Wither Jamaican Political Analysis?
November 6, 2017
On October 30, 2017, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) sealed victory in the St. Mary South Eastern by-election with a 900+ margin – it was indeed a #DunnDeal when Dr. Norman Dunn of the JLP defeated Dr. Shane Alexis of the People’s National Party (PNP). Since then much of the political commentary I have seen has been directed at understanding what the PNP got wrong.
I am disappointed with that narrative and with the few political analysts we seem to have in this country. What I would’ve liked, was some critical political commentary on the JLP’s win. It is my view that there must be several lessons for us to learn about what the JLP did right, to turn a one-seat majority in parliament into a three-seat majority as a result of winning the one seat the PNP lost. Before the by-election, the JLP had 32 seats in parliament and the PNP had 31. The PNP lost one seat, which means they now have 30 seats in parliament, and the JLP, by winning that seat which the PNP lost, now has 33 seats in parliament.
I don’t hear our political analysts talking about what this new majority could mean for governance. I don’t hear our political analysts talking about what this victory could mean for how the JLP as party and government is perceived. I don’t hear our political analysts talking about what this victory could mean for the next general elections, which could take place 2020 thereabout. But I suspect that’s asking too much, after all, we are a nation that seems to dwell longer on ‘bad news’ so we must focus on the PNP’s loss.
But. There is nothing new to learn about the PNP’s loss, in my opinion. They are losing for the same reasons they have been losing for the past couple years, PLUS the JLP is winning and winning differently with multiple cohesive and intersectional strategies. The JLP is emerging as a pragmatic-thinking and strategic-acting institution. But what the analysis is not exploring that, we are not talking about it much.
I would really like to hear about how the JLP is re-organising itself as a party, incrementally reducing voter apathy and political participation, and creating and controlling political narratives at the micro, meso, and macro levels of politics and governance.
Perhaps I need to plan a ‘grounding’ with one or two political analysts who can offer much needed insight into the political and governance shifts we are experiencing. I would like them to explore the idea that there is a new, emerging political culture that requires a different kind of political organizing in a digitally dominant age with over 55% Internet penetration in Jamaica. And that the JLP seems to understand, and in some cases control the shifts that we are experiencing.
The Myth of Homogeneity in Political Parties
October 30, 2017
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.
L.I.S.T.E.N. – The six-letter word to election victory
May 9, 2017
I like politics, not the representational bit I wouldn’t contest elections), but I enjoy studying how politicians operate – the politicking and the governing. But for a while I lost interest in it and would only occasionally comment on our political affairs.
Leading up to, and following the 2016 general elections in Jamaica, I realised that my interest came alive again. I started to pay attention again. I started paying attention for two primary reasons:
1. The soft revolution that is taking place in the JLP
2. The slow pace at which the PNP is getting rid of its arrogance and political deafness
A new election cycle will soon (2020 thereabout) be upon us, and I think the JLP is positioning itself to win a second term – something it hasn’t been able to do since the early 80s (though they were ‘handed’ their last second term given the PNP did not contest the 1983 general election).
One of the things that we learn in our exploration of political culture is how power, money, the people, the politicians and the systems work.
The JLP is teaching itself (finally) to understand, listen, and respond to the people – the people who will be motivated to vote, usually for selfish reasons, whether it’s because of a tax break, a salary increase, better roads, equitable access to education, better laws, the appearance of gender equality, respect for diversity in the leadership, or a reduction in crime.
It is really about the sometimes few things we value as individuals. So if someone places high value on constitutional reform, progressive taxation, gender equality, and low crime rates, if a party delivers on even two out of the four ares of interest, it is likely that such a person will give the incumbent a second run.
People who understand political culture will understand that they just need to find one or two issues that are important to different categories of people and deliver on those issues. So if you identify say six categories of people who can win you the majority of your seats in parliament, all you need to do is find the one or two issues that are important to each of those six categories of people and they’re ‘sold’ on you.
Once you do that, and do it well (without arrogance, because many Jamaicans don’t like arrogance), the rest of it – the power, the money, the systems – will work for you the politician, to the benefit of the party, then victory is yours. It’s certainly no easy feat, but if you understand the principle of it, strategizing with that understanding in mind will yield the victory results you desire. Some pundits like to say all politics is local, but I prefer to stick with those who say all politics is psychological. Why? You always have to win the people first.
