Wed | Sep 23, 2020

Daniel Thwaites | PNP death a suicide

Published:Sunday | September 13, 2020 | 12:10 AM

Various coroner’s inquests are being conducted into the murderation of the PNP by the Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) on the day of September 3, 2020. This piece has a simple burden, really an expansion of my review of the JLP’s overwhelming victory from last week, which is to argue that the People’s National Party (PNP) marched, lemming-like, into the thrashing.

It’s an important point, I think, because it puts some of the other grand theories, urban myths, and tales of dire and unending woe, into perspective. More important, if I’m correct that this death was by suicide, it raises the issue of why it happened: Why did the PNP opt for its own annihilation? Is that something institutions do periodically when they’re in desperate need of renewal?

So far the investigators from the PNP itself have been focusing on the financial superiority of the JLP, who, whether by means fair or foul, had lots more to spend. The JLP, we’re reminded, were on radio and television advertising heavily, revving up its machinery, and greasing the palms of JLP-leaning voters to vote, and PNP-leaning voters to stay home.

Well, it seems that there is ample testimony about the trade in dollars for votes, as has been reported on by this newspaper. There’s also actual video footage of payments being made which is a novel threshold in the all-conquering mobile phone’s quest to record every aspect of life and post it on social media. It all seemed very businesslike and efficient. Bravo!

Anyway, the idea is that this spending had an overwhelming election-swinging impact, something I doubt very highly. While it would be foolish to discount the effect of the JLP having more money, this beating had a lot more to it than just that.

There are some notable counter-examples, for example, in 2016 when the PNP lost in any case, but it is usual for the JLP to have more money. Both parties have lost elections where they are better funded, which tells you that the Jamaican electorate has a certain sophistication. They know how to accept political largesse before staying home, spoiling their ballot, or voting for the other side. Our national patron saint is, after all, Anancy, and the saying “nyam dem out and vote dem out” is one of his staples. It’s not a panacea for the corrosive effects of lopsided funding in the political system, or of the diversion of government funding for electoral advantage, but it does offset the effect.

SKILFULLY MARKETED

In general, though, the public coroners have identified the cause of death as ‘Brogaddery’. According to this thesis, Andrew Holness has been so skilfully marketed as Brogad that he is unassailable electorally.

This theory has a self-fulfilling aspect to its avowal, as in, the more it is said is the more it’s likely to be true. So it has that going for it. But it has various flaws, the most glaring of which is that Brogad only managed to rustle up 21% of the electorate.

I think it’s more true to say that he is wildly more popular than the candidate the PNP fielded as president, and that in a desert even a thimble of water is received with copious gratitude.

Here is the simple fact. Until the political system is amended to separate the representative function from the executive one, there will be presidential voting disguised as representational choice. Right now we are forced to cast a ballot for the member of parliament even though that’s not who we’re really thinking about most of the time.

Once we accept that the country is voting presidentially, and has been doing so for a long time now, the question becomes: why has the PNP been fielding candidates that aren’t quite up to the task?

Without going on at length about the matter, let’s just say that voters took careful and detailed notes when Portia’s handlers disingenuously concocted an excuse to remove her from the debates in 2016. Why did they feel it necessary to do that, and why did they arrogantly think the voting public would overlook it?

Moving along from that incredible ‘own goal’, in 2020 the party was again hobbled by its leader. The public would have taken careful and detailed notes that PNP candidates were all but stampeding away from the party’s president in their advertisements and public relations campaigns.

And those watching the 2020 debates would have seen a superior mind in an aged body debating a sharp-enough guy who looks like he could step outside and run a marathon. The net effect was Jamaica’s version of the Nixon-Kennedy debate disjuncture and dissonance, where those who listened to it on radio concluded that Nixon had won, but those who saw the images on television concluded that Kennedy had won. Why? Because of what the PR people call “the visuals”.

PROBLEM GOES BACK

This problem goes back to the famous eighteen and a half years of PNP dominance, the oft-heard “hayteen anna ‘alf ears!” Politicians with legitimate leadership ambitions began to push up into the retirement age as Patterson repeatedly trounced Edward Seaga.

Mind you, the JLP isn’t by nature any better. Had it not been for the utter scandal surrounding the Dudus extradition that disqualified almost every leading contender for the JLP throne, it is exceedingly unlikely that the ball would have been handed to Brogad.

Please note that there is a phenomenon called ‘suicide by cop’, which describes a perpetrator who wants to end it all and decides to do that with a little help from the constituted authorities. A typical instance might see a man wildly and aggressively charge a group of police officers with gun drawn and balls out. The police, naturally, put 48 bullets in him. When the smoke clears they check and realise that the gun was empty and the guy had just recently checked out of the mental institution, come off his meds, and stopped by to tell his baby-madda “goodbye”.

So the PNP was like the broke bredda with the corona who decided to rush into a police party without a loaded weapon. Yes, there was the money that the JLP had, and yes, there was the Brogad fabulations, but more than anything else, the PNP got killed because they ran into the Eradication Squad flailing wildly and aggressively, armed with only a toothpick. Call it ‘suicide by Brogad’.

So there you have it. In my view, there were other comorbidities, as the medical personnel keep telling us about the ballooning coronavirus deaths, but ultimately, this patient committed suicide. Of course, the silver lining to this dark cloud is that should it decide to resurrect itself, here is a great opportunity for renewal.

- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com