Friday, Dec 14, 2018

The PLP at 65

Our oldest party, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), is 65. The PLP celebrated its birthday with a service yesterday at St. Agnes Anglican Church.

The PLP’s fortunes have shifted tremendously in 18 months. On election night it seemed as if the party had headed into a long phase in opposition. It suffered a crushing 20-point loss and only won four seats. Perry Christie, the man who led the party for 20 years and the country for 10, lost his seat.

In the aftermath, three former PLP parliamentarians were charged with offenses; the new governing party detailed in Parliament PLP misdeeds; the party was broke; morale was low.

The PLP should never have been underestimated, though. This is the party that fought and defeated a racist oligarchy to lead the majority rule movement. It battled back in 2002 after a crushing defeat at the 1997 election and the loss of its long-time leader, Sir Lynden Pindling.

The party, despite its flaws and transgressions, has a connection with ordinary people that keeps it in contention. Its policies during Pindling’s rule expanded the middle class and gave opportunities to the black majority that were near non-existent before.

This Free National Movement (FNM) now faces a difficult path to renewal of its mandate. No party has won reelection in The Bahamas since 1997.

There were policy decisions since the election that soured the people’s mood toward the FNM – the Oban approval and the value-added tax (VAT) increase are two examples. But something else hamstrings the governing party.

The FNM does not know how to communicate in the instant and constant modern digital age. Its critics are aggressive. They land shots on the governing party day and night. Each news cycle brings a new point of controversy the FNM has difficulty responding to.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis is also media averse. He knows politicians have to communicate to the people through the media, but he doesn’t like it. And it shows.

Rather than using media to build rapport with the people, he runs from it or begrudgingly does the minimum. While it’s the reporters he doesn’t like, to the people he comes across as angry with them.

Philip Brave Davis now sees a path to his dream of being prime minister. His strategy is simple: just attack. Keep Minnis and the FNM the object of the people’s anger and hope that in 2022 the people are so upset that they come to the polls to vote the governing party out by voting PLP. That’s the politics of the current moment.

The problem the country would face in such a scenario is the same old PLP would return. The PLP under Christie had lost its populist zeal. It was cynical, greedy and but a vehicle for the transfer of state wealth to PLP oligarchs. If that party returns, it would harm The Bahamas again.

The people should assess this opposition just as carefully as they do the government. Voting is about more than expressing outrage. It’s supposed to be a thoughtful and considered act. If you just stay angry, the wrong people could use your anger to sneak back in and then what you thought was a bad situation would get much, much worse quickly.

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