[New School] Moral politics and the elitism of the Robredo campaign

‘Calling a campaign volunteer-based is no indication of the class character of the volunteers themselves. An organic campaign is not the same as a people’s campaign.’

As someone surrounded by supporters of Vice President Leni Robredo in the household, at school, and even where I live, it is difficult not to get caught up in the apparent energy and euphoria of the Robredo campaign right now. Every week is greeted by news of yet another city “turned pink” by a massive rally, or another new public figure expressing their support for Robredo. On top of that, anecdotes abound of “Kakampinks” slowly converting officemates, friends, and even strangers they interact with, to the cause.

The pink tide is surging everywhere, it seems, except in the pre-election polls. There, Robredo’s main adversary, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., has only seen his lead grow in the past month. Most notably, among classes C, D, and E, Marcos’s lead is especially large, while Robredo’s share is barely even a fourth of her rival’s.

The explanation for this is unlikely to be a question of stances, track record, or even values; Robredo clearly outclasses Marcos on all three fronts. Rather, Robredo’s continued languishing in a distant second place is due, at least in part, to the upper-class character of her campaign.

Moral politics and the masses

The way that many elements of the Robredo camp are approaching this campaign is highly reminiscent of moral politics, a term popularized in the Philippines by Wataru Kusaka in 2017.

In his book, Kusaka details a moral agonism that exists between the largely middle-class “citizens” and the lower-class “masses,” which has played out since the first EDSA uprising in 1986. The fourth chapter specifically shows how the “citizens” ” tend to view the “masses” as gullible and easily swayed by “evil” elites, which then defines their own interests as representatives of the “good.”

It is hard not to see elements of moral politics in the present Robredo campaign, especially with regards to how it interacts with the Marcos campaign. Supporting Robredo, as well as disavowing Marcos, is often framed as a matter of intelligence, moral character, or both. How, many Robredo supporters ask, can anyone with the capacity to think see Robredo’s track record and detailed policy plans and choose not to vote for her?

[OPINION]  Intellectual arrogance: An elicit disorder

The issue with many Robredo supporters, however, is that they often leave that rhetorical question, and refuse to actually find an answer. They loudly (and rightly) decry the historical denialism around Martial Law, without acknowledging that many registered voters have never been in a history class to learn about it. They publish lengthy infographics of Robredo’s accomplishments on Twitter and Facebook, without acknowledging that many registered voters have no Internet access. They keep pointing out the atrocities of the Marcos regime, without acknowledging that many voters have similar resentment for the regime that followed it. (Robredo, after all, even as she runs independently, is still chair of the Liberal Party.)

To these people, anyone who supports Marcos cannot be disillusioned; anyone voting against Robredo cannot possibly be grounded in reality. They can only be delusional, stupid, or worse, evil.

Cracks in the ‘people’s campaign’ rhetoric

To be clear, many others in Robredo’s camp are making sure not to engage in such discourse, instead promoting empathy and understanding with non-Robredo supporters. However, the elements that do engage in “offensive and elicit remarks,” as Robredo’s daughters put it, are still impossible to ignore. One campaign leader was quoted last November as saying that “vendors on the street and house helpers wearing pink on Wednesdays” was proof that the Robredo campaign was not “too elicit.”

What this sentiment fails to understand is that having individual people from the masses supporting a campaign does not make it a “people’s campaign.” Individual street vendors and household helpers wearing pink is no indication of the class character of a campaign.

Neither is the fact that the campaign is volunteer-based. It takes the kind of time and energy that is easily given to people by privilege to volunteer for a work-intensive political campaign. Calling a campaign volunteer-based is no indication of the class character of the volunteers themselves. An organic campaign is not the same as a people’s campaign.

It is clear that a significant proportion of the Robredo camp is more interested in talking over, or down to, the masses, rather than communicating directly with them. For all we know, Robredo might turn out to be a people’s president after all is said and done. That does not make her campaign a “people’s campaign.” The massive lead that Marcos continues to enjoy over her when it comes to Classes C, D, and E speaks to that, along with the experiences of campaigners on the ground.

The “Kakampinks” can continue to turn up in the tens of thousands to Ayala, Ortigas, and other urban centers, drinking their frappuccinos and taking videos on their smartphones all they want. None of that changes the fact that, as long as elements of the Robredo campaign remain distinctly elicit, they will likely cost her the election. – Rappler.com

Adrian Gache is a fourth year Political Science major at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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