If you win the people, the money will roll in from the funders (the corrupt ones and the less corrupt ones plus the crowd funding ones).
If you win the people, the power brokers (including those with the power of language, communication and media) will stack in your favour and will position you for victory.
If you win the people, the systems will always work in your favour, because once you win the people you have control over the systems, and you can manipulate the systems to your advantage (even in opposition).
The soft revolution that I see taking place in the JLP is because a few people in the party seem to have recognised the importance of ‘winning the people’ and ‘winning with the people’. And some of the most influential JLP Members of Parliament in both houses (upper and lower) are willing to L.I.S.T.E.N., even to current and former comrades. Mind you, not everyone is listening, but enough of the ones people pay attention to, are listening. And people love people who listen.
The PNP on the other hand is still woefully affected by arrogance, especially the arrogance of some of its least charming but well-known and popular comrades. I believe the party is ‘losing the people’ and ‘losing with the people’ because of this arrogance. And if they are losing with the people it means they do not have enough influential voices within the party who understand Jamaica’s current and emerging political culture. In many ways the party has personified the arrogance of Seaga when he was too stubborn to leave.
Now if you’re losing with the people, I believe you will lose everywhere else even if you still believe this is ‘PNP country’. Remember we don’t like people with foul attitudes, and we don’t like when people tek wi fi fool. And in my opinion, right now the PNP has too many foul attitude people trying to tek people fi fool, and are being given spaces and platforms from which to speak. At the same time, the public is not hearing enough from those within the party who are committed to ‘renewal’.
Woman to woman and man to man, I don’t believe much difference in expertise (or the lack thereof) exists between the two major political parties and who’s in, or would be in their respective cabinets. But the JLP seems to appreciate the value of listening more than the PNP does and this will mean they will get more done with the support of the people. In my opinion, for example, Floyd listens more than Lisa. Tufton listens more than Ferguson. Ruel listens more than Ronnie. Kamina listens more than AJ. Andrew listens more than Portia/Peter. Even Audley listens more than Peter.
While on the flip side, in my opinion, only in two instances you have folks from the PNP listening more than the JLP: Mark listens more than Chuck and Julian listens more than Wheatley, but the latter seems to be changing.
The PNP needs to fix this if they intend to win the next general election. Peter is already more unattractive than Andrew for multiple reasons, so the party has to learn to give more space and platforms to the few people in the shadow cabinet who are willing to listen. It also needs to give more spaces and platforms to members of the party who can ‘win the people’ and ‘win with the people’.
I don’t know much about their communications team, but, but, but, I know it needs some serious work, probably the same kinda work Lazarus needed.
I will be watching to see how the PNP shapes up for the next election cycle, because I am sure the JLP will be coming with a revolution. And when the JLP goh hard, election always nice fi observe and analyse.
Our political system leaves very little room for hardcore honesty as politicians and as voters. We have fooled ourselves into thinking that even those who purport to live by saintly standards are not, on occasion, forced to be hypocritical whether as an elector, a Member of Parliament, Cabinet Minister, or even as president of one of the major political parties.
I am interested here in writing a quick note on electors and how our political system can inadvertently forced us into being hypocritical voters.
We know that our political system does not allow us to decide who should be the Head of Government that ‘luxury’ reserved for party delegates who get lucky if their party wins at least 32 of the 63 constituencies when they go to the polls for General Elections.
Electors vote for their Member of Parliament (MP). That is what the system allows.
But since we know that a simple majority is what it will take for our party of choice to form the next government, some electors may vote on that basis regardless of their own justified convictions about how a candidate may perform in their constituency.
Consider the hypothetical below.
I live in a constituency where the People’s National Party (PNP) candidate who is also the incumbent has been performing exceptionally well and is running against a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) caretaker in whom I justifiably have no confidence. But I am more convinced that the JLP will do a better job at managing the country than the PNP, and I support the philosophy and policies of the JLP. What do I do? I vote for the wutliss JLP representative in my constituency because I want to ensure that I increase the odds of the JLP winning the General Elections – every vote counts.
Voters do that. And in my opinion that is a soft form of corruption, or if you prefer, hypocrisy. If enough voters do that, we may end up with quite a number of wutliss MPs from one side or the other because people are ‘voting’ for a Prime Minister. When we do that, we are sending a message that we don’t care enough about our Lower House legislators or the capacity of an MP to represent their constituency.
We would have done an injustice to our constituency…
When we go to the polls and we mark our Xs on the ballot paper we are sending a message that this is the person who we believe will best represent our constituency. But for some of us, that is not what we do; what we actually do is lie.
In a system like this, some potentially incredible MPs will never be voted in because it is not their ability, efficiency, commitment, dedication, or innovativeness that matter to some of us; it’s their political alignment.
I am not going to tell people to be politically honest or sincere, to each their own conscience; but I will say this, the people who are pretending that they are saintly, virtuous, and so full of integrity should hop off that high donkey.
It is not just politicians who are duty-bound to act with political integrity; as electors, we also have a duty. We are entrusted by the laws of the land to employ (elect) the best candidates to sit in the Lower House. When (if) we don’t do that because our favourite party may lose, we are corrupting the process, and sending wutliss representatives to the Lower House.
I must say though, that I blame the system more than I do the person, and it is for this reason that I echo the numerous calls within the Articulate
Minority Majority for the kind of Constitutional Reform that would allow the electorate to vote for both their MP and their PM. In this new system, it has been recommended that an MP be precluded from being a Member of the Cabinet. And Cabinet appointments must be confirmed by the Public Services Commission or an/the Integrity Commission.
There’s a lot more that we would need to do to make this workable, but I believe it can be done, and must be done since our system is set up to breed conflicts of interest, which inadvertently results in political dishonesty and hypocrisy among electors.
A Call to Action(?) for the NIA
We’ve been murmuring extensively on the decision by the People’s National Party to opt out of the National Political Debates. The party was kind enough to offer up its justification, and certainly we are not surprised that the Beverly Hills Mansion (as far as I’m concerned it’s now a proper noun) was listed among the reasons.
I am not overwhelmed by this decision, which may mean we won’t #HoldTheDebates. But I have a pretty good idea of the standing of both parties on several issues, including a few that are very dear to me. I also do not intend to vote.
I will say, however, that if the debates are hosted and something remarkable happens during the ‘competition’, I may be tempted to hop on a country bus and join the long line to vote. I’m realistic though.
I am not invested in this debate business beyond its sport/entertainment value. Our democracy and many of our political leaders are not past that stage yet. We major in the minor too much. And our democracy is still quite young.
But something has piqued my interest about this #DebateSaga (that’s probably what my learned friends in media will eventually call it). It was something that was brought to my attention by a friend on Facebook, something I long forgot – the contents of the Parliament (Integrity of Members) Act 1973, amended 2004.
All Members of Parliament are, by law, required to publicly disclose assets and liabilities, including any located outside of Jamaica. This disclosure should also account for any known assets, liabilities, and income of spouse and children (including step-children and adopted children) living with the Member of Parliament during the report period.
In case you missed the first few words in the preceding paragraph, let me remind you: all Members of Parliament. This means that the 63 members of the House of Representatives along with the 21 members of the Senate are legally required to give an account of their assets and liabilities. Please note as well that these assets are not limited to land, they include monetary instruments such as stocks, bonds, shares, etc.
It seems the law is not a shackle for many of our Members of Parliament. This business of disclosure is not treated in the public sphere as if it is a legal requirement, rather, we are made to feel as though it is a favour to the nation.
I am hoping that the National Integrity Action – NIA (a non-profit organization aimed at combating corruption in Jamaica) will take on this issue perhaps in a more assertive and consistently insistent manner so that in the same way the Electoral Commission of Jamaica successfully (read partially) cleaned up our voting system, which has been applauded by many, the NIA and other stakeholders will begin to publicly hold our members in the House of Representatives and the Senate to this highest possible (financial transparency) standard.
There’s a reason we scored 41 out of 100 (0= highly corrupt; 100= very clean) on the latest Corruption Index, although this represents a marginal increase over previous years.
I don’t know the current status of the Integrity Commission Bill, but I hope the lax of some of our Parliamentarians and recent events will fast-track its enactment(?) and enforcement. The passing of this piece of ‘legislation’ will, according to the Jamaica Information Service ‘establish a single anti-corruption agency with investigatory, information-sharing, and prosecutorial powers.’
The NIA has been doing an exceptional job since launching a few years ago, especially in regard to this ‘legislation’, and I know they are a non-profit, which means they are awfully constrained by limited resources, but I think more must be done to speedily and sternly tackle this issue. The establishment and efficiency of the Commission will help to solve many other related problems.
Stop Shaming Young Political Activists
A colleague of mine recently expressed a concern that I share – the ridicule of young political party supporters and activists by some formally educated Jamaicans. Political activism is frowned upon in many spaces, and it bemuses me, because everything related to the management of a country is connected to, and dependent on politics, even in undemocratic regimes; it’s all politics.
You can’t have income equality without politics.
You can’t have social justice without politics.
You can’t implement a development plan without politics.
You can’t address high rates of crime without politics.
You can’t have abortion rights without politics.
You can’t protect human rights without politics.
You can’t protect the environment without politics.
You can’t, you can’t, you can’t.
Our society is structured in such a way that everything is centred on politics. Politics is not limited to attending political rallies, throwing your support behind a candidate, working with a political party, or running for office. Politics is government. Politics is governance. Politics is.
And even if politics was just about party politics, why the big deal about becoming actively involved in the process? Why are we shaming people, especially young people for actively supporting one political party or another?
Consider too that while we are shaming young people for standing with their party of choice, we are also bawling about their political apathy.
Wi need fi stop it.
Cum 2019 wen mi decide fi pik a paati and werk wid dat paati mi waahn any a oonu cum try shiem mi, mi ahn oonu!
But seriously though, we cannot reasonably expect young people to participate more, when we are corrupting, muddying up, and shaming their participation. I know folks who actively support and work with the major political parties and it’s nauseating to watch people on the side-lines attempt to shame them. It seems as if working with, or supporting the Jamaica Labour Party, for example, means you are a slave to, and responsible for everything the party got wrong since the 1940s, and you are equally enslaved by, and responsible for everything the People’s National Party got wrong since the 1940s if you decide to work with, or support that party. When will we stop being so ridiculous?
Also, in case we haven’t realised, working with, or supporting a political party does not mean you cannot have a (reasonably) fair and balanced outlook. Do remember as well that it is unreasonable for a member, worker or supporter of a political party to be responsible and held accountable for the actions and utterances of all party actors. I expect reasonable persons to speak up in a fair manner when they believe a breach of sorts has occurred whether by the actors in their party of choice or other parties, but we need to stop this madness of attempting to hold people accountable for other people’s unfortunate actions and utterances because they support the same party.
Stop shaming political operatives. Aal if dem unemployed, leave dem alone. Many unemployed people worship God who some people argue ‘naa do nutten fi dem’, so I’m sure we can find a way to be okay with persons proudly supporting and working with a political party for their own personal, professional and/or other reasons.
Politics Can Be Refreshing
I haven’t been following the campaign trail of the People’s National Party, the Jamaica Labour Party, or third parties (don’t laugh) as much as I used to back in the day. But I am still observing from the (online) side-lines.
I’ve observed some refreshing occurrences and of course some old disappointing ones. I may never idly write about all the refreshing occurrences I’ve observed, but I must write about at least one – Marlon’s support of Floyd’s candidacy.
In my opinion, Marlon is a critical and oftentimes honest and fair supporter of the PNP. He is also a long-time friend and ‘soul brother’ of Floyd, who was nominated today to be the JLP standard bearer for St. Elizabeth South West. I don’t know these fellows personally, we just hail each other at soca parties, but we’ve been hailing each other at fetes for well over 10 years. And they have been friends long before I even knew them.
Their friendship is admirable and I suspect it has made nothing but positive contributions to their lives to date.
I’ve always known Marlon to be a Comrade and Floyd to be a Labourite. And I think everyone or at least most people who know these fellows also know of their political affiliations.
So when it was officially announced that Floyd would finally contest a seat to represent Jamaicans in the Lower House of Parliament, I knew almost immediately that Marlon would eventually become the subject of much criticism by his fellow Comrades. Because I didn’t have to guess that he would publicly support his friend of many years, who many also believe is a hardworking, dedicated yute who will serve his constituency well.
I have seen the criticisms from Comrades; it’s distasteful, old, and non-progressive.
But I don’t want to talk about that distasteful bit.
I want to talk about how refreshing it is (at least for me) to see one young Comrade wholeheartedly support a young Labourite because he knows that this Labourite will do an excellent job at representing the people of St. Elizabeth and all of Jamaica. This is the kind of politics that Jamaica needs if we plan to progress much further. And can I tell you? Marlon is very unwavering about his support for Floyd; I doubt it’s only because they are long-time friends, I think it is primarily because of his justified confidence in Floyd.
Marlon on Instagram today with the accompanying photo below:
It’s Nomination Day… Today someone who is family to me will be nominated as a candidate in the next general elections… Have a good one my brother @floydgreenja and all the very best with your campaign… South West St Elizabeth, unnu do di right ting!!! #GoWithFloydGreen #FloydGreen2016 #JaVotes2016
Can you imagine the kind of greatness we could achieve in this country if our Parliament had the best representatives and if our Cabinet had the best ministers?
I am in favour of a revolutionary kind of leadership!
Imagine how effective our Cabinet would be, for example, if we had a coalition of sorts. A coalition that had hardworking, dedicated, and skilled folks running the country, folks who care less about party and more about Jamaica, and would not entertain the kinds of dishonesty and manipulation that are sometimes characteristic of coalition-anything.
Imagine if the PNP wins and includes people like Kamina and Floyd in the Cabinet, or if the JLP wins and includes people like Imani and Julian in the Cabinet.
I don’t know how many people would support such a move, but just imagine it.
Big up Marlon, I hope your support for Floyd is something that we will read about in years to come.
Jamaica can be better.
I’m Ready for Online Voting!
I’m not much of a voter, but I like politics – the systems, the representatives, the commentators, the journalists, the silly season experts, the strategists, the unnamed campaign officers, and the culture.
I’ve voted once in all my enumerated life, not because of apathy, but for the same reason I don’t go to Devon House on a Sunday afternoon. The one time I voted I also worked as a Presiding Officer and that came with a particular perk– you got to vote before the day of General Elections, and that meant no long (or even short) lines.
It’s now 2016, and we live in an era of online banking (where we trust banks with our billions, millions, thousands, or in my case hundreds of dollars), online shopping (some of us own 4 or more credit cards), smartphones, and Dial-up Internet marketed as Broadband Internet in Jamaica. So I think we should be given the option to vote online. Some people will still go to polling stations and stand for minutes or hours waiting to vote, but I think the time has long come for us to be able to vote online within a few seconds or minutes at home, work, or even coming from a breakfast party.
Many folks will suggest that online voting will mean more manipulation of the numbers. They would probably be wrong. The manipulation would just be different than what we currently experience. And if any human person living in Jamaica or any country for that matter believes that elections are void of manipulation and cheating, I would recommend more sex, it’s good for the brain. I care zero for any ‘cheating’ arguments against online voting.
I know this online voting business will require ah whole heap ah work on the backend especially in the first few years, but it can be done. We can learn from the Estonian etc errors and make it work.
Let’s do a test run in a few polling divisions in 2021!
And for the folks who believe that voting is the only and primary way to participate in governance, newsflash! Nuff ah who vote could care less about governance when their favourite party/personality wins. And if dem favourite party/personality loses, their involvement in governance is limited to cussing the government about every Saw Almighty thing that it does or doesn’t do.
So don’t chastise me if I don’t take a taxi from my home in Kingston to the ‘country bus park’ Downtown, then hop on a bus heading to May Pen, then jump pon a taxi to my constituency to stand in a (long) line to vote, and then of course, make the return trip. I can find less hassling ways of participating in governance. I know there was a time when I travelled daily from May Pen to Kingston for work, but the thing is, I had a chair waiting for me at the office and a bed at my yard upon my return. Furthermore, I’m on the older side of life now, which means I am forced to limit my foot-activity to worshipping Lady Bacchanalia.
I’m ready for online voting.