Why Grammazone Won and The Future of Our Politics
It was election season on the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies and the battle lines were sharply drawn. As usual, the spotlight focused on the post of President, contested by the social media front runner, Jamie James, and his opponent Terron Dewar, and the post of Cultural & Entertainment Affairs Chairperson (CEAC), contested by six candidates. The focus of that race would fall on the incumbent Miguel ‘Grammazone’ Reid and his closest challenger, Gabrielle Curling. This was a peculiar campaign, marked by heavy rhetoric, inferences of sexism and heavy social media organization. It soon became clear that the message was vote Jamie in and vote Grammazone out. The results would stun the student population.
After an extensive campaign to get rid of Grammazone, the incumbent CEAC was able to retain his post, shocking and angering those who organized an ambitious plot to unseat him – all the while leveling allegations of incompetence and voter deception. The question then is, how did he win? My own assessment tells me it had little to do with his competence and more to do with the fact that he was poorly opposed. Winning an election requires strategy. It appears to me that the opponents of Grammazone ran with the idea of “anyone but him”. This effectively sealed his victory. You see, Grammazone already had a base of support; in the contest of multiple candidates, the opposition’s vote had to be united around a single contender. In other words, for Grammazone to be unseated, his opposition needed to speak with one voice. It appears that the opposition was split among the other five candidates, while Gramma’s base remained united and motivated to brave the backlash. The opposition’s strategy appears to have been righteous outrage, that alone is not enough. There needed to have been a unity of purpose to support that outrage. Miss Curling’s campaign needed to have tapped into that outrage and transformed it into votes – a prospect which never materialized. It was perhaps then prophetic when Grammazone tweeted last night as the results rolled in, “only the strong will continue.”
It was a strong base and strong strategy which saw the incumbent re-elected. Kudos to you, sir. To his opposition I say, in politics a good strategy is just as important as a good or better candidate. You dropped the ball on this one.
I find the case of Jamie James curious. Having been rejected by the electorate last year, James decided to brave the electoral storm once more. The verdict was the same, and in a shock to his social media backers, Terron Dewar was elected to the Presidency.
Jamie’s bid was a bad idea from the start. You see, history tells us that you only get one shot at the Presidency in a direct vote situation, just ask Mitt Romney. The electorate on the Mona Campus would not have changed vastly from the last time James sought the Guild’s top job, who advised him that it was a good idea to defy the electorate once more and seek that which he was already denied? It was poor advice. Jamie’s chances may also have been hurt by his front runner rock star status. His social media backers all but inaugurated him as President. There was a surety which was dangerous, he was presented essentially as the President-Elect. Bad idea. That kind of posturing can turn off voters, and I’m not sure it didn’t in this instance. To be sure, I have little doubt that Jamie would have made an excellent President, but he needed to have accepted that his ship had sailed. Congratulations to the President-Elect, Terron Dewar.
Finally, what do the results of the Guild elections tell us about the future of Jamaican politics? Firstly, the politics of personalities will continue to dominate our political sphere. Sadly, we continue to vote for personalities over competence, empty promises over substance. That is how we ended up with our current Prime Minister, and how we’ll end up with many more Portias. The idea that personalities are more important than policies is a fallacy. Secondly, We have degraded the power of the vote. Election Day is supposed to be the day when those being led speak, and those who lead listen; instead we have forfeited our voice in exchange for promises that will never materialize, for cheap tricks and pretty speeches. In effect, we have damaged our country’s future. If the 5% of our population that is allegedly endowed with skills of superior reasoning cannot make an informed choice, why should we expect the trajectory of national development to change?
As Kingsley Morgan* said to me, “I was expecting our students to be more critical and vote for the candidate with a plan – not vote on looks, political affiliation and hype.” Something tells me many others share that sentiment. I know many will counter my reasoning by saying educated people won’t vote in national elections any way, so the lot will not fall to them; but if they can’t make a good decision in a school election, their involvement in a national election would have very little effect on lifting the standard. Unless tertiary education is able to raise the standard of discourse and participation in our electoral process, I’m afraid that light rising from the west may soon be extinguished.
* Kingsley Morgan is a second year student at CARIMAC. He co-authored this post.