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Low Cost Constituency

The Logic of Political Survival states that the primary motives of all politicians are self preservation, for in other words, keeping their office position for as long as they could. In a democratic setting, this means by fulfilling the mandates given by their voters. But what voters demand can vary depending on what types of voters are there. Socially backward rural voters can demand one thing, yet a sophisticated, highly educated, affluent urban voters can demand another thing.

I am the type of person that will impose my worldview unto another, therefore I cannot let the whims of the voters dictate my power base. So, the constituency must be forged in such a way that having a politically powerful position does not mean having to represent the voters, but rather the reverse, which is shaping the constituency to justify my actions.

Constituencies can be created, classes can be constructed, but at different costs.

Partai Sosialis Indonesia (PSI) was designed as a cadre party. Recruits must first undergo education and training before admitted as a full-fledged member. These conditions make the PSI recruitment process a highly selective one. As a result, the headcount of PSI members in 1955 (~50,000) are dwarfed by PKI members (ten times as many) and PNI and Masyumi (in the millions).

However, they were steadily losing their positions in the parliaments, from the third largest fraction in 1950 election to a mere 2% in 1955 election. The reason for their loss is precisely because they are designed as a cadre party. They only have 55,077 members nation-wide and their presence is limited to urban areas and virtually no presence at the rural areas. PSI fails to build their base in local areas and do not recruit members from the lowest segment of the society. PSI fail to take into account the political maturity and political awareness of the voters, especially the ones who are easy being dominated by feudal and religious authority.

PSI was originally intended as a cadre party that can lead the masses. But this never happened. The party was filled with people who are smart at discussing, debating, but lack the ability to organize the masses. The leaders are unwilling to give speeches in the field, while enduring heat or rain in the front of the masses.

In my view, PSI was trying to create a constituency that is expensive in terms of cost and time. It is hard, expensive, and take a long time to educate a single person, let alone to multiply the process to hundreds of people. The process of becoming a fully-fledged members from recruits is high because the lengthy education and training, and maybe not everyone finish the process. They rely on quality, but election are all about numbers.

The alternative is to follow along the whims of the lower class. They are very cheap to create. Just blame foreign powers, blame minorities, exaggerate economic downturns, etc. All it takes is just provocative speeches from authority figures, TV ads that run just in months, etc. While it may place someone at the office, it erodes the quality of the mandate that is given to the person. This is a very toxic political environment to live in, and I don’t want this nation to turn into that.

However, insisting to create a favorable constituency is expensive. I prefer the sophisticated, highly educated, affluent urban voters to be my constituency, but they are minority in numbers. Expanding this segment is also expensive. I will need to educate all of them (expensive and lengthy), make them have access to a plethora of information so they can have quality decisions in their life (expensive), have access to quality jobs that makes them earning high income which enables them to consume more (hard), etc.

Maybe this is a dilemma. But I refuse to accept that. What if this is just a false dilemma? Maybe I can just capitalize on the low cost, socially backward constituency, but makes my survival divorced from the mandates from those people? Of course this can lead to a slippery slope of I-know-best bias that is all too often the reason of failures in a technocratic policy-making.

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