|Election 2012, part 4: Don’t go on green|
Published: Jun 25, 2012
Two words come to mind when I think of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA). What if. What if DNA Leader Branville McCartney had been able to persuade even one or two of his fellow Free National Movement (FNM) MPs or Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) MPs to abandon their parties as he did and join hands with him? Or what if Cassius Stuart, Paul Moss, Renward Wells, Andre Rollins and Lynden Nairn had all been able to create a more formidable entity? What if the Coalition for Democratic Reform (CDR) had not packed it in six years ago but had stayed the course and McCartney had then been able to join a 10-year-old organization instead of having to start from scratch one year before a general election? What if? What if? What if?
But I suppose there’s little point in dwelling on those two words. We have what we have.
The DNA is to be commended for trying to topple the apple cart and change the way we do politics. Most of its 13,000 voters are to be congratulated for their fearless act of defiance in the face of stiff odds.
McCartney and his mates used social media, dramatic TV ads and a creative series of town meetings to build consensus and a following. They sought to maximize on the exhaustion of Bahamian voters; voters who are tired of the incestuous nature of our politics – politics in which three former law partners and friends dominate both sides of the aisle: Ingraham, Christie and Davis.
They were counting on a populace that would see in McCartney an opportunity to elect an inspirational leader like Obama, who would bring “real change”.
The launch of the party in 2011 generated a great deal of excitement and hopefulness. Even on the Saturday before the May 7 election, when it was clear that the DNA had failed to create a following large enough to take the government, attendees at the organization’s final rally were upbeat and proud of the stand they’d taken.
McCartney held his daughter in his arms and said to the crowd with a broad smile, that the DNA had changed history. He had found his consolation prize: they had done what no other alternative party had done before: they fielded a full slate of candidates. But perhaps McCartney’s greatest satisfaction is knowing he played some part in the demise of Hubert Ingraham, a man who was used to running roughshod over his challengers in and out of the FNM. I hate to spoil it for him, but Ingraham’s demise was inevitable, and what’s worse, possibly even deliberate.
A number of DNA candidates showed very well, gaining over 500 votes, including Goff, Cochinamogulos, Humes, Mortimer and McCartney, but not one candidate won his seat as I had predicted publicly, many times. What went wrong?
First, they were obviously outspent by the PLP and FNM. Second, the DNA was simply too new and untested in the peoples’ view; the PLP has been around since 1953, the FNM since 1971. People preferred the devil they know. As has been often repeated, it took the PLP 14 years to win the government and it took the FNM 21 years. Power will not be gained easily and without a high cost, in any society.
Then there was the problem of the candidates. Yes, there were a number of recognizable faces on the DNA slate, but there were too few of these when compared to the PLP or even the FNM.
Most surprisingly, the DNA came off as more conservative and reactionary than either of the two established parties. Their stance on immigration and on marital rape offended many swing voters and made younger voters think twice.
Political parties gain power by appealing to the population across their differences, whether those differences are based on class, ethnicity, race, etc. Trying to win by dividing people along ethnic lines or racial lines is risky and dangerous. Such an approach was rejected this time around.
The DNA was progressive on issues of governance, however, like a fixed election date and fixed terms for prime minister, but these issues didn’t capture the imaginations of Bahamians; especially with such high joblessness and so much violent crime. The PLP’s promises, like lowering the price of electricity and dedicating a ministry to Grand Bahama, made people perk up and pay attention. They were more focused on what was really important to the average voter in the present moment and they are a known commodity.
The question remains: What’s next for the DNA? Will they persevere? Or will their brightest stars be picked off by an FNM party that is bent on redesigning itself for the 2017 contest. I think history teaches us what to expect.
Even if Bran is not the first to go, he will go. In the case of the CDR, it was Maynard and Neymour and then Nottage. Don’t be surprised if the now gutted FNM is repopulated with the likes of Humes, Mortimer, Goff, Cochinamogulos and McCartney.
It makes political sense. I would only regret that 13,000 voters were led around the mulberry bush once again. But, Bahamians are understanding and forgiving. It’s only politics after all.