Wed | Apr 1, 2020

Jaristotle's Jottings | We get what we vote for, or don’t vote against

Published:Thursday | February 20, 2020 | 12:13 AM
Pearnel Charles Jr (second left) and wife Eleasia (left) march hand in hand with (from third left) Jamaica Labour Party leader Andrew Holness, St Andrew East Rural MP Juliet Holness, JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang, and former Clarendon South East MP Rudyard Spencer. They participated in the nomination of Charles last Wednesday for the March 2 by-election.
Pearnel Charles Jr (second left) and wife Eleasia (left) march hand in hand with (from third left) Jamaica Labour Party leader Andrew Holness, St Andrew East Rural MP Juliet Holness, JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang, and former Clarendon South East MP Rudyard Spencer. They participated in the nomination of Charles last Wednesday for the March 2 by-election.

Like the rest of the world, I have been somewhat keeping abreast of the goings-on that have come to define Donald Trump’s entry into the US political arena, and his ascendency to the presidency. Suffice to say while his behaviour is troubling to many, the rednecks, white supremacists and trailer park trash that constitute a significant portion of his base are precious commodities for his fellow Republicans who see him as a meal ticket for their own electability. Their unwavering public support, evidenced by his acquittal during the impeachment trial in the Senate, does not necessarily reflect their personal perceptions of the individual. But politics creates strange bedfellows.

At any rate, Trump’s base knew what they were voting for and they got it. Many Americans voted for Trump, not as their candidate of choice, but as a means of rejecting his opponent, Hillary Clinton, while others opted not to vote as a similar means of rejecting her. Some got who they voted for; others were stuck with who they should have voted against.

Jamaican politics

Voting in Jamaica is no different. Every so often, we get the opportunity to exercise our democratic rights to choose a candidate for political office. We are well aware of how things really ‘guh’ during elections. The two main political parties have their respective bases, the diehards who go out to vote no matter what. The rest of us, not being part of that hardcore base, are none too concerned whether dog or monkey wins. The result is that our elections are often characterised by low voter turnout; the base with the larger turnout swings the election for their party and the non-voters are stuck with who they did not vote against.

Voting for, or not voting against a candidate, facilitates them being thrust into positions of considerable power and responsibility, sometimes well above their capacity, and incompetent candidates form hapless governments. It is therefore incumbent on the electorate to ensure that we act as prudent gatekeepers and spare Gordon House and municipal councils the insult of having to accommodate riff-raffs, bhuttos, dunces and bandits within their hallowed halls.

Fielding candidates that are acceptable to the majority of the constituents who are highly likely to vote, the base, is key to winning elections. Political bases are important to political parties: tief, gunman, con man, scammer alike, they all matter during elections. And the rest of us? Bah.

Our political leaders know the demographics within each constituency or division, where their base voters are concentrated and what sort of preference their base has in terms of candidates. That base preference is what usually determines who is selected as a candidate. Candidacy has less to do with competence and more to do with electability. Interestingly, if the base is overwhelmingly large, and a win is a foregone conclusion, useless nepotistic candidates are sometimes proffered. This sad state of affairs is further exacerbated by our proclivity to vote for party rather than candidate.

That said, take stock of the poppycock that has escaped from the mouths of some of our politicians in recent times. Consider the allegations of corruption and mismanagement that have surfaced recently and in times past. The underpinning reason: hurry come-up and substandard political jocks.

Don’t expect our political parties to change their candidate selection processes. That would be shooting themselves in the foot. Alas, given our two-party reality, for the foreseeable future we will invariably have to either choose the lesser of two evils or suffer the cost of not voting against the greater evil.

Better to be stuck with the result of your vote rather than with the result of not voting against who you would rather be without.

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