Log In

Reset Password

Blindness of US pollsters pervades our politics

Backing the wrong horse: Bernie Sanders might have given Donald Trump more of a fight for the presidency than Hillary Clinton ultimately did (Photograph by John Minchillo/AP)

The Trump victory is a continued manifestation of a worldwide trend, similarly dramatised with the shocking Brexit vote. Donald Trump, as an outsider, understood that phenomenon, but so did Bernie Sanders, whose message was effectively out there before that of Trump. Sanders, like Trump, came from political nowhere and brought crowds of new voters to the political scene.

The pollsters were stunned, most of whom predicted Hillary Clinton as winner, but left wondering, as in the Brexit miscalculation, what they missed. Anti-establishment sentiments have grown worldwide, as systems increasingly drift away from the basic people and become locked into their partisan bureaucracy.

Bermuda is facing similar repercussions and has a smouldering anti-sentiment that has been brewing underneath the political landscape for many years.

Perhaps because the two parties seem insurmountable with polarisation so deep, the resentment has had no vehicle to express itself. However, if you were to ask the question of how many people would like to see the end of party politics, the answer would be staggering — and therein lies the reality of our own anti-establishment.

However, unlike the United States, it is not possible for an outsider to penetrate a party and take it over, as was the case of Trump or, to a lesser degree, Ronald Reagan. They have a pathway for any individual to exert themselves on to the major political scene through a system of primaries.

The constructs of both our parties with their six or eight-man selection committee process and branch caucuses is actually a cloning exercise assuring that no rebel influence gets in.

The US has a different model, hence both Trump and Sanders were able to develop populist movements. Had the Democrats listened, or even Hillary Clinton, they would have seen Sanders had the momentum and the enthusiasm with a popular wave that the Clinton campaign lacked and which could have given a different election result.

As it stands, the One Bermuda Alliance needed to be burning on all its cylinders with a flawless governance tract to present to a sceptical electorate. Instead it is cracked by scandal and only a debatable performance. The Progressive Labour Party is hugely unpopular, like the Hillary factor, but has a natural majority. The only way that this undercurrent can gain political expression is to have a viable vehicle to garner this energy for change.

Change is the new imperative, which would spell the undoing of the present rut. Neither party wants change; in fact, they are hinging and hoping to continue on the old paradigm of support. The big question is what type of organised effort can capture the middle ground?

How would an operative capable of assuming governance manifest? Third-party options seem inevitable but fall at the altar of the popular parties’ stranglehold. Intervention is the more likely way to succeed. Yet intervention of the Bermudian type would mean taking a splinter group from either party to form the nucleus from which to build. The People’s Campaign would have been such a group, except that it is more issue-orientated and not necessarily ideologically driven.

So here we are with a silent majority, truly silenced by having no voice through which their vote or sentiment can be expressed. Notwithstanding, at some stage this frustration and pent-up energy will surface and, with it, change will come.

It is not surprising that the same blindness afflicting the American pollsters pervades our political thinking. It will take shrewd manoeuvring and a touch of maverick to stumble upon the genius to bring a new and much needed paradigm shift for the good of the Bermudian electorate.

I can only hope that the wisdom for such movement has already begun.