A few political comparisons


Thursday, November 15, 2018

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So the Democrats won a majority in the United States midterm elections last week. In political discussions all around Jamaica many are divided between the Republican Donald Trump and an unnamed rival from the Democrats.

When I read former Prime Minister Bruce Golding's article in the Sunday Gleaner, two Sundays ago, I realised that we had come a long way from the 1980s when Edward Seaga, as prime minister, was friendly with then US President Ronald Reagan. But I agree with the sentiments expressed by Golding that Jamaica would never tolerate a politician like Donald Trump.

Many Jamaicans are left with an uncomfortable feeling when Trump insists on building a wall by the Mexican border, and some are angry at his stated intention of abolishing birthright citizenship in the USA.

We decry the brain drain out of Jamaica, but how would we handle the crisis if every Jamaican abroad returned to Jamaica, whether voluntarily or forced? So many are not sorry if the gaining of a majority by the US Democrats in the United States House of Representatives results in certain plans by US President Donald Trump being stalled, such as his desire to abolish US citizenship by birthright.

Remittances, I understand, serve as Jamaica's largest foreign exchange earner, even more than tourism, or at least the most distributive among Jamaicans of all the ways in which Jamaica receives foreign exchange. What would happen if every Jamaican in the USA were forced to return home? Foreign exchange would be depleted considerably.

Some do not like Trump, but others do not like the combination of groups that the Democrats feel obliged to organise to win elections. Included in the Democrats' modus operandi today is the gay agenda and the women's agenda — which itself borders on the gay agenda — plus women's groups that want the right to abort pregnancies.

In many nations, political parties feel obliged to join with others who are not in tune with their parties' core values. This has happened in Jamaica many times since Universal Adult Suffrage was introduced in 1944.

In Jamaica's history, the National Reform Association, founded by 26-year-old Kenneth Hill in 1935, was really a national citizen's association fighting for self-government. It evolved into the People's National Party (PNP) in 1938 and included both its first president, Norman Manley, and Alexander Bustamante, who founded the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, a few months earlier in the same year.

In 1940, the PNP's annual conference chose socialism as the party's ideology. It is interesting that Bustamante, an avowed anti-socialist, did not leave the PNP in 1940 immediately after it went socialist, but in 1942 when he was discharged from detention.

Was a deal struck between the governor and Bustamante to divide the national movement by forming another political party as a condition of his release? Please remember that the Maroons were obliged to sign treaties on the condition that they capture runaway slaves. And the 'divide-and-rule' tactic was used in the organisation of the slaves on the sugar estates. That sort of method was indeed very English.

But the fact remains that in 1943 Bustamante founded the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) after leaving the PNP in 1942. For the PNP to win elections after that they had to include people who were not socialist at all.

At times the PNP would shelve socialism, later dust it off', then put it back on the front burner, to shelve it again, as dictated by political expediency. In 1990, Michael Manley said “socialism is dead”, but in his last interview before he died, he said that he would always remain a socialist. This is what happens when a national movement becomes a political party.

Comparing the above with the US elections, I believe that for the Democrats to win the US presidency again they might have to make some adjustments. It is not said often, but there is distaste for the unnaturalness of the reversal of gender roles. So the Democrats will need to adjust that in their manifesto while striking a balance so that they are not accused of trampling on women's rights.

More importantly, the Democrats had better leave the pro-choice abortionists on their own if they wish to retain their traditional Roman Catholic votes. The fact that the manifesto of the Democrats is somewhat in line with the social teachings of the Roman Catholic Church might not be enough to retake the US presidency.

And, by the way, I do not believe that Donald Trump will allow himself to be impeached. He might do what Richard Nixon did after the Watergate affair, which was to resign. That move allowed then Vice-President Gerald Ford to become president, who then granted Nixon a presidential pardon. If it comes to that, I believe Trump will make way for Mike Pence to be president to grant him a presidential pardon, similar to Nixon.

Before the “Dudus” saga, everything appeared as if the JLP, with Bruce Golding at the helm and as prime minister, would have won the following election. But with negative exposure of events during the commission of enquiry, Golding resigned and Andrew Holness became prime minister. That, however, did not help the JLP, which lost the December 2011 general election to the PNP led by Portia Simpson Miller. Nor did Nixon's resignation help Gerald Ford, who lost to Jimmy Carter of the Democrats in November 1976.

In 2001, when Shahine Robinson won a by-election for the JLP in a predominantly PNP constituency, it signalled the return of the JLP and Edward Seaga, but it did not happen. The PNP won the 2002 election as it was more organised than the JLP, and Edward Seaga was still the leader of the JLP and by then very unpopular. But the JLP won the local government elections of 2003. Is it possible that although the Democrats won the midterm elections it might not win the US presidency? Time alone will tell.

Michael Burke is a research consultant, historian and current affairs analyst. Send comments to the Observer or

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