Editorial | Damion Crawford’s victim complex
In the aftermath of a chastening defeat in the People’s National Party (PNP) bastion of East Portland on Thursday, Damion Crawford’s political future lies in his hands.
Spirited into the seat just over a month before the April 4 by-election, Mr Crawford may have had too little time to stamp his imprimatur on the constituency, especially in the vast hinterlands with rugged, sometimes inaccessible terrain.
At age 38, Mr Crawford has time on his side. He represented the East Rural St Andrew constituency from 2011-2016 and resigned as opposition senator on March 14 this year in order to run against the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) Ann-Marie Vaz, who beat him Thursday by 306 votes. He returned from a self-imposed hiatus to be catapulted to the vice-presidency of the PNP in September 2018, emerging as the most popular, by raw votes, of four deputies.
The critics will be quick to draw for their knives and carve up Damion Crawford on the cutting board of political expediency. But before they do so, here’s a bit of context.
East Portland has generally been viewed as an impregnable stronghold for the PNP, having dominated representation for 61 of the 75 years of universal adult suffrage. The JLP has only won two contested elections there - 1962, under the Independence-era leadership of a charismatic Alexander Bustamante, and in 1980, when a national landslide gave the JLP its largest turnout of votes, above 10,000, in history. Since 1989, however, East Portland has remained solidly in the orange column.
But even though Mr Crawford had tradition on his side, he was fighting an uphill battle against a highly motivated JLP candidate in Mrs Vaz, who leveraged her folksy personality, husband Daryl Vaz’s political guile, heavy-pocketed backers and an unprecedented mobilisation of voters. Mrs Vaz led a disciplined, targeted campaign, staying on message that her activism on the ground would redress the neglect of core infrastructure and job opportunities for youth.
NEED POLITICAL MATURITY
However, on Mr Crawford’s score, both he and the PNP hierarchy will have to mull over his future and whether they have sufficient courage and honesty to objectively examine his conduct, philosophy and strategy. For we observe in Mr Crawford’s ratatatata rhetoric, obsessive-compulsive nitpicking over trivia, and victim-complex narrative a politicial naivete that prevented him from extracting full purchase from his populism.
His lament about a character assassination, about back-stabbing from perceived friends, smacks of petty revisionism. Mr Crawford must acknowledge that he launched a fusillade of invective against Mrs Vaz - about colour, class, intelligence, money, and privilege. But the political hustings in Jamaica are not for the faint-hearted and thin-skinned.
Now that he has lost, Mr Crawford has grabbed his marbles and cried foul.
We believe that Damion Crawford has a place in Jamaica’s political space and that his career is not irredeemable. But he must abandon the frothy fatalism in which he seeks refuge when he is not favoured by fortune. For if he continues to hobble on that convenient crutch, he will not inspire the PNP base and the wider electorate to view him as anything more than a fleet-footed minstrel, rolling off light-hearted lyrics and entertaining the crowd.
Mr Crawford, if he intends to remain as a viable vice-president of the PNP, must gain political maturity, acknowledge his missteps, and tweak his method and messaging. If he can’t, it would be a shame for his ambitious sermons of self-reliance to have fallen on fallow ground.