Opinion: Different approach

POSTED: 07/9/14 5:54 PM

Politics must be accessible to all. That sounds good and sympathetic, but is it really? Jeffrey Richardson answers the question elsewhere on this page: politics is for the rich and for the big parties, he says. If you have great ideas but no money, you’re left out in the cold.

Up to a point, we sympathize with this argument, but we’re not going all the way, because there is a basic flaw in the approach. That flaw is the idea that money is a stumbling block. We figure this is only true if you allow this to be so.

Of course, there are expenditures no political party can get away from. The notarial deed for the articles of incorporation, publication in the National Gazette, the 2,000-guilders deposit at the receiver’s office – those are some of the money-munching sides of getting into politics.

How difficult can it be though to raise, say, 7,000 guilders for a good idea? Elections come around only once every four years, so it is fair to say that start-ups have four years to deal with the financial aspects of their political aspirations.

This would then come down to raising just 1,750 guilders per year – or, to refine this further – 146 guilders a month or 33 guilders and 65 cents per week. A determined politician does not have to be rich to put that kind of money aside out of his own pocket. Therefore, covering the basic costs should not be a problem, especially not if you have a fan-base that is prepared to share in those costs.

What Richardson does not mention – but what would be an absolutely valid point – is the costs that come afterwards during the campaign. Here we are talking about tee shirts, caps, flags, watches, flyers, advertising, and –let’s not forget those – district meetings.

Done in the traditional way, these costs could quickly become prohibitive. The larger the billboard, the more impression a party makes on the average voter. You don’t even need a good idea to win a vote, as long as your party is visible loud and clear, something will stick. Lots of chicken wings also seem to do the trick.

All this is of course not possible for parties without deep pockets or without strong financial backers.

They have however alternatives that cost close to nothing. It requires creativity and a pro-active approach, but hey – if that’s too much trouble, why bother at all about a political venture?

There are social media, letters to the editor, and radio talk shows – just to mention three channels for getting a good message across. Citizens for Positive change (CPC) is one such party that makes maximum use of these opportunities. We honestly do not expect huge billboards with a mugshot of Rueben Thompson to appear along our public roads with an appeal to the electorate.

We do not reject Jeffrey Richardson’s argument entirely – because it is true that money talks – but we think that smart aspiring politicians will find ways to overcome their financial disadvantage simply with a different approach.

A good start would be to drop the “for the people” mantra and to present a political manifesto with real initiatives for real citizens, underpinned by a solid financial chapter. That we have not seen yet, not even from the parties that are perceived to have plenty of money.

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