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Poll dancing

Poll dancing

ONCE CONSIDERED a stage performance aimed at a slightly inebriated male audience in a dark bar, pole dancing has become a fitness program. With a pole in one’s bedroom, this gym routine can be enhanced with mirrors and music, with no need for provocative movements. Then it does not need to be performed with much skill, only diligent effort and sweat, yet another form of working out from home.

The slithering, sliding, and lifting with upper body strength needed for the “flag pole” position, with the body parallel to the ceiling require determination, and can lead to dangerous slips.

Such exertions are emulated by participants in another type of frenzied activity, like poll dancing. At this juncture when formal campaigning is still disallowed, the players merely strut their stuff.

The background music is set by the surveys.

Wannabes throw their names into the mix, even if they’re just “thinking about it.” They may even express demure denials — I still have a young family to take care of. Other endorsers are assigned to publicly express support to persuade the reluctant candidate to at least consider the possibility. (Is he nodding his head?)

The status of “frontrunner” is vested only by surveys that track declared or undeclared candidates for national office. True, these surveys are not as binding as the US primaries are for the contenders for a party’s nomination.

The frontrunners as the election draws nearer (just 10 months away) enjoy many advantages.

They can draw on the best team of strategists, political analysts, think tanks, and provincial allies who control local vote-getting machines and ruling dynasties. The cape of “winnability” is like a magnet attracting iron filings. The frontrunner needs to publicly turn away those who want to help but may harm the campaign with their past history, still being scrubbed clean — there was a communist threat that needed to be addressed.

Financial support sits on the sidelines until a pattern of ranking emerges. When it does, the money goes to the front of the line. This manifest affinity of funding the frontrunner translates into a widening circle of support. The donor-beneficiary relationship is tilted in favor of the leading candidate as survey results do not require any promises in exchange for support. It is the donor (rarely anonymous) who feels he is paying an entrance fee to get into the big tent.

The difficulties of tail-enders multiply as they drop in the survey ratings.

Support dries up. The first-class talents in the campaign move elsewhere, maybe back to their day jobs. Troll farms have been parceled out to the front of the line. It is harder to make appointments with the fat cats who seem to be tied up in perpetual meetings. (The boss is free to see you sometime in June of next year.)

The laggard is no longer newsworthy. There are gripes and attacks on popularity politics — maybe I don’t smile enough? In radio interviews, their assertions can be grating as the interviewee doesn’t even wait to be asked a question as he launches into the unfairness of the process. The assertion of having the best qualification for the job is greeted with a polite yawn — if you’re so great, why are you at the end of the survey line?

Naturally, the proxies of the “asterisk” (less than one percent of respondents) group who are touted in TV interviews as “resource persons” or “political analysts” try to discredit the methodology of the survey even without having seen the questionnaire — why did they include “my client” in the category of running mate? He is running for the top post. The attempt to throw doubt on the survey mechanics is hoped to erode the benefits of being frontrunner.

It’s possible that survey top-notchers don’t always end up winning. More often though, the tail-enders in the bottom quartile fail to improve their electoral chances either, even as possible running mates. They drop out of the whole political conversation.

At this point, visibility, interviews, quotes on safe topics like the vaccination rollout, and strutting (with social distancing) are all the campaigning process allows. Like any spectator sport, such performances do not always attract interest, except for those leading the pack.

And then for the laggards, it’s a matter of waiting for the next survey and making a decision to quit… for health reasons.

Tony Samson is Chairman and CEO of TOUCH xda

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