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‘Voters tend to choose principals and party over principles and platforms’

Elites and pundits have a very different lens of viewing politics from that of common or ordinary folk. For political elites and pundits, an elaborate and coherent ideological agenda is a must for the success of a political party.

In the traditional model of politics the accepted wisdom is “Seek ye first the ideological clarity of the party and all these other things will be added unto you.”

Like its counterpart in religion, the traditional model of politics does not allow for any ideological heterodoxies in a political party: only ideological orthodoxy.

The problem with that approach is that the ordinary voter is not nearly as obsessed with ideological commitments as the elites are. Donald Trump was elected President of the USA while espousing a non-orthodox political dogma that flew in the face of conservative Republicanism.

He supported tax hikes on the rich, pledged to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and made some disturbing statement about being pro-choice. But despite an insufficiently conservative political platform he was elected to office.

Most people who go to vote are not high information voters. They are not looking for what political ideologues are looking for. The difference between elites and publics is that while the former think principles and platforms trump everything, the latter value principals and party.

And therein lieth the great gulf or pothole betwixt the two, and which gulf politicians who are running for office would do well to note and navigate around.

A coherent ideology in an African context may be rather bookish and of very little relevance. It may not matter that much when push comes shove at the polls.

Voting folk are somewhat similar to church folk. One usually doesn’t join a church because it has a better version of the theology of the Trinity, or of the doctrine of eschatology. People join churches because they felt like their lives were touched and changed by the message and the warmth of current members. This is why church members will stick with their pastor long after he has gone off the rails theologically and the church has become heretical.

In politics, folk will stick with their party and principal long after both have veered off their founding faith and ideology. Again, Donald Trump is a case in point.

So if you are running for political office, its good to listen to the voice of party ideologues and to craft some ideological basis to your platform. But just remember that success in politics does not come primarily because of erudite and coherent written ideologies.

Rather success comes when an organization speaks to the hopes and aspirations of a people, makes a genuine attempt to better their lives, holds its own leaders accountable and unselfishly serves the people.

This is what builds and promotes party affiliation. And its fealty to party and principals that wins over a cold commitment to inflexible dogmas and ideologies.

Almost. Every. Freaking. Time

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