Ditch the race card – we are one tribe
What can we learn from the politics on display in the United States at present, particularly with the likes of Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, flip-flopping over an inquiry for seeming political reasons?
OK, before anyone says I am a Democrat with automatic bias, let me say this: if this were compared to religion, then I’m not a hand-waving, born-again Christian, but rather more of an agnostic. Truth be told, I ideologically embrace many Republican ideals, but I’m not strictly conservative. I believe in “a hand up” wherever and whenever needed.
The historical reality is that both parties have shifted positions over the years and the GOP, which was the party of Abraham Lincoln that freed the slaves, became in the mid-20th century the beneficiary of the “extreme right wing” elements in the US. In the past, many of those extremists had found more comfort in the Democratic Party. I recall early in my youth not liking Barry Goldwater. I was too young to grasp with any depth his ideology; I just knew whatever it was, he was not advancing the cause of Black people.
Lyndon B. Johnson won the election of 1964 by a landslide against Goldwater and with that loss went the sentiments of the vast majority of Black and Coloured people. Oppressed people wanted progressive change and inclusion; conservatism meant a stay and to keep things as they are.
As I became older and wiser about ideological and economic matters, intellectually I began to lean more favourably towards conservative values. Election years and election debates were very interesting. I seemed always to agree in principle with Republican views, but — and here is the but — the question becomes how do we get from the talked-about problem A and get to the goal of B. This, I believe, is the disparity in the debates on whether the methodology would work or not. This issue of how to get there is where the Democrats have won the battle for the minds and support of the basic voter.
Rigid adherence to conservative ideology without an element of pragmatism is not the formula for a diverse and pluralist society. Liberalism is not necessarily the answer, but it helps bring more people on board to develop what should be a collective or consensus-driven solution. If it hasn’t been made clear I have a conservative mind and liberal heart.
I recall many years ago sitting across the table from an ultra-conservative politician debating on a subject upon which we could never agree. I recall him saying “that’s why I am where I am and why you are where you are”. He was a bit smug in his remark to me in an open setting, where he could not win the debate with logic and chose to demonstrate our difference by flaunting power and family business success.
It wasn’t until later that I began to understand the role of politics in the mind of a true blue conservative. For them politics is not so much about governance as the primary role; rather, they govern to the extent that it facilitates their own business and world interest. Politics is not the ends to them; it is a means to secure their holdings and lifestyles.
Conversely, politics and government as a goal is the polar-opposite spectre where the ends once achieved are the fulfilment. If one wonders what the goal and dream were for the opposite spectre, we are living it. Yes, this is it; there is nowhere left to go. This was the dream and the place where the journey was meant to end; it doesn't get better.
In Bermuda, my experiential challenge became one to consider between life under those who governed for the sake of their self-advancement and preservation, and life under those whose aim is to govern as the goal in life and as the pinnacle of success. In either case, the rational choice becomes the mundane question of who puts more bread on the table. Or under who does the community best survive. What's in it for me and my family? Or, where do I fit in? And so on.
Meanwhile, the community and the country are underserved because the purpose and ideology that give it motivation have, of necessity, changed and left a vacuum. With zero identity for going forward, the answer for direction is blowing in the wind.
Well, how does this compare with the US? The Republicans have metastasised around the notion they represent the real America, and that they are the soul of the country, but based on an old White evangelical formula while viewing the growing diversity in the population as an erosion of America. This amid the obviously growing, diverse population, a more educated world and their narrowing base of support, which hasn’t won the popular vote in decades.
They will continue their narrow economic world view of “feather the nest of the wealthiest” while others wait for the trickle down, despite a widening economic gap between the wealthy and the poor. Meanwhile, every administration leads the country to significant debt, while the wealthy get wealthier because there is no trickle down. Despite a foreign policy that has led to a new war with each successive Republican administration with this America First attitude — from Iraq to Afghanistan, and now Israel and Palestine.
Our local government is similarly stuck on an old paradigm of Black strategising for power in reaction to segregationist policies. Segregation ended more than half a century ago, yet the means of economic development that could be mutual and civil are left unexplored because they do not empower a monolithic Black voter base.
It is easier to maintain a Black voter base under the fear of loss and the maintenance of division to achieve power than to attempt to gain power by developing the economic and social model of inclusion. Our politics is also similarly the dynamic of shrinking returns, where the numbers of people year after year who can be impressed by that old school of politics get less and less popular. Meanwhile the leadership can enjoy the trappings while sitting on an ever-eroding base, which gets costlier each year to maintain.
The big question for the Republicans in the US is “how long?” It seems that rather than meet the challenge of becoming relevant to an increasingly diverse and colourful population, they prefer to call that colour barrier the Left and restrict wherever possible their access to voting.
The formula for a Bermuda majority hinges on ensuring a colour-identity focus. The existing identity based on race provides that any group with the gumption or the stupidity to stir racial tension has the throttle to foment an electoral majority. We have seen this with radio talk shows and also stupid remarks or actions done by individuals with propitious timing that have led to a land shift in attitudes that generate racial hostility and an assured victory based on race.
The only identity that could eclipse race would be a new fondness of what it means to be Bermudian, rather than a focus on Black, White or other. The race card has been played with predictable results. Bermuda in reality is more a tribe than a racial metropolis; there are many immigrants that are not a part of that tribal legacy of Bermuda, coming instead from Europe, North America and many countries, including the Caribbean. But they are a cultural minority by comparison, and for the most part blend into what we consider Bermudian culture. It is time to shift the cultural war around to resonate Bermuda’s common denominator — our status as “one tribe”.
The reality is the racial focus is and was purposely driven for political ends. It has always been of usefulness to a minority to excite the majority to suit the flavour of the day. At one stage they could point at race as something to fear and avoid to gain a majority, and in another scenario to look at race as the only means to gain progress. In either case, the resultant end meant that overall population and country became underserved and the harmony of the country fractured.
So we now live in the era of cultural war in America, Bermuda and the world when we dissect the components. The big issue in Israel and Palestine, and by extension the Middle East, is cultural not ideological.
The new Republican American wants to claim they built America, and of course that is based on the eradication of Native American history and input of the transatlantic slave trade, then the input of the many who came across the water to participate in developing what was perceived as the land of freedom.
Not one life is unimportant; in that context, we are all part of the one tribe.