Fire in the Wind

Come November, it is not impossible to imagine the world welcoming a President Trump.

As much as a number of people all over the world may think it impossible, the truth is, if the Philippine experience is any indication, then the world has taken a turn they may not be ready to face. I actually thought traditional rules would govern the last Philippine election and couldn’t have been more wrong. True, I caught a whiff of a scent in the wind where people were  fed up with traditional politics but naively thought that it was there in every other election before but it had never really made a difference; so, why should it be different now? Surprise! It is different now. The first experiment in electing a populist leader came when the Philippines elected Erap Estrada into power. Unfortunately for him, his base was the poor and not much else. When the elite thought the experiment had gone far enough, they stepped in and ousted Erap from the presidency. It wasn’t pretty but it was pretty interesting. 

The last elections, however, was totally different. The winning candidate did not only have the support of the poor but a number of the elites as well. Most of these elites may or may have not supported Duterte directly but it appears that they did support Marcos Jr., a vice presidential candidate whose family is close to Duterte, whose supporters drew mainly from his late father’s supporters, and they are legion spanning the entire social spectrum. It has now been revealed that former President Fidel Ramos was instrumental in convincing him to run for president, and his funds were provided by Marcos Jr.’s sibling, Imee. He also has the support of another former president, Gloria Arroyo, who was earlier rumored to be the financier of his campaign. True or not, what these alliances show is that he has a broader support base than just the poor. So, this time, the anger over traditional politics was augmented by the very traditional political rivalry they hated creating the perfect storm that swept a man into the highest post of the land. He promised change, and people bought into it. We never really knew how much change he had planned but three months in and we are reeling in disbelief. This man is no traditional politician. Far from it.

If you look at the US today, then you will see the same convergence of forces brewing. There is a great dislike for traditional politics that a complete outsider had actually succeeded in stealing an entire political party. The Grand Old Party no less! At the same time, the other political party is fielding one of the most hated traditional politicians in America who has been in the scene for far too long for comfort for a lot of Americans. And even as the Republican candidate may be THE most reprehensible person to ever walk on God’s earth, the Democratic candidate has trust issues of her own, which makes her unliked over the entire social spectrum. If the Democrats are not careful, then they will lose the coming election, or even if it doesn’t happen in this election, then one or two down the road will result in neither of the traditional parties winning. Note that the Republican Party rumbling along today is nowhere near what it was just an election ago. Should Trump win, he will turn your world totally upside down. That I can promise you.

The difference between the US and the Philippines, however, is that there are only two running for the office in the US (well, three but the third is a non-entity at the moment who is not even up on his current events). There were five running in the Philippine’s last elections which resulted in a plurality vote for Duterte (the majority voted for someone else, just not the same person). So the US Democrats still have a shot, and, as things stand, this election is for them to lose.

The truly disturbing thing about this is that you can see it happening everywhere. While populist groups are barely winning in elections, the victory of BREXIT shook everyone up. Much of the victory comes from the fact that people think these populists don’t have the ghost of a chance to win. Complacency then is the enemy. If you don’t believe me, then just ask the Colombians. We already know people do not like traditional politics and politicians all over the world. The current crop of politicians need to reach out, be more inclusive, and stay relevant. If the people cannot identify with them, then they will surely see the coming into power of someone who not only is contrary to everything they work for but would probably throw their country into chaos.

Believe me, you wouldn’t want what we’ve got.

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