Friday, November 9, 2012

Guest commentary: LESSONS FOR T&T IN THE U.S. ELECTION? - by Robin Montano

Like a lot of Trinidadians I stayed up late to watch the results of the U.S. elections on Tuesday night. 

One of the things that I noticed ... indeed, that I have been noticing for some time ... is how many similarities there are between Trinidadian politics and those of the United States. 

In both countries the electorate is deeply polarised ... over different issues, of course, but the divisions in both societies run deep and unfortunately seem to be getting deeper. 

Both countries are experiencing serious economic difficulties, but both have real and substantial hopes that with a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work they can turn the corner and get out of the mess. 

Both countries had previous administrations that caused unnecessary economic hardship (Bush in the U.S., Manning in T&T) and left their successors with the unenviable task of cleaning up. (And it is a truth that problems cannot be solved with the same level of awareness that created them.) 

Both countries have political parties in opposition that are more obstructionist than conciliatory and who appear to be more interested in regaining political power than fixing the country. Both countries have administrations that have made more than a few unforced errors in charting the way forward.

I could go on but you get the point: put another way, except for the names and a few other (very obvious) changes our stories are the same.

One of the first lessons that the People's Partnership administration should learn from the American elections is that the size of their electoral victory in 2010 was transient, to say the least. 

The most that any political party can count on is that its core support will stay faithful. Everybody else ... every other vote ... will de-camp the moment that the party in power merely appears to deviate from the promises made in the general election campaign. Whether those transient voters will go over to the other side is a horse of a very different colour!

For the opposition PNM the first lesson that it should learn is that the loudest voices don't often or necessarily command the votes needed to win. The Republicans shouted the loudest and longest about President Obama's shortcomings (real and perceived) but that did not help them to win. 

Indeed, when the Democrats finally fought back and exposed many of the things that the Republicans were saying as untrue there was a backlash that obviously hurt Romney and company.

The next lesson for everybody is that inclusive beats exclusive everytime! In the American case the Republican party message was that it really was only concerned with white middle/upper middle class America. 
The Democrats made it clear that all were welcome under its roof. The politics of inclusion triumphed. 

In T&T a big problem for the PNM is the generally held perception in the country that the PNM has no real regard or time for the non-African element in the society. Certainly, the present make up of the Party leadership as well as its core support seem to support this widely held perception. 

The Party has begun to try and correct this perception, for example, with its leader, Dr. Rowley, attending the Divali Nagar, reportedly for the first time ever, in an effort to show himself as being more amenable to all things Hindu and Indian. Unfortunately for him it will take much more than a token visit to a major Hindu function/festival to persuade non-blacks that the leopard has indeed changed its spots. 

The PP, on the other hand, whatever its faults (both real and perceived), is inarguably much more inclusive than the PNM ever has been despite rather clumsy efforts by the PNM to brand it otherwise.

Another lesson from the U.S. for our politicians is that pandering on or to everything simply does not work. What matters more is a constancy of views. Mr. Romney was regarded as insincere as he continuously flipflopped on a large number of issues that were important to large sections of the American electorate. 

So when the opposition PNM gets into bed with the trade unions a thinking voter has to ask 'is this being done on a principle that is really important, or is it simply politics of convenience'?

Truthfulness and sincerity are important. 

President Obama has shown that there is a need to lead with passion and power ... the power of conviction, the power of truth .. and that type of performance ... that type of leadership ...translates out into getting the majority of the electorate to follow you.

Read more of ROBIN's writings at the RAG

No comments:

Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai