The general elections are like a rat race where meanness is the norm and no one comes out with their dignity intact. Botswana’s 2019 general election is not an exception and many will come out humiliated, their dignities bruised and careers destroyed beyond repair. Indeed political campaigns are like reality shows that excite the audience by not picking the winner but rather humiliating the loser.
In this game, ordinary voters are imagined as some friendliest mammals in some exotic setting whose behaviors and choices are at the whims of the proprietors. The high-pitched and frantic campaigns that are making entertainment out of people’s natural weakness demean everyone involved, from party candidates to voters. People’s disabilities and other mental and physiological conditions are thrown about with reckless abandon. The humiliation of the opponents has become legendary.
Crucially, most of the campaigns have very little respect for dignity of contestants and the voter. The language is vile and messages openly contemptuous of the interests of those who will walk into polling booths on 23rd October 2019. Political rallies have been turned into comedy series where the audience got to hear about indigenous concoctions that grow body parts into remarkably huge things that defy the order of nature.
What comes out clear from this character bashing is that rogue politicians would do anything to humiliate opponents perhaps with the intention to bully them out of the contest. In fact, politicians would seem to be willing to do anything that guarantees a ticket to jump on board the train to the local Hollywood that is our national assembly.
Another facet of it is that we live in a country in which vulgarity and lack of manners are prized attributes. Our political parties have become bastions and archives of incomplete human beings that are confused with political heavyweights.
Taking advantage of the vulnerabilities of both the opponents and the voter seems the surest way to the legislature or council chamber and somewhat assures small minded people that there is power in every embarrassment and that politics take away the humanity out of otherwise well-mannered beings and turn them into savage creatures.
As a result, most politicians are not bothered that they are deceiving the voters and it does not seem to occur to them that abusing opponents, deceiving voters and being crudely vulgar is what others like Donald Trump use to rightly characterize our societies as shitholes.
This political culture of humiliation has spread in ways that it has now corrupted our value system to a point where empathy has no place in our society. In consequence, our politics is crowded with selective moralists, damned liars and cherry-picking flip-floppers who thrive on misinformation and smear politicking.
An eerie political culture is sweeping across our dear nation and it is produced and directed by none other than those who aspire to lead this nation. It is unimaginable that while canvassing for votes, politicians assume all manner of indecency through their extremely vulgar jokes and attention-seeking stunts.
As the polling day draws closer, candidates will be using the next four weeks to lie big which seems to be their damnable magic to lure voters. They will be changing positions on many policy issues like legendary pornographic actors.
For instance, BDP candidates – the shepherds of the party whose hierarchy tolerated assault on civil liberties by cheering on their former leader, covering up corrupt practices, enabling theft of public monies and paying hush money will be presenting themselves as newly baptized members of the kingdom of God who intends to clean the government and grow the economy.
They will confidently tell voters that if they vote for the opposition, they will be cooperating with the devil and that opposition policies would lead to eternal damnation. Still others will flip-flop acrobatically and tell voters that the person or persons they previously fingered for theft of public resources and for causing untold misery are actually innocent and that they have identified a new enemy for us to hate and curse all over again.
Such politicians in the ruling establishment and their like-minded peers in the opposition who warn voters that voting certain parties was to commit a sin actually make up a majority of our candidates at both parliament and council levels.
This would mean that voters have limited choice at the polls. In particular, the rational, informed voter is certainly having a difficult decision to make in respect of whether to vote or abstain. Rational voters have to wrestle with whether to vote for any of the clowns on offer or stay home because there is just too much nonsense politicking that eclipses real issues.
And this is where and how the opposition loose elections. While the irrational voter [a majority of them are historically pro-establishment and unbelievably loyal to their proprietors] use his/her heart to make hurried decisions about their votes, the learned voter use their brains to make a decision and when they are not convinced or are not happy with the direction taken by their a party they support or sympathize with which is usually the opposition, they would not hesitate to vote for a different party.
These knowledgeable and well informed voters are hardly affected by the herd mentality and therefore are not easily influenced by political gossip. While being anti-establishment, when the opposition [their preferred choice] arrogantly strays and takes on a vision and character that stands for everything that they are against, the rational voter is made to face the stark choice of having to jump ship and vote for another party or not vote at all.
This fundamentally shrinks the opposition votes since the learned voter is generally for the opposition. On the other hand, the ruling party will likely romp home on the strength of the irrational voter who vote on superficial considerations and very difficult to convince to abandon their preferred choices.
In a way, dishonest politics generally and flip-flopping in particular disadvantages opposition parties because such conduct offend and irritate their brainy members and the floating voter. Whenever opposition candidates stoop to the level of their peers in the ruling party whose politics has actually been pitched at a level appropriate for the majority of their members, they inevitably banish many of their sympathizers who are unable to celebrate nonsense. Ironically, opposition candidates do often pull huge crowds at their rallies only to falter on polling day when the average voter opts to remain loyal and retain the status quo.
Thus, the irrational voter, the idle villager frequents rallies to listen and enjoy crass humor as elders exchange amusing raw vulgar to shame each other the same way some people get attracted to online pornographic material. Their attendance is just a habit that would not influence their voting preferences.
Essentially, there is a significant gap between the numbers and cheering or jeering by people at rallies and actual voting because while some people would have attended for entertainment and therefore their presence misleading, others do not actually cast a vote on polling day for varying reasons.
Good candidates and good ideas hardly come in the same package. Yet, both people with the necessary qualities and ideas are important ingredients in a functioning democracy. This presents a dilemma because good ideas cannot implement themselves hence it would be meaningless to vote for good ideas superintended by weak candidates. Likewise, the rational voter may not offer his/her vote to a seemingly qualified and capable candidate whose ideas and actions threaten the voters’ principles.
Damned black or little white lies, deceit and flip-flopping beget bigger troubles for the opposition by alienating the rational voter. On the other hand, the BDP, which has remained consistent with their message of lack of hope and do come out more believable, is likely to retain their own voters and get some angry voters from the UDC.
The harrowing reality is that rational voters are stuck with damned choices but still have to vote or be damned because the irrational voter is all set to favor their halfwits.