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After the losing


WE WUZ robbed. True or not, losers still lost.

As there’s nothing you can do to undo what’s done, may as well accept it, with all graciousness, with all humility. And go into some introspection, into reflection over the might-have-beens – no, not to sulk and wallow in blaming and self-pity, but to find the resolve to do much better for the next run. It’s only three years away, you very well know.

To that end, what I have long proffered as post-election prescription for the solace of the hurting also-ran is this rumination of Pulitzer Prize-winning The New York Times columnist William Safire in his The First Dissident subtitled The Book of Job in Today’s Politics, thus:

“IS SUFFERING a defeat good for a political person? The run for office is a short run, and the loser is not likely to find comfort in talk about the long run. But can rejection at the polls be fairly presented as what condolence-bearers sardonically call ‘a character-building experience’?”

Yes, and yes. And the dearly lamented Carmelo F. Lazatin, better known as the Tarzan, exemplified it.

Tarzan lost in his very first try for an elective post – mayor of Angeles City in 1980.

Losing an election early in a political career is deemed constructive. As Safire says, “a therapeutic trouncing introduces a little real humility into candidates who must at least profess humility.”

Though not exactly a long shot in the 1st district congressional contest in 1987 – he was the beatific Cory’s choice, after all – Tarzan managed to squeak through victory – by a plurality of less than a hundred votes against his closest rival, if now-selective memory still serves right.

Tarzan rolled through victory after victory thereafter – three terms in the Lower House, notwithstanding his being derided as the chair of the comite de silencio at the camara de representante; first ever city mayor to serve three terms; back to Congress in 2010.

He lost in his comeback bid for the mayorship in 2013 and was readily consigned to the dustbin of the political has-beens. Only to resurrect – by proxy – in 2016 with the masterful crafting of the twin victories of his namesakes – Carmelo Jr. aka Pogi, and Carmelo II aka Jon – at the city council, and in the first congressional district, respectively.

Contrary to all expectations, aye, in direct defiance of age and health, Tarzan won the chairmanship of the city’s premier barangay of Balibago in 2018.

It was to be Tarzan’s final yell, succumbing to cardiac arrest over the ravages of age seven months later.

But not his last hurrah – if only from the grave – with the definitive victory of Pogi as hizzoner of Angeles City, and the impressive re-election of Jon as Pampanga 1st District representative. (Even more definitive victories for both in the elections just past: Pogi as first ever city mayor to garner over 100,000 votes, Jon unopposed.)

The sons handling contemporaneously the positions held by the father one after the other. What greater political legacy than this?

Tarzan could not have known it but what Safire called the “law of political return” impacted upon him, ingraining him with the “comeback quality.”

Qualified, thus: “Defeat, if it does not destroy them, tempers leaders. After reaching deep within for internal resources, they can rightly claim to have grown as a result of what the voters have taught them. In the art of comeback, one lesson is not to insist that voters admit they were wrong last time, even if their choice of candidates turned out to be inept or corrupt in office. On the contrary, the putative comebacker should compliment the electorate on having been right in spotting his own shortcomings in policy or personality or presentation, which have been corrected – with no compromise of principle, of course. Last time losers should assert with pride that they have learned enough to become next time’s winners.”

Else, they stop running altogether. And stop losing forever.

(First published May 13, 2019, reprinted for its refreshed timeliness)


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