There is a political saying that if you see a turtle balanced atop a fencepost, it didn’t get there by itself. One moral of the axiom is that if one views something in politics that seems untoward, there’s a high probability that it has been manufactured to benefit certain interests.
Dr. Duane Sands understands the axiom, especially after indicating last week that he was considering running for Leader of the FNM.
Within hours of his indication, the highly capable and viable contender for the leadership was derided in the print media, on Facebook and elsewhere online, a likely a coordinated attack by someone given to such tactics.
The good doctor, among the best medical minds in the country, should not be deterred by those less gifted and less accomplished.
Meanwhile, watch during the course of 2014 for a confluence of contrivances, often by strange political bedfellows, to derail the upward political trajectory of Long Island MP Loretta Butler Turner.
In the public imagination and reportedly in a variety of private polls Butler Turner appears to be leading Prime Minister Perry Christie and Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis on various markers of leadership. Butler Turner is increasingly viewed as a better leader than the aforementioned, one of whom is weak and the other inept.
More dramatically, Butler Turner has passed a threshold which no other Bahamian woman has attained in the nation’s history: She is seen as a viable prime minister by a large and growing number of Bahamians.
Christie passed this threshold some time ago, though many, likely a majority, now view him as too incapable and incompetent to serve as head of government. Dr. Minnis has not passed this threshold. It is highly unlikely that he ever will.
Christie and Minnis fear Butler Turner for a number of reasons. They realize and perhaps envy her political appeal. She appeals not only to FNMs, including many disaffected with the party. She also appeals to nonaligned voters, many who voted for the DNA – and more PLPs than Dr. Minnis can ever attract and more PLPs than the PLP would like to lose.
That she is the granddaughter of Sir Milo Butler has its own appeal for those who revere the late Father of the Nation. Yet Butler Turner has her own appeal as a highly intelligent, articulate and savvy politician who represents a new generation of Bahamians.
The late P. Anthony White often remarked that Butler Turner possesses her grandfather’s courage. That courage and the fact that she doesn’t fear her political opponents must also give pause to Christie and Minnis.
Butler Turner’s appeal was obvious to those who heard or read a recent address she gave to a group of Toastmasters during which she offered a compelling insight of her vision of leadership:
“Effective leadership is not defined by age or race or gender or class or social background. Effective leadership is determined by the imagination, a combination of gifts, experience, willpower and the ability to see beyond limited horizons, beyond limited mindsets, beyond tunnel-visions limited by blinders and prejudicial thinking.”
Butler Turner went on to mention Joan of Arc:
“She was a brilliant military strategist and a woman of enormous courage, helping the French to win a string of unexpected victories against their English foes late in the Hundred Years War in Europe.
“Combining her imagination and considerable military gifts, Joan often rejected the timidity and the cautious strategy that characterized the leadership of many of the officers around her.”
Butler Turner went on to say:
“Please permit me this gentle humor. I imagine that after she started winning battles, that many of those around her became less interested in her hairstyle, the clothes she wore and other incidentals, and more interested in her thoughtfulness as a strategist and as a leader.”
The address was intriguing for a number of reasons. Foremost, the speech was nonpartisan. In a rare occurrence it was published in full in a daily, in the Insight section of The Tribune. Further, the address attracted considerable public interest and was reportedly read by quite a number of people.
Butler Turner’s appeal is in direct contrast to a floundering Christie administration, which is one of the reasons that the PLP fears her.
The bloom that was the yellow rose of the PLP’s May 2012 electoral victory quickly fell away, a near perfect image cum metaphor of what the party promised, a rose, and what it delivered, an empty stem with thorns poised to do potential harm.
Recall, the PLP failed to win a majority of the popular vote largely because of the party’s abysmal performance in office from 2002 to 2007 and widespread lack of faith in the leadership of Perry Christie.
Back in office, Christie and the PLP did not disappoint in terms of the low expectations of most voters. Sadly, almost two years in office and the PLP has been dramatically worse than expected, with even many who voted for the party stupefied that Christie is worse than before.
He presides over a staggering litany of failure and a slew of out-of-control ministers. He has grown imperious. He is increasingly out-of-touch. He appears delusional on many fronts.
One of Christie’s delusions is that one of his overriding challenges is that of public relations. A good communications program is essential for any government. But Christie’s greater challenge is not one of communications. His core problem is one of failed leadership and poor governance, which no amount of public relations can fix.
Still, the PLP is engaged in an ongoing public relations program to confuse and bamboozle voters, much as it did in its election campaign, offering fluff and bluster over substance.
This is on dramatic display with the PLP’s continued efforts to dress up the outcome of the negotiations with Cable & Wireless (CW) on BTC as a grand success and the fulfilment of a promise, neither of which is the case.
In yet another public relations gambit there has been a call for a select committee of the House of Assembly to review the agreement with C&W for the purchase of a majority stake in BTC. If there is the need for such a committee, it might be called to review privatization efforts at BTC in general. Remember Bluewater?
Meanwhile, amidst disastrous press and plunging ratings Christie is desperately attempting to revive his public standing. There was the ill-conceived Christmas with the Christies, which failed on a number of levels.
A ZNS reporter not much seen on the TV evening broadcast after the 2012 general election, suddenly, curiously, now seems to be near exclusively detailed to report on the prime minister. There are other reports of the PLP’s media relations strategy.
In the end, Christie’s political fortunes will be determined more by policy and programmatic accomplishments than by public relations.
Yet, there are two powerful trump cards that he holds and that are critical to his political survival: The approximately 1,600 Stalwart Councillors (SC) of the PLP, and Dr. Hubert Minnis.
Having stacked the PLP with SCs loyal to him, Christie is virtually unbeatable at a PLP convention. In the FNM the equivalent of a SC is a Meritorious Council Member (MCM), of which there are approximately 60 in the party. In the PLP there are approximately 200 SCs in Bimini alone.
When Sir Lynden Pindling demitted office as PLP Leader there were between 100 to 150 SCs.
The last time Dr. B.J. Nottage challenged Christie for the party leadership the former appeared to win the votes of the regular branch delegates. Christie demolished him with the votes of the SCs.
Russian President Vladimir Putin might marvel at how Christie has so structured the PLP in order to remain as leader. If Christie wants to stay on as PLP Leader he can likely do so for as long as he desires.
With the SCs trump card in his back pocket, Christie has other potential plays in his playbook and another trump card.
One of the manoeuvres is the supposed bogeyman of Hubert Ingraham returning as FNM Leader. Christie uses this to great effect to rally the PLP base while providing a supposed rationale for his remaining as party leader.
His second trump card is the ever bumbling and incapable