Saturday, May 31, 2014

Some strong doses of political reality

I have sat and noticed, with both some amusement and amazement, the reaction to Peter David's induction into the ruling New National Party.
    It is like taking notice of three worlds really - something that became very evident to me in the run up to the last elections.
 There is a small group of cyber activists -- about 40 to 60 of them -- 70% of whom reside overseas -- most of who hate anything that smells Keith Mitchell; but who are so disconnected  from the modern Grenadian political reality that they made the NDC believe the last time that they could win anything, but nothing.
  Then there are the real hardcore NDC supporters -- mainly in the urban areas -- about 5,000 of them.
  And then there is the rest of Grenada -- mainly in the rural areas -- their political outlook essentially center-left; their social connection is in the kind of political populism so successfully espouse by Dr Mitchell for most of the last 25 years.
   To understand the reaction to David's decision, is to understand how these three worlds operate.
   David's political decision was not for him alone. It essentially provides the bridge and the cover -- for the rural progressive that previously supported NDC -- those who never felt, even through all the years, that NDC at its core was a party that supports their aspirations.
   Up until now, however, these people also never felt they can make an automatic switch to NNP,  because of what they felt was Mitchell's reactionary tendencies.
  So they languished in a political purgatory for the best part of the last three years.
 These people had essentially become political orphans after the  divisive summer of 2012 -- eventually burnt by the NDC arranged-marriage, but finding it awkward to turn to NNP after a decade of scorched-earth politics.
   So for things to be where they are now, meant a lot of parts had to move in the right direction.
  First it took Mitchell, who in spite his big poll victory of 2013 -- learnt a lesson from a time of similar triumph back in 1999.
  That first NNP victory was quickly undermined by over-reach and over-reaction; by an eagerness to fight a fresh battle everyday in a chest-thumping way;  rather than seeking consensus. We provoked it sometimes, but Mitchell willingly took the bait every time -- to his own ultimate demise.
    Things turned around so fast that by 2003, NNP was fighting for survival. NDC should have won that elections too in the last two weeks, if only one proposed bold decision was taken. But there were not enough believers in that room, and the rest - as they say - was history (But more about that at another time).
    Having been chastened by the lessons of his defeat in 2008, Mitchell returned five years later; determined not to make the same mistakes he did; and clear in his mind that in a time of such national challenge he needed to reach out beyond his base.
   He read the results well. 2013 was not just an NNP victory. Yes given the tides, it would have won alone. But it took a loose coalition with NDC's rural progressives -- interestingly led by a man from Town -- to guarantee the whitewash.
   The Town of St George, St George's North East and the two St Patrick's seats would not have fallen without it. The battle might have been harder in St Andrew's South East as well.
    David's entry into the NNP is not as far-fetched as it may seem at the surface; it is not as sacrilegious as the hardcore NDC acolytes would make believe.
   I first raised the issues of the need for what I then called "a historic realignment" back  in late 2003 in a rum shop on Lagoon Road with Einstein Louison, then an NNP heavyweight.
   We discussed then about the apparent disconnect between a generation whose politics have been inspired by the struggles of the 70s and 80s -- and the liberal children they have sown -- who by and large support NNP; and the then new NDC leadership who at the core should naturally appeal to that demographic.
   But the intervening years had become so bitter, with even Louison himself once leading his own tirade on an old comrade at that forgettable press conference, that any such 'rum shop talk" about "realignment" -- seemed like just that: talk.
  What has dramatically shifted the tide, howeverhas been the new Mitchell.
  The Prime Minister rightfully seized that opportunity; and within less than 24 hours after his re-election last year he came up with the theme of Project Grenada.
    "It is our view that every Grenadian is a shareholder in what we call Project Grenada," he said in calling for a new unity at his Trade Center swearing in on February 20, 2013.
  That first official outreach culminated in what happened at Paraclete recently.
   But there were other irresistible forces that allowed David to move.
   More than Mitchell's outreach, what sealed the dealwere the many ordinary people -- NDC rural progressives and the NNP rank- and- file -- all made from the same cloth -- who kept telling David as he went around the country -- that he needed to do this both for himself and for them.
   If you don't visit the heartland of such places at Mt Horne and Hope; Vincennes and Darvey, then you would never understand the positive buzz out there about what has happened in the local politics in the last few weeks.
  That is what makes the cyber chatter so both amusing and amazing; it is so disconnected from the on-the-ground Grenadian reality.
  I always give the example of back in 2011 -- David was still a minister in the NDC government.
  One weekend he went with me to visit my sister in St Andrew's, and a neighbour came over and said to him. "You (is) Mr Peter David?" To which he replied "yes." She then said: "You see me, I am an NNP to the bone, if you cut (me) heart you will see green. And I don't like you all government; but we like you. You (is) a good man."
   NNP's rank and file demanded Peter David. And the party's leaders were also smart enough to hear that call.
  Now I have heard the "righteous indignation" of "how dare you" from the NDC supporters -- the declining amounts; and the full-time Mitchell haters.
   They are quick to remind us of how the NNP leadership, especially Dr Mitchell, came at David, particularly between 2002 and 2008.
  To that I say, politics is informed by shifting realities.
  Tillman Thomas was jailed by the Nazim Burke-Peter David revolution; and he had joined Mitchell in the Grenada Democratic Movement in trying to overthrow it.
  That historic fact is not an indictment on any of the players. It is just an acknowledgement of the political reality of that time.
   The other "dare you" argument is that -- how can David join Mitchell for all that the Prime Minister did in his previous rule and that David fought so hard against.
   Well  -- the people of Grenada had a referendum on Mitchell's rule and chastised him in 2008.  These same people, essentially said, "you're forgiven' -- and gave him a chance at redemption in 2013.
  And that too is a political reality -- that cannot be dismissed, as the NDC would in its elitist way, as a fairy tale.
  It is hard to argue against the democratic will of the majority. They seem to get it right every time.
   But other than the tons of emotional outbursts, I have yet to read  a sound political analysis to why the move is a bad one for either David, Mitchell, the NNP or Grenada.
  Yeait's a very bad one for NDC. I got that. They get that too!
   Terry Marryshow's  writing this week in a local newspaper said it well. He wrote: "The comments from the NDC activists can be likened to the jealous husband who separated from his wife because of irreconcilable differences but adopts the attitude that if he can’t have her nobody else can. I find that attitude very unfortunate and I see no disgrace in the decision that Peter has taken to join the NNP, which is where he sees he can make his biggest contribution."

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