Tyrone Reid: Second Thoughts on Voting out the Electorate
I've always thought that the way to fix Jamaica's broken political process was to devise a way to vote out the electorate.
By this I mean concocting a strategy that would rid the political process of the powerful influence and stranglehold of the diehard demographic who can't seem to bring themselves to vote on issues, but rather myopic political alliances and misguided party allegiance.
People who put party loyalty over patriotism are the bane of democracy.
These types of voters commit a grave injustice against those who fought for Universal Adult Suffrage. And their voting patterns are a perennial source of encouragement for our under-performing elected representatives; hence the malaise that has long attended what's offered as proper representation on the 'Rock'. For too long, there was no impetus to step up their game.
But that is changing.
And that is why I'm having a slight change of heart about the necessity of voting out the electorate. Our electorate is maturing, it seems. In the last two election cycles, we have seen two one-term governments - the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) between 2007 and 2011 and the People's National Party (PNP) between 2011 and 2016. And rightly so on both occasions, because while the JLP showed significant promise in their handling of the economy during the throes of the worst world recession since the Great Depression, the Manatt/Dudus affair was unforgivable, and indeed, was the root cause of the irreconcilable differences that led to their separation from power at the hands of jilted issues-based voters.
DON OF DONS
The course of action by the ruling party at the time to engage a lobby group on behalf of a man who had not been convicted of any crime up to that time, but was known to be the don of dons in Jamaica, was not just corrupt, but also unfathomably asinine. Even aloof persons who didn't have their ears to the ground (or will never put their ears to the ground) knew that fact. As I often tell my colleagues, family members, friends or anyone who will listen, while Christopher Coke has to accept culpability for his actions, he was partly a product of his environment. After years of trying, our politicians finally created the 'perfect' don - one that didn't need them but who they needed.
The poor handling of the 'Dudus' affair decimated Bruce Golding's political career; brought a government to its knees and again relegated the JLP to the Opposition benches after just one term in office after 18 years of wandering the political wilderness.
Fast-forward to the February 25, 2016 general election where the electorate voted out the PNP. And, again, rightly so, because they saw the maturation of our democracy as a thing to be trifled with. They decided that there shouldn't be any debates as the issues they had with the then Opposition leader, now prime minister, were weighty enough to be elevated above what is a quintessential feature of any mature democracy - debates. The PNP learnt the hard way that this is no longer PNP country but, on the contrary, a maturing democracy.
Here's my theorem.
The diehard, blind allegiance voters still exist but some have been converted to the common-sense movement that has voting on issues as its pre-eminent doctrine. Additionally, those who have been awakened to issues-based voting have added to a growing number of younger voters who are not blinded by party allegiance. This groundswell of issues-based voters has reached a number that now has the power to swing the election either way. This has given our one-time, play-play democracy the look and feel of the genuine article. The balance of power enshrined in our democratic process has changed hands from the politicians to the people. And that is where it rightfully belongs.
The message to our politicians is loud and clear: mess around with the affairs of this country and you'll be a one-term government. O, how I hope this trend will continue! A few years ago in a rare opinion column cameo, I stated why I have never voted. It was largely my way of protesting what was on offer. And I have never been impressed by our tribal political process. But, like my views on voting out the electorate, that is also changing.
- Tyrone Reid is a journalist.