In my previous article I was discussing how outdated and irrelevant the concept of the political party has become to non-politicos and tried to explore ways to make it better or replace it with a better system. It was already mostly written and ready for submission when news of Vice President Leni Robredo’s decision to run for the presidency broke but it turns out my choice of topic was mildly prescient.
It turns out VP Leni agrees that political parties are toxic and that is probably why she decided that the disadvantages far outweigh any advantages political parties have to offer. Her decision to run as an independent is ballsy, especially if you look at it from the perspective of a traditional politician who relies on machinery and the support of other trapos, but if you come to think of it, the independent politico is the only way forward for those who are sick and damn tired of the system that only benefits politicians.
Whether Leni wins or loses, her “independent” run for the top spot of the land can become the foundation or model for a next generation political party that democratic nations could benefit from if beta-tested and implemented properly in the coming months.
Of course, it will always be better if she and this model wins, because if they don’t it would instantly be seen as an epic failure and nobody will try to fix or improve a system that has been broken for decades.
Let’s start with the funding and membership. When Leni declared her intention to run for president, people started asking how they can donate to the campaign. They did this because they knew that as an independent, she was severely disadvantaged, facing a regime with extra deep pockets and no scruples. Since she there is still no formal organization behind her, the easiest way for people who wanted to support is through donations.
Crowdsourcing funds is a big improvement from traditional political parties where funds come from big but shady sources with vested interests. If Team Leni can build a transparent GoFundMe like system where anyone can donate any amount and the resulting expenses are regularly monitored and audited, regular folk like my wife wouldn’t mind donating to the cause and/or personality they connect with. If 1 million people donate P100, that’s P100 million in campaign funds. If the same number donate P1,000 that’s already a billion pesos in a war chest with no oligarchical or crony strings attached.
Cash donation is the first and easiest step so those who give can opt to become “members” of the newly formed “independent” party or not. However, because it is a mistake to think that cash is king when it comes to elections when boots on the ground matter more; those who have already engaged with the “party” through their donation/registration must be encouraged to further their participation through some kind of membership.
Harnessing technology to crowdsource funds and get the boots on the ground that will hopefully lead to voters casting the right ballots is doable but if nobody has prepared for it, there may not be enough time to put a working and winning system in place in time for the campaign period (which started yesterday) and the elections in May 2022. Any team who can achieve this can be the dark horse of the elections and for someone who is tired of traditional political parties like me, I’d like the truly independent one to pull this off.
This overhaul of the political party system will start with personality-based politics, especially in our country where people vote for names rather than vision, principles, capability and track record. However, for it to be more than just a flash in the pan and become a sustainable model for the future of politics and maybe even governance, it has to transcend personality politics.
That evolution should come after an improbable win is realized but if we come to think of it, this new model of the party definitely has the potential to change our trapo-and-dynasty-infested political landscape.
Let’s take for example Leni Robredo. If she adopts this model and somehow wins, someone has to replace her after her term ends. Because a truly independent and personality-based party will have nobody to replace her with, the project will fail after 6 years because it is unsustainable.
That is why if it succeeds in putting its candidate in power, the new generation party has to evolve and become principle and vision based. That way its members, with the help of a well-crafted system and maybe even input of a benevolently programmed artificial intelligence, can select better future candidates from among the members of the new party.
A battery of traditional tests like psychological and IQ exams, social media stalking reports, track record reviews, interviews, police clearance, NBI clearance, and testimonies from other members can determine if potential candidates conform to the values and principles of the party. Those who do not pass can go back to a trapo party that should welcome them with open arms and no standards for excellence.
Our election rules for candidates may have pathetically low standards but if we had a political party with high standards, the country could have a chance. Imagine a Vico and Leni generator in a land where Batos and Kuya Bongs are offered to us. Trapo parties can still do what they’ve been doing for decades, but if we somehow start this now, we get the possibility of a party that screens, vets and reviews its candidates based on standards instead of popularity, winnability, horse trading, or last name.
I know this little dream of mine is asking too much. When we can only hope for candidates that are a little better than minimum compliance, dreaming of excellence can be frustrating. However, with elections coming, this is our best chance to change things if we don’t like the way they are going. With our without a next-generation political party in place, we will still have to vote wisely in the coming elections.
I hope that we are at the very least ready to do that.*