The Myth of Homogeneity in Political Parties

I ‘ve come to realize that while Jamaica has a first past the post electoral system that has long favoured the People’s National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party, we continue to make the mistake that each party is homogeneous.

We also continue to pretend that if someone supports one party over the other, it means such a person supports everyone in the party and all the philosophies, actions and utterances of everyone in the party.

But that’s not how it works in real life.

If we think about the parties as families, I think maybe we can understand and appreciate that diversity exists within our political parties.

Think about your own family. Do you support all the philosophies, actions and utterances of every first, second, or third cousin? What about the philosophies and actions of all your aunts, brothers, sisters, uncles, granduncles, or even your parents? But they are still your family. And you still call them family without supporting everything they do or aligning yourself with everything they believe.

And yes, I know we are born into our families, but in a lot of ways we choose to remain in them. We choose to identify with the people in our family, and we don’t hide our relations with our family members (well, most of us don’t). That is why they have the power to disappoint us and the power to make us proud.

And what about our inner circle of friends (for those who have such a thing)? Do we support all the philosophies and actions and utterances of all our friends and all the people who are close to us?

If not, why then can’t we extend that to people who are members of, or supporters of one political party over another? Why can’t Ricardo Brooks, for example be ‘allowed’ to support the JLP even as he is critical of some of the party’s philosophies, or the actions and utterances of some of its members and supporters? Why can’t Jaevion Nelson do the same as a supporter of the PNP?

The political parties have human beings in them. And they all have their diverse views. There is no real homogeneity in any of them. And that is perfectly okay. Plus we need to be realistic, sometimes when people support a political party, they’re probably just supporting one group in the party or a few people in the party whose philosophies, ideas, utterances a and actions are more often than not closely aligned with their own.

So when someone says they are a labourite or a comrade, that doesn’t mean they blindly support all labourites and all comrades. It may mean they have a preference for the JLP or the PNP for some very specific reasons.

Some people may blindly support one party or the other, and that’s their prerogative; they are the ones who will defend their parties ad nauseuam and even to personal detriment. But I would be surprised if those are the types supporters who make up the majority of party supporters on both sides. I’d be very surprised. Not even the leadership corps in the parties blindly support everything that is done or uttered by party stalwarts.

It is my hope that as a society (who loves political commentary) we give people room to identify with a political party without maligning them because of the disagreeable actions or utterances of others in the party.

We say we want people to think critically and independently. We say we want ‘better’ leaders in politics. Let us give people that room, and perhaps we will, after all, have ‘better’ leaders in politics.

Let us not be slaves to collective responsibility.

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