Why are the WP and SDP Rallies so Popular?


News is probably trending about two rallies:

  • The size of the WP crowds at WP rallies.
  • Chee Soon Juan’s return after 15 years of not being able to contest in elections.

The crowds are huge and much has been said about them. Do the crowds translate to votes? Why are people so attracted to such rallies?

Here are three plausible reasons, though I will not qualify the robustness of these reasons from a logical perspective. After all, with such rallies, emotions tend to run very high. Here are three reasons, why they are not quite sound, and better suggestions (if possible) to achieve said objectives.

1.) I want to know what the opposition has to say; I’ve heard the ruling party too much.

The argument goes: The PAP has the MSM, so we had better go to the rally to listen first-hand to what the opposition has to say so that the media won’t perturb the message.

The issue: you get much more than what you attend the rally for. In rallies, it is a typical routine to get the crowd angry with the incumbent. (The incumbent clearly cannot do this.) With an angry crowd, the rally speaker then goes on to rattle about their suggestions and why said anger with be soothed. It could be about foreigners or political persecution to make people angry. Lines such as “why so many FT stealing jobs” or “why such a dominant party for so long unlike other countries” will anger people. Then even suggestions such as “zero foreign worker growth” and “abolish ISA” sound promising even if they were never actually discussed at the rally.

WP manifesto

The solution: if you really want to know what the opposition wants to say, read the manifesto, don’t turn up for the rally. The emotional soundbites are slightly reduced.

2.) I really don’t like the incumbent.

The argument goes: Show support for the opposition by turning up for the rally! Let the incumbent know that we are really angry!


The issue: it would be quite inane to suggest that the incumbent doesn’t know about the anger. Certainly their volunteers, when scolded by irate citizens will know that. Political theory also states that voters can be divided in three blocs: hardcore incumbent, swing voters and hardcore opposition. Clearly the people who fall under (2) are the hardcore opposition.

The solution: Stay that way. Nothing this article will suggest will necessarily be of any impact.

3.) Actually, I don’t know about politics, neither do I know about policy, so perhaps I should go listen to find out what’s going on.

The argument goes: since I know nothing, and apparently this rally seems popular, so go for it.

The issue: in most rallies one cannot learn much about policy. It is simply not the place to have robust discussion over policy. Who uses statistics and charts to explain why a certain number is thought of? Is it arbitrary or derived? Who cares at a rally. The rally is fundamentally one to gather emotional support, not rational support (except if the speaker is very well-known to just put forth rational arguments). Thus if this is the objective, it will backfire.

The solution: the rally really has no place for you. Three good starting points to read policy: IPS Commons, various intellectual thinkers, and the press releases of important documents such as the Budget, white papers and ministry press releases. From there, make a choice on the supplementary material to read.



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