Betty Ann Blaine at the NCC launch courtesy of the Jamaica Gleaner.
So Betty Ann Blaine has decided to throw her hat into the circus and form a political party, the New Nation Coalition (NNC). Well, it is going to be an uphill struggle, but anything is better than nothing. This country is thirsty for progress. Notwithstanding this, and I am basing this solely of the news clips and articles I have seen so far, there are four things that trouble me:
# 1 – I believe strongly that religion, and christianity especially, is being abused in Jamaica. Your relationship with your maker is a personal relationship between him and yourself. I don’t care for Mrs. Thatcher’s politics, but one thing she said always stuck me as true. Spirituality in any form is about personal redemption, not social reform. Moreover, don’t all leaders of countries with a large number of Christians claim to be Christians (Mr. Bush, Mr. Golding, Mrs. Simpson-Miller), and that has not stopped evil from transpiring.
We must also remember that we are a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. There are Rastafarians (who have done much to challenge many of the elements of Western religion that put down black people, only to be hated for their gift), Hindus, Jews, Muslims and the list goes on. Let us not fall into the tired trap of believing that Christianity, or any religion for that matter, has a monopoly on ethical behaviour.
# 2 – When you launch a new project, go not just for philosophy or plan, but hard objectives. Ms. Blaine noted that her party would ensure that each citizen had a right to ‘a good education and a good living in order to achieve prosperity.’ Well, most leaders around the world say this. The issue is how will you achieve this? Both objectives and strategy have to be clearer, even at the outset. In this vein, it would be great to know who is in the think tank.
# 3 – Do not underestimate how difficult it will be to break Jamaica’s entrenched system of two party competition. Two years is enough to introduce candidates and do community work? I’m not so sure about. Lets look at one of Parliamentary democracy’s most successful third parties, the Liberal Democrats of the UK. Their candidates often said how backbreaking local level work is essential to beating Labour and the Tories. And they are not competing in a political culture that is as tribal as ours.
# 4 – Money is going to be a problem. In criticizing Ms. Blaine for her lack of specificity, NDM (remember them?) General Secretary Michael Williams noted that campaign finance reform was one of his party’s main objectives. Parties do not have to make public their funders. I find this to be intolerable.
In responding to the potential threat that special interests play to electoral integrity, Ms. Blaine said the NNC would fundraise in the same manner President Obama did when he ran for office. Generate many small contributions. Fine. But someone should tell Ms. Blaine that Mr. Obama was not bereft of major corporate support. Additionally, Jamaicans traditionally receive gifts from national leaders. The reverse is far less common.
Dissatisfaction with a failed political system is at an all time high. Approximately 37% of the electorate just said they are either not voting, or can’t decide who to vote for. Let us hope Ms. Blaine addresses these issues and gives Jamaica a genuine alternative.