Running Toulouse – the wages of fame and the workings of democracy

This is not about the local administration of that famous place that combines the old and new, Toulouse being a big part of historical France and the headquarters today of Airbus.  This is about those who run for election to public office with no real hope of winning.

The question is why. Why run to lose? Here are some answers:

One can win by losing.  This means that the loser gets into public consciousness as a “good guy” who lost through no fault of his own.  It would be a bit like Al Gore in 2000.  Nick Perlas is no Al Gore but perhaps he can later write a book about the inconvenient truths in the Philippines.  There could be an Oscar right there, if not a FAMAS award.  Besides, I like Nick.  He means well.

Another is when one has little to lose anyway.  For example, if Loren Legarda loses, she still has her public-figure status, and she can still go on and on about global warming.  We shouldn’t forget that it’s pretty hot in tropical Philippines.  Why indeed add to the heat and pay more for expensive electricity to run fans and air conditioner compressors?  Now if only Loren were to concentrate her energies a la Enrile on cutting the price of electricity, that would be truly economic, the equivalent of killing two birds with one stone. It seems we need two senators to kill two stones.

Running to right a wrong is another reason. I don’t know if Erap is running to lose.  I believe he intends to win.  Vindication can be had even if he loses. Votes for him will show how many believe in him still.

Still another reason is somewhat of a bad-faith one.  A candidate is there to “steal” votes from an intended victim, so that a third candidate is more assured of a win.  Of course this kind of bad faith is hard to prove.  But when one candidate publicly accuses another that the latter has attempted to pay off the former to “back out,” we know that this is not an insignificant possibility.  The accusation may therefore backfire.  Why run to lose, except perhaps to be bribed into withdrawal?  It even sounds like a bad joke about birth control.

There could be a good-faith reason in one who runs out of duty to a political party.  Gibo seems to fit this mold, and so I salute him.  Quixotic is romantic, especially if once in a while he reminds people of Tom Hanks!  The question is:  Who is Sancho Panza here?

There used to be a reason in old-style elections, applicable to what is commonly called a “nuisance” candidate who runs to lose for its sake.  We’re not talking about Japanese wine here.  Ika nga, kulang lang sa pansin, kaya tumatakbo. (As they say, the running candidate just needs a little attention.) To its credit, Comelec has tightened up the rules against this type of candidate because of poll automation.  This is a public benefit from the automation exercise.

I think an open-secret reason to running to lose is that elections are a social event for losers.  If you lose you have lots of company.  Think of all those trying to make it to the party-list representative circles!  (Incidentally, I have this gut feeling that the party-list system may well become a circus of a sort, but that’s another story.) Winning is for the lonely ones at the top.  Besides, one can always look forward to the next elections in three years’ time.  The cycle of commiseration goes on and on.  If this remotely depicts those who buy lottery tickets, well it does.  Yet they go on and on, lining up for that one chance at the big time.  Never mind that those who win lotteries never really get to improve their lives because they have to share their winnings with the rest of us.

In the end, running to lose is a testament to the idea of living and letting live.  It is an essential part of the democratic experiment. Losing is not the end of the world.  Gordon, Villanueva, Binay, Fernando, and others who believe in democracy know this well.


2 thoughts on “Running Toulouse – the wages of fame and the workings of democracy

  1. Two more answers:

    One is that you have to start somewhere. And many successes come only from the experience of failure. You run (to lose) so you will know how to win the next time around. This is quite similar to Schumpeter’s model of creative destruction that attends innovation when there is market competition. Many run to lose in order to acquire knowledge of the losing strategies to avoid the next time, and thereby come up with winners.

    Another has to do with the infamous winner’s curse in auction theory. It is a curse because the winner ends up overpaying for his victory, and this is of course irrational. The girl who becomes the bride looks like she won, but the girl who keeps playing the bridesmaid gets to avoid marrying the bad husbands.


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