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Voter rebellion!

Dickson Igwe. Photo: VINO
Dickson Igwe

Niccolo Machiavelli was a prominent 15th Century political philosopher. He was political adviser to the Italian City State of Florence and its rulers.

Machiavelli’s summa work was “THE PRINCE.” In that historic work, Machiavelli stated that the love of the people was the strong fortress of the prince. The leader that was loved by his people was in a safe place.

Consequently the converse must was true. The dislike and even hatred of the prince, by the people, would open the door for the prince to be attacked successfully, by his enemies and friends, internal and external. The Prince that was disliked was in peril no matter how powerful his army and personal protection.

The loss of popular support is the politician’s worst enemy. It is the greatest evil Caesar faces. It is therefore “head scratching” that politicians continuously forget, or simply ignore this vital political truth.

Now this Old Boy had the privilege of sitting down to lunch with a ‘political titan’ some years ago. The ‘Big Shot’ told this old boy something that remained ingrained in the mind. He stated that, “when you have the support of the people you can do anything you like.” There was truth to that assertion. The Great Man for years after that dinner was very successful politically.

However, this writer noticed, that after the man’s organisation was in power for a number of years, that “he and his buddies” no longer lived by his very valid assertion. The powerful organisation appeared to grow detached, and even remote from the people.

OK, one example of Machiavelli’s theory of the political benefit of popular support is Donald J. Trump. Trump is a political paradox. Trump – a very unlikely presidential candidate when he started his campaign- recently got elected US President with a minority of the vote. The first weeks of Trump’s Administration have been tumultuous and difficult. Trump has failed to get through a number of his key initiatives.

However, Trump’s continued political survival is based on one important fact. Trump is supported by a base of supporters that appear ready to follow Trump into the very center of hell, if need be. Trump is loved by a significant block of voters, much as he is hated by an even larger number of Americans. Trump’s support from his loyal followers is his FORTRESS TRUMP.

The love of his people has kept Trump swimming, and alive, in the shark infested waters of politics. The day Trump loses that vital tectonic plate of popular support will be his swan song, his ending. Trump will disappear in an earthquake of ill will. Trump will sink like the Titanic. Trump understands Machiavelli’s assessment of the importance of popular support both inside of government and outside it. The goodwill of Jack the Voter is a very valuable political asset.

And that is why Trump will drop everything at a moment’s notice - even as US President - and attend a rally of his supporters in some air hangar or stadium somewhere. Trump understands the need to keep that vital link to Jack and Jill Voter. Trump has read his Machiavelli, or at least his advisers appear to have!

And Machiavelli would view the present political climate in the Virgin Islands with great interest. A number of politicians in the Virgin Islands today inhabit a separate and unbridgeable parallel from that of Jack Public. Why?

Well, two factors that appear to have been ignored by politicians of every party over the years are transparency and accountability. And this is not anything particular to this territory. Governments worldwide tend to be opaque – non transparent- and unaccountable, especially after they have been in power for a substantial length of time.

Ironically, in modern complex society, transparency- the ability of Jack the voter to see what is going on at the deepest levels of governance- is actually good for both government and governed. Transparency creates trust and confidence. When you have the trust and confidence of the voter you are very near “untouchable” politically. In any event with the advent of social media and the obtrusiveness of the digital age nothing is hidden for long.

Then, accountability is the reporting back to Jack the voter on the activities that have been undertaken on Jack’s behalf regularly and accurately. Accountability too, creates trust and goodwill.

Effective transparency and accountability could have saved Julius Caesar a whole lot of headache today. Alas, there is something very perplexing in the air at the summit of “Mount Governance.” It is an anomaly. It works this way: when the Great and Good ascend to those dizzying heights of power, they often forget who placed them at the mountain top in the first place. They begin to act with impunity. Humility is lost. The people become an inconvenience that Caesar and his fellow senators would rather ignore.

It appears that when Caesar reaches the summit of power, and this is not unique to these Virgin Islands, he places transparency and accountability in a trash can. He then kicks the can over the precipice causing it to come crashing to the bottom of the mountain.

Caesar then carries on like everything is “hunky dory.”

However, the long suffering voter is always watching. He may appear silent, but sooner or later his anger simmers to the surface.

And that is what has happened in the territory in recent times. For all the “back and forth” on whether one “super official” should have, or should not have acted in a specific but constitutional manner, the key question is how did matters get to this point.

They got to this point because as this Old Boy’s Big Shot Friend stated when they met for lunch, “when you have the support of the people you can do anything you like.” But the people have abandoned my good friend and his associates it appears. And another Caesar may have picked up their support.

The people currently support the present status quo. So the best thing Julius Caesar can do at present is look at how he found himself back at the bottom of the “proverbial mountain.”

Maybe it has something to do with Machiavelli’s assertions on Caesar’s lovability. How did Caesar lose the love of Jack and Jill?

Paradoxically, there is another Caesar in opposition who seems set to ride the current wave of the Reigning Caesar’s unpopularity to power at the next election.

For now, he appears unstoppable. Not that he and his soldiers are any more or less loved, than the courtiers in the court of the present and reigning Caesar. The New Caesar has just found himself in the right place at the right time. He is presently on the right side of history.

Whether he will pluck defeat from the jaws of victory is entirely up to him and his supporters.

The people are watching him closely too.

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8 Responses to “Voter rebellion!”

  • just asking... (01/04/2017, 08:51) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    Is he speaking about the bvi?
  • E. Leonard (01/04/2017, 22:41) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
    Good read. Just a few short comments:
    *Lopsided sided governments suffers from "governing curse" just as some resource rich countries, especially in Africa suffers from "Resource Curse". Invariably, the unchallenged power, status and influence lead to dictatorial tendencies. Coalition government is often better.

    *If the electorate wants transparency, accountability and effective governing, they must demand it by staying engaged, holding politicians feet to the fire.

    *Many politicians campaign on draining the swamp but after election the water level in the swamp rises and crocodiles and alligators increase. They focus on getting re-elected.

    *People support of politicians last so long as the spigot to the trough is on. Politicians thrive on keeping enough people happy thru political patronage to get elected over and over.

    *Some politicians campaign as populists but no sooner than election is over they gravitate to being a traditionalist(establishment). Campaigning is not the same as governing.

    In regards to President Trump and Trumpism, his campaign adroitly employed all of elements in the Little Electioneering Handbook (Commentariolum Petitionis) supposedly written by Quintus Tullius Cicero to his older brother Marcus Tullius Cicero who was running for Consul of Rome in 64 BC.

    Quintus wrote: candidate must become a chameleon, promise voters any and everything, smear opponents at every opportunity, fear works better than actual litigation, get to know business men and wealthy citizens, keep friends close and enemies closer, cultivate relationships with citizens of privilege........etc.

    • RealPol (02/04/2017, 13:19) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
      @E. Leonard, real talk. To your comments, I will add Government in the sunshine. Politicians throw the phrase government in the sunshine profusely around during the campaign. But post campaign, the sun rarely peeks through the constant over cast and grey sky.

      Iglesias, good read. Voiceofthevoiceless good points as usual.
  • voiceofthevoiceless (01/04/2017, 23:32) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    Good article as per usual by Igwe. Transparency and accountability are crucial elements for any Government to keep the trust of the people who supported them. This has been NDP's major flaw especially when they campaigned hard promising a Government in the Sunshine. Their lack of transparency and their unwillingness to fulfill a major campaign promise has led to the lack of trust from the people who elected them. Therefore any project albeit good for the country will be met with distrust because of the lack of openness in their dealings. Trust is hard to build and even harder to rebuild.

    Say what you want about Trump(Personally I hope he gets impeached) he has immediately made efforts to fulfill some of his campaign promises. The Muslim ban, repeal and replace Obamacare, Keystone pipeline etc. may all be unpopular among the masses but for his supporters who are in the minority they are promises that he has tried to implement or has implemented in the case of the Keystone. They will now blame the Judiciary and a dysfunctional Legislature for the failure of the Ban and the Healthcare policy, not their Man Trump. So far so good in their eyes.

    Andrew Fahie has too expressed the dire need for the freedom of information act, whistle blower act, ethics legislation reform, campaign finance reform among some of the crucial pieces of legislation and policy that he plans to enact once elected. Sounds familiar? Government in the Sunshine? Igwe says that it is Andrew's election to lose but I do not think it is that straightforward. First of all the incumbent has the power of the purse so they will try their best to buy he election and I am sure some people who making noise now may well change their tune lured by self- interest of a contract or favor. Secondly, Andrew must first surround himself with a strong team and a viable alternative as some people will not vote at all if they ar unhappy with their choices. Thirdly a third party can become a spoiler by winning one or two seats but the time for that is running out so they will have to announce themselves this year. Finally, NDP will use smear tactics to erode trust and confidence in Andrew not dissimilar to what Myron is trying now with the consultancy issue. Andrew is very astute and capable of debunking any of those claims as he is doing now and keeping the focus on the NDP's performance and lack of transparency.

    Very interesting times ahead.
  • one eye (02/04/2017, 15:50) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Good read as usual
  • ann (03/04/2017, 06:39) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    I want to hear about bvi politics
  • clown (05/04/2017, 00:44) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply

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