons, literal rulebreakers, to pull them to shore. What have ads been doing for the disillusioned, the drowning?
More than recall or exposure, we see that the purpose of ads, especially in elections, is to differentiate one product from another. Through ads, some candidates stand out, and the audience’s responsibility is to simply vote and choose between them. Ads aid in the project of democracy by defining the illusion of choice that corresponds with our right of suffrage; that whatever poison we drink is by our own doing. At its core, what makes these ads work is how they interact with what we know to be true. Election ads should remind us, the disillusioned, that we still have a choice, to collect ourselves and swim to the surface.
All said, I must mention that there is only one candidate who’s hit bullseye so far—Sen. Leila de Lima. No ambitious promises in her ads grounded on testifying her achievements even while in prison. In 60 seconds, an honest assessment of where we are all now: in prisons the pandemic and the misuse of power created.
DLS Pineda, [email protected]
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