Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lowest Common Denominator

This particular post is dedicated to the extension of the Obama presidency.  I should have posted this in the past few days but my computer conked out on me and I lost the will to live.  Literally.  A few days later, I am viewing this screen from a replacement computer and the post is still waiting to be finished.

I know I should be reading more opinions from other people before launching one of my own, but I can't help but link the success of Obama's re-election to the surprise results of the 2010 Joseph Estrada candidacy.  I'm not a particular fan of President Obama's politics but he played his cards correctly - keep things going despite opposition, push here and there to do something meaningful, try to generate some traction in Congress despite not having the upper hand in either the House or Senate.  Whatever failures he had is a not an overall failure of his leadership - it is simply a function of having Republicans and Democrats have at it on a regular basis.

In short, let us give him the benefit of the doubt - just as the American people chose to re-elect Dubya in 2004.  He still has the same contentious Congress with him, so good luck.

As I mentioned earlier, I am not an Obama fan, and were it not for the outright hypocrisy practiced by the Clintons in their marriage of convenience, I'd be singing paeans to Hillary Clinton.  In 2008, Obama getting elected was a revolution of the youth and the formerly less-heard sectors of society - with social media and new forms of expression, previously less-influential sectors armed themselves accordingly. In 2012, he played the "us-against-them" card so well against the Establishment his "favored" constituencies came out and saved the day.

Now, Mitt Romney must have been a skillful businessman to reach his current state, but he failed to counter one of the most important rules in politics - the rule of the lowest common denominator.

Joseph Estrada understands the masses even though he lived a life of royalty and came from a landowning family.  To this day they still believe his schtick that he is one of them, though if he were ever a member of the  underprivileged class he hasn't been poor in decades.  He has been a big star since the '60s, so that counts him out as a common man.  However - he has hijacked the agenda of the poor.  Look at me, he says, I turned it around!  With hard work and with the help of your friends, you'll make it too. 

I've learned the lesson of never deriding the political sensibilities of others, so long as they don't parrot others to claim they know more than they do (an ongoing sickness in Facebook, and I would guess, on Twitter as well).  When striking up conversations with taxi or jeepney drivers, I pretend to say as little as possible so that it would be easy for them to express their political inclinations.  And it proves to be easy to capture their sympathies.

For all his faults, Erap is an "honest" crook.  He is a hood who loves gambling and romancing beautiful women.  Not very smart, but loyal to his friends and ready to move quickly to take action against the slightest offense. A man after their own heart.

Empathizing with rich kids like Mar Roxas and Noynoy Aquino is all but impossible; likewise with idealists such as Jovito Salonga and Raul Roco.  Similarly, wunderkinds like Jess Robredo are admired from a distance, but not emulated.  On the other hand, known practitioners of the now-updated 4G (guns, goons, gold/goods, and now, adding sexy girls) are not only accepted but measured --- how much can I benefit from this fellow? Outright embezzlers are tolerated as long as their particular sector benefits.

The rule of the lowest common denominator rescued Obama.

Sure, everyone in the US would want more jobs to open up and for wages to increase.  And average Americans love peace just as every other nation, on earth, and even more so, because Americans are very convenient targets for worldwide resentment, regardless of reason.  And everyone wants decent social services in education and health care.

No administration can ever successfully juggle all the balls to keep everyone happy, but Obama did just the thing - he put it out there that he cared for the biggest segment of his nation - the middle class.  He sent the message that he was sympathetic to the common taxpayer.  Romney?  Instead of riding on the populist myth that the American Dream is alive and well, and that he is living proof of the same, painted himself as a know-it-all who would save the country.

America doesn't need any more of those.  They have enough TV and movie heroes to indulge them.  But a guy who is subject to middle-class foibles after achieving a Cinderella success?  Priceless.  Obama became a living example of the reality show Politics.  This is a guy the American public can accept.  Dubya may be an idiot, but he was representative of the sort of people the American people can empathize.  No one appreciates ivory-tower analysts.  Romney could have survived having a vapid and vague platform, but his exposed disdain for the common American killed him.

It's no wonder that Filipinos, who are very much  Republican in instincts and outlook, support Democrats as voters.  Underdogs are our favorites.  Long live the underdog.

Which leads to my original premise in prefacing this post with Tito, Vic, and Joey.  As a performing group they have been around as long as I remember watching TV.  They were not poor people - the Sottos were from a political family and De Leon, while not steeped in wealth and raised by a single mom, finished college.  They had middle class values who captured the popular imagination - these were the guys with whom we can identify. We wanted them to succeed - romancing the ladies, going on adventures, putting one over the bad guys.  Through all the scandals - sex tapes, drug abuse, and extramarital affairs - the public has stood by them.

In their solo careers - Tito as a Senator, Vic as a matinee idol (OLD, though) and Joey as the leading comedian, they have largely stayed true to the core of their philosophy - lowest common denominator.

I'm not a fan of Senator Sotto but his detractors are barking up the wrong tree.  You're never his constituency, so why would he bother with you?  If they want to make an impact, they should engage people who don't care about plagiarism in proper public forum.

Otherwise everything about the effort to make the general public understand would turn out to be one big joke.

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