By Suzanne Leslie-Bailey, Guest Columnist
The main objective of any prudent and savvy businessperson is to make profits and ensure the sustainability of the business. One of the ways this can be achieved is to offer to customers the types of goods and services that they demand. To do otherwise is to face certain closure - simple Business 101.
A parallel can be drawn between the operation of a politician and the businessman. Invariably, like the businessman, the politician is in this 'business' of politics to secure success and sustainability, in order to be empowered to serve the people, as he will claim.
Who are the main customers that can determine the success or failure of a politician's 'business'? The answer is an easy one - the masses, the grass roots, the base. Simple Jamaican Politics 101.
The important question now arises. What are the goods and services that these customers demand which politicians must meet? We see the answer played out daily in the news and on the streets. Most of the current, active voting population comprises persons from the grass roots.
During the height of any political season, mass rallies are a mainstay, with the rally location brimming with people, bussed in from near and far. The politicians hit the stage, each taking turns at the microphone (keeping to the forefront of their minds that they must keep the 'customers' satisfied) spewing barbs at their opponents (admittedly, some quite humorous, while others downright insulting); and bringing 'heat' to the place.
The politicians prance and dance to the latest dancehall tunes, which I am sure many do not really appreciate, but hey, they are in the business to give their 'customers' what they want.
The Jamaicans that comprise the grass roots are entitled to voice their demands. Whether these demands are right or wrong is another matter. They have decidedly entered the political 'market' as participants, proudly and fearlessly donning their green or orange garb and declaring, "Mi a Labourite!" or "Mi a PNP to the end!" So, their outright dominance of the political 'market' is established, and politicians recognise this.
Consequently, the nature of our politics revolves around satisfying this special group. Politicians are oftentimes reminded to keep in touch with the base, as to lose touch is to commit political suicide.
Whither the middle class?
This brings me to the middle class' low-key participation in the political 'market'. Too many members of this group discuss politics on their verandahs in hushed tones; while, some proudly declare, "I am no P" or "I do not discuss politics." This is in stark contrast to most Americans, who proudly declare, "I am a Democrat" or "I am a Republican."
These declarations by many middle-class Jamaicans are exactly what is partly wrong with our politics today. They have relegated themselves to the periphery of the political 'market' and, therefore, are not able to wield any significant influence over it.
There are denunciations from various sectors in the society, regarding the nature of our politics; and resounding calls for it to change from the pork barrel and curry goat characterisation. But how can it? The grass roots sector remains the strongest voice in the political 'market', and politicians heed that voice in order to secure their survival.
I now challenge other sectors of the society to stake their claim in the political 'market' and equally share the space with their grass-roots counterparts. I urge them to raise their voices, too, and make their demands known - demands that, I hope, will hold our politicians to a higher standard, as well as assist in changing the mindset of the masses.
Then, and maybe then, we will start the long journey of political change.
Suzanne Leslie-Bailey is former research coordinator to then PM Bruce Golding. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.