Is the OBA now as tainted as the UBP?
The Progressive Labour Party’s recent landslide victory could well be a blessing in disguise for everyone because, in trying to understand the One Bermuda Alliance’s loss, white Bermudians will have to think more carefully about race — and that will be a good thing for all of Bermuda.
So, let’s take a look at the election.
The first thing that is likely to become apparent to anyone giving much thought to the cause of the OBA’s defeat is that the OBA did not lose because of poor economic governance. By any objective measure, the OBA did a better job of managing the economy — indeed, it pulled the island back from the brink of collapse, and it did so without the numerous and massive corruption scandals that engulfed the PLP’s 14-year tenure.
Lack of political skill also can be dismissed. Although a strong argument can be made that the OBA was good at governance but poor at politics, that is not why the OBA lost. Messaging wins elections at the margins, but rarely, if ever, is it the cause of a landslide defeat.
That leaves race.
I pause here to preface the following comments with the admission that, as a white non-Bermudian who for the past five years has not even lived on the island, I am poorly qualified to speak to this issue. So please accept what follows as merely a suggested starting point to a more informed discussion by others.
There were two seminal events during the OBA’s tenure that were bound to roil black Bermudians: the OBA’s appointment of Michael Dunkley as Premier and the Pathways to Status fiasco that followed.
While it is impossible for a white person fully to understand the myriad of ways black Bermudians think or feel about these racially explosive issues, I would argue that it is incumbent upon all those who care about the future of Bermuda to at least try to gain some baseline semblance of understanding by putting themselves in the shoes of a black Bermudian for a moment.
While the result may well differ for others, I can say that if my ancestors had been enslaved and subjected to racial segregation for 350 years by a group of 40 families that controlled the country, and if I, myself, had been subjected to a racial glass ceiling for 25 years under a political party controlled by those same 40 families, there is no way in hell I would ever vote for any political party that was controlled by members of those 40 families.
Further, if a new political party had gained my vote by promising an end to the United Bermuda Party and the rule of the 40 families, only to replace its leader after the election with a person who was not just a former leader of the UBP but also a scion of the 40 families, then I would not only feel betrayed but I would swear to never, ever again vote for that party.
Indeed, after the OBA’s unilateral appointment of Dunkley as Premier, all trust from the black community was likely lost. And it doesn’t matter that Michael Dunkley the individual is a good and honest man. There is simply too much racial history and black suffering to consider that a relevant factor.
With all trust in the OBA shattered, the Pathways to Status proposal could be seen only as a white party’s attempt to increase the number of white voters at the expense of black Bermudians. Any arguments about fairness to long-term expatriates or Bermuda’s economic need to increase the population would fall on deaf ears.
If that analysis is correct, Bermuda is in much trouble. It means the OBA is now as tainted as the UBP and is for ever unelectable. It also means that, if not now, then sometime soon, the PLP will realise that it holds absolute power and can do whatever it wants without risk of losing the Government.
Unfortunately, no matter how morally pure the new PLP MPs’ intentions may be, widespread government corruption will likely result as it has throughout history when absolute power is held.
It is therefore in everyone’s best interest that OBA supporters give long, careful thought to why they lost, whether the party is for ever tainted, and whether a new party should be formed — one without former UBP MPs and without any connection to the 40 families that for 350 years ruled the island at the expense of black Bermudians.
Good luck Bermuda. I wish you well.
• Kevin Comeau is a social commentator, retired corporate securities lawyer and former longtime Bermuda resident, who is now based in Oakville, Ontario
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