Stand for something
Bahamian politics today is missing several key ingredients, two of which are courage and the willingness of politicians to stand for something meaningful; elevating principle over position and the naked pursuit of power.
In the history-making days of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the Free National Movement (FNM), there are notable examples of men and women who stood for what was right, even if it meant surrendering or putting at risk the political positions they held and the power that came with it.
Some of these decisions figure prominently in our history books, and some do not, but in the end this country’s politics and the nation have been made the worthier by those who understood that there can be no true progress for the people if the people are being fundamentally violated by their government.
An unavoidable tension exists between idealism and political realism, with proponents of either school of thought insistent that one cannot successfully exist in light of the other.
In short, the prevailing view tends to be that standing up for what is right and espousing ideals of justice, honesty, fair play and integrity often get you nowhere other than being a likable person with no real power to effect change.
But politicians and political leaders who can best serve their country do so by appreciating and adopting the rationale that a powerful man or woman with little to no ideals is a brute and a demagogue, and that ideals are what guide one in how to use power for the best interest of the people.
As we look out over recent years of governance in The Bahamas, one has to question whether any actionable level of conscience exists within our major parties, where those who know their party in power is taking the country down a wrong path are willing to hold their leaders accountable, even if doing so runs afoul of one’s party line.
The goal of being a Cabinet minister, for example, is akin to a race to the throne in the minds of many of today’s politicians.
So ardent is the desire to sit around the Cabinet table that party leaders and prime ministers have all the trouble in the world on their hands before and after successful elections, as their colleagues, friends and cronies press for the Cabinet title like sharks after chum.
Once that oath to Her Majesty, her heirs and successors is taken, it seems a spell comes over members of Cabinet, where they not only suddenly know it all, but no longer know what is right and why the Bahamian people need them to have the courage to fight for the same.
So sweet is the power of the Cabinet room, it seems, that men and women will sit around that table knowing that the Bahamian people are getting the messy end of the stick — if they get the stick at all — but will not protest for fear of being dethroned.
Since Cabinet ministers serve at the pleasure of the prime minister, nobody seems to want to disturb that pleasure, making today’s prime ministers in effect a true parliamentary dictator because he or she will face little to no challenge from those who fear losing their ministerial post and the proximity they think it gives them to their ambitions of one day becoming the nation’s leader.
If prime ministers know their Cabinet will not keep them in line with the principles of good governance and with foundational pledges to the Bahamian people, and they know those around the table esteem power more than principle and position more than the people’s best interest, they would do whatsoever they wish.
And so, over time, ministers with ability and potential lose credibility and favor with the electorate who watches them march to Parliament, pound on tables and otherwise stand before microphones singing the praises of what they know is not true about their government’s performance.
You see, a politician who rails against the wrongdoing of his or her political opponents while reveling or acquiescing in the wrongdoing of one’s party is the greatest hypocrite who is not fit to sit in Parliament, because an elected official without personal accountability will invariably and repeatedly violate the citizenry.
Where are the men and women of principle in Bahamian politics, who are not wide-eyed to the transgressions of their opponents while blind to the failings of their own side?
Where are those who are not so hypnotized by power and proximity to the throne that they will take stands that might result in their loss, but are for the nation’s gain?
Change within governments and parties must start within, but in all honesty, what are politicians within today’s major parties truly fighting to change in their organizations that makes a difference for the average Bahamian?
There are those who quietly (and not so quietly) aspire to leadership who seem to believe that the best way to sure up their chances is to lie low and not rock any boats so that they one day might be in position to govern the nation in what they think would be a better way.
But going along with a derelict program in one’s quest for the throne is not about having a heart for the people; it is ambition cloaked as conviction.
And though ambition can get one to his or her goal, it is courage and conviction in today’s Bahamas that is needed to inspire and encourage Bahamians to reach their highest potential and begin to dream again about their country and all it can achieve.
Inspiration that moves mountains
What would inspire me as a Bahamian today is to see a politician who is not singularly driven by his or her desire to be prime minister, and who is willing to put his or her hands to the grindstone to start a beneficial work that can last long after he or she is gone.
When our ancestors built the pyramids, they were building a wonder none of the original builders would live to enjoy, but those pyramids still stand today as a testament to their genius, the depth of which researchers are yet unable to quantify.
Because so many of our politicians are driven by a five-year internal clock of ambition, they are unwilling to take risks and take bold, innovative steps that another man might wind up cutting the ribbon on.
You can’t build a nation that way.
What would inspire me is to see a politician who is for real, who actually stands for something and who does not see his or her constituents and the country at large as a means to an end.
What would inspire me is to see a politician who values principle over position, and who is not so taken with upholding and ingratiating himself or herself to the leader that he or she would quietly watch as the country is led down the wrong path.
What would inspire me is a politician who understands that “keeping the PLP out” or “keeping the FNM out” is not a political ideology that guides nation-building but is rather an agenda for the maintenance of power that in and of itself does nothing to enhance the status of the average Bahamian.
What would inspire me is a politician who is not self-serving.
And what would inspire me is an innovative politician who is not sitting and waiting for his or her moment to take over, but who through thoughtful, studious and responsible involvement in the lives of Bahamians demonstrates the ability to guide this nation to higher heights.
Bahamians are longing for that kind of inspiration, but it takes courage to become that kind of inspiration.
Standing for something may result in not reaching one’s ambitions, but it gives the country a chance to benefit in the long run.
But if more of our politicians demonstrated courage and noteworthy ideals, the country would be in a far better place and its leaders would not find it so easy to run roughshod over the Bahamian people and over the office to which they are appointed.