As the 2010 election campaign period continues to drag on with all of the mudslinging, cheap gimmickry, and sometimes outright violence that comes with every Philippine election, I find myself thinking back to the presidential campaign of American president Barack Obama in 2008 and imagining how much good a campaign like his could do in the Philippines.
During the 2008 election campaign, I must admit that I was not an avid Obama fan. I thought that his lack of experience was a big issue, and his stances on certain issues were a bit too ambiguous for a serious presidential campaign. I supported him, but not wholeheartedly.
Today, I am in the process of reading The Audacity to Win, a fascinating read by David Plouffe (Obama’s campaign manager) which gives an inside look into the campaign from the exploratory committee days before the primaries all the way to Election Day on November 4, 2008. It is a must-read for the member of any political campaign across the world.
In Audacity, Plouffe shows how the Obama campaign grew from a small, idealistic group of supporters to a colossal campaign machine that never lost its authenticity and dedication to its original vision.
For me, how a politician and his team runs their campaign is a strong indicator of how they will serve in their official capacity if elected to office. Looking back on the Obama campaign after the fact, it is striking at how the Obama team was able to stay true to their dedication of putting people first before vested political interests. From the junior staff all the way up to Obama himself, the Obama campaign sincerely appreciated the efforts of their loyal volunteers and made sure they included them in the campaign as much as possible. This was not a ploy in order to keep volunteers content and working their hearts out for little or no compensation – it was a sincere strategy to make the volunteers truly included in the campaign, because they, and not the big donors or incumbent elected officials, were the true drivers of the campaign.
I can see that the Obama campaign was not necessarily groundbreaking in the ideas its proposed, but it was completely revolutionary in the way it ran itself. It put people first, the way that all campaigns, and all public servants, should.
On the night he was officially nominated the Democratic nominee for president, Obama stood before hundreds of thousands of people in packed Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado and said to the people: “You have stood up, one by one, and said enough to the politics of the past. You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result.”
Hopefully, some time very soon, us Filipinos will say no to the broken politics of the past and create a new kind of politics where people, not politicians, come first. Let us create a new politics where our neighbors speaking to us about the issues are more effective campaigners than celebrities giving endorsements on the television. Let us create a new politics where roaming cars blasting cheesy campaign jingles have no place. Let us create a new politics where the sweat and toil of unpaid campaign volunteers is worth more than the money of fake political kingmakers with vested interests.
Otherwise, the politics of the past used until today will simply produce the same poor results from yesteryear.