Governing in Prose

“Governing in Prose” is derived from a quote by former New York Governor Mario Cuomo. The full unmodified saying goes: “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.”

Cuomo’s aphorism speaks of the duality between campaigning and governing. Campaigning is about messaging where one weaves a narrative that will capture the hearts of voters. Issues and policies can and should be part of that messaging. But at the end of the day, it is the most compelling message which rules the day.

On the other hand, governing is more akin to prose. Tomes of executive issuances, implementing regulations, and budget documents are part of operationalizing campaign narratives into actual programs.

Campaigning and Governing, Ph Style

The duality between campaigning and governing can be seen in the lead up to the Presidential inauguration. President-elect Marcos Jr.’s promise to lower the price of milled rice to 20 pesos is a good example.

Back in April, Candidate Marcos proposed a bucketlist of promises to achieve that goal. He vowed to “impose a price cap on rice”. He also promised to direct the National Food Authority (NFA) to procure rice from local harvests. He also aimed to reduce rice importation.

President-elect Marcos Jr. was singing a different tune after May 9. Lowering the price of rice was still an “aspiration” of his administration. However, he added that it would hinge on “fixing the value chain” of rice, and recruiting more young people into agriculture. The phrase “Value Chain” is part of the discourse among professionals in agricultural economics.

From Aspirations to Plans

We can expect more the President-elect’s “aspirations” to be operationalized in the coming days. The Philippine Development Plan will be the most coherent example. The PDP is the blueprint of the government’s plans. As such, key “principles” from the campaign are typically carried over into the PDP. For example, points from Candidate Aquino’s “Social Contract” were integrated into his administration’s PDP.

Candidate Duterte’s campaign narrative centered on federalism, crime, and anti-elitism. His economic team expanded this into a 10-point economic agenda. These points were then incorporated into the 2017-2022 PDP.  The Marcos Jr. government is likely to take this approach.

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