After the surprising grace from Mar Roxas last night, Noynoy responds in what I could only describe as a buzzkill. And this evening revealed the fundamental weakness of Noynoy Aquino — his lack of charisma. But first let’s define some terms.
Charisma is an internal quality. It is an abstract combination of character, conviction, and confidence. Charisma is what allows you to believe another person because of the qualities and values he possesses; moreover, he is able to clearly and convincingly convey them to you. On the other hand, popularity is an external quality. It relies largely on the validation of others, and whether you do enough to earn that validation. While charisma is often innate, popularity is something that is subject to more revision and change. It goes with the temper of the times.
A successful politician requires both. However, to receive what Noynoy asks of us, he will need tons of charisma. Right now, he is merely (and dangerously) popular. Let me explain.
There is nothing wrong with what he said. As a matter of fact, he said all the right things. The problem was, he didn’t come across as convincing. I understand the need for more spiritual discernment, but that could work both ways. It can either show Noynoy as the devout son and a thinking anti-politico, or it can show Aquino as weak, indecisive, and unconfident. His performance titlted to the latter.
Take the following simple sentence from a recent campaign speech.
“This election is not about me. It’s about you.”
Very simple. Possibly cliche. Yet delivered by Barack Obama, it was powerful. Crushing, even.
The problem with Noynoy is that he’s taking a page out of the Obama playbook. He answered one press question brilliantly — with hardly any funds, how can you wage a traditional campaign?
His answered impressed me. It even had shades of the new politics we saw last night. Aquino said that the solution is simple: we don’t resort to a traditional campaign. He then cited the random acts of volunterism that inspired him to play a larger role — the tarpaulins, the uncommissioned surveys, the yellow shirt drives, and so on.
What he is after is a grassroots campaign built on the backs of ordinary people. I agree. That is precisely what we need. But a campaign such as this needs to be built. Yet seeing Noynoy fumble, stutter, and even squint at the page during his speech didn’t exactly inspire confidence. So am I to give my time, resources, and hopes to that person?
It is by no means an insurmountable weakness. During the campaign, his sister Kris alone can make up for his charisma deficit. But people will be voting for him. It is he who will be possibly governing. We need to vote Noynoy for who he is and not who we want him to be, because once he is in power we will rely on him to discern and decide for the good of the country. And to be able to do that, he will have to talk to us. He will need to explain his decisions, converse with us about policy, and keep our trust. I agree, results matter. But if Aquino really expects us to be with him as he works for change, then he will have to deliver more than just results. He will have to keep us believing and hoping, and this is something only a person of great charisma can deliver.
I am not looking for someone who has just charisma either. If I were I’d be voting for Estrada.
Some may suggest that his lack of charisma is actually a plus for Aquino. I cannot see how it is. We are a people who are easily dissatisfied with our rulers. We set an impossible standard for Noynoy Aquino and when he fails to meet those (as all our Presidents eventually will), then there will be forces that will hunger for his overthrow. True, that can always be avoided. For that he will need the people to stand by him, but I believe I’ve already made my point.
Pardon if I have such high standards, but one problem of Philippine society is that we tend to settle for the mediocre. Puwede na raw ang puwede na. But no. Just enough should never be enough.
Truth is, I am inclined to vote for an Aquino-Roxas ticket, and it is for this reason that I expect more from them. If I come across as too scrutinizing and picky, it is only because I too am discerning my choice.
I recognize that I will never find everything that I am looking for in a candidate. I am looking for someone who can instigate reform from above — someone principled, honest, and firm — while inspiring a transformation from below through leadership by example. This is a high standard which no human can possibly match, so the least I should have when I cast my vote is some peace of mind. Of a slew of possibilities, I want to choose one I can live with. Sadly, voting for abstain does not appeal to me despite this. I want to have a legitimate say in how government is run.
I really am concerned for Noynoy’s lack of charisma. My greatest fear is that he, despite doing everything to the best of his abilities, will frustrate. Or maybe, I am just not giving our people enough credit. Perhaps the political culture has changed. Perhaps people will participate more in government. I really hope so.
I know that there is something I can do to help Noynoy in his campaign and even beyond. I just have to see him for what he is, and not just rely on my own aspirations of what he should be. If I will devote my time, resources, and talents to a candidate, it has to be someone I believe in personally. Trust takes time. And since I can’t meet Noynoy personally (yet), then I will have to filter and study everything that comes through the media.
Anyway, the campaign period for the Liberal Party has effectively begun. I will be watching very, very closely. I am one with everyone in our desire for change.