Focus | Let the games begin!
I said in a previous article that it would not be long before almost everything would become political; ahead of the next election, it is already happening.
The games, as some would say, are beginning. Those on the frontlines and backlines of politics are moving their chips, juggling for positions, framing every conversation in favor of their spin and posing for the big day. None of this is unexpected; this is life in politics, even if earlier than has been usual in our recent history.
The problem with this tense politicization period is manifold.
First, it makes actual healthy governance much more difficult because governing politicians can get caught up with “playing politics” rather than executing policy.
Their considerations of what is best for the country can catapult from medium to long-term considerations to short-term deliberations based on pragmatic political outcomes.
Civil servants can also be negatively affected as they, too, are supporters of one political party or the other and may start jockeying, or pulling against the grain, merely for the sake of opposition or support as the case may be.
In a hotly political climate, some cannot rise above the politics of the moment to consider that their jobs require them to be apolitical. This can be damaging to the government in power depending on their level of popularity within the service.
Second, early politicization of the governing climate makes honest brokering difficult. As people consider their aims in the next election, they tend to frame things to produce that outcome.
As such, many important issues are viewed purely through the prism of partisan politics. A murdered man, an awarded contract, a female board appointment, a government loan, an errant word or a foreign visit, all become subject to naked partisanship, inviting exaggerated praises or overblown criticism.
Those who might be sitting on the outside trying to figure out what is really going on will have a difficult time because like Billy Joel once sang, “Honesty… (becomes) just a lonely word…” in the circumstances. Worse still, sideliners can become cynical believing that, as this classic once rang out, “…everyone is so untrue…”
Third, a politicized governing environment invites degenerative political rows that ignore the issues that matter in favor of childish and churlish personal attacks.
Watch for it; soon leaders will level all manner of accusations at each other, trying to cut one another down politically.
Famous among the names called will be “corrupt”, “elitist”, “FNM”, “PLP”, “insensitive”, “foreign-loving” and the like. Yes, calling someone “FNM” or “PLP” will be a bad or good thing depending on who is doing the name calling.
If persons like what the Minnis administration is doing, then calling someone a PLP will be a bad thing.
On the other hand, if someone dislikes what the Minnis administration is doing, then calling them an FNM becomes the insult of the day.
All of this, of course, is the usual type of nonsense that gets us nowhere, yet it is how the game is played and has been played for years. Maybe someday we will all “up our game”. This is my sincere hope for The Bahamas.
Politics is a kind of “game”, if one considers that games involve competition and competition involves strategy.
It is not a game, however, when one considers that it is also the science of governance relied upon to advance the interest of a group of people.
The results of politics can be profound and perpetual; for this reason, to only see it as a game is at best unhelpful and at worse dangerous.
If we are to tame this upcoming season of raw politics, many more “woke” Bahamians, especially those with education, intelligence, caring, maturity and standing, need to participate in the dialogue.
They cannot surrender the debate to the unenlightened, loud, self-serving and opportunistic.
If we care about this country, all the nation’s brightest and best must weigh in honestly on the issues that matter to it and press those who want to lead it to be above mere politics in seeking support.
If there is one thing that a weak politician cannot abide, it is an educated voter willing to press him or her on the issues that matter.
Mediocre politicians love voters simply looking for a “slow five”, a “gubman job” or “gubman contract”.
Such people represent light lifting over a political cycle.
An awakened voter is on your hide for a lifetime; ready to help when there is good to produce and ready to pounce when bad is done.
Good public policy needs a good public. Let’s all be that.
• Zhivargo Laing is a Bahamian economic consultant and former Cabinet minister who represented the Marco City constituency in the House of Assembly.