We could benefit more from politics based on interest

Nairobi Women Representative aspirant Beatrice Kwamboka branded vehicle spotted near GPO, Nairobi on January 22, 2022. [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

Branding is core to political campaigns. Good politicians heed the advice of professionals and stick to a few well-articulated promises and accompanying slogans.

For instance, in this year’s General Election the “bottom-up” slogan is a champion in terms of branding.

Politicians behind the slogan continue to shape the agenda, forcing their opponents to play defensive.

The wisdom of minimalism in campaign branding also applies to policy formulation and implementation.

Both government officials and administrative structures face hard budget constraints when it comes to time and resources.

Consequently, to guarantee success they should focus on a few things at a time. In this manner, campaign minimalism complements the realities of policy implementation.

Which raises two questions: What are the top policy areas that should be receiving attention in this year’s election? And do politicians know what the voters need and want?

Unfortunately, our political class remains detached from the needs of Kenyans.

This is clear from the fact many continue to make what political scientists call “valence” claims – corruption is bad! We need to end poverty!

We need jobs! These are all trivially obvious facts that no reasonable person would oppose.

They promise everything, which is a guarantee that they will deliver nothing.

The real test of seriousness is whether politicians present a coherent plan of action.

What exactly are the steps we need to end poverty? What is the timeline? How will we pay for the plan? And what areas will be prioritised?

Once these questions have been answered, campaigns’ communication professionals should then package the plans for sale to voters and important interest groups. Does this sound utopian? Perhaps.

However, one hopes that the fire of interest-based politics ignited by the “Hustler” campaign will continue to burn bright and force our political discourse to be less about ethnic alliance building and dancing on campaign podiums, and more about meeting Kenyans with an actionable policy where they work and live.

The writer is an assistant professor at Georgetown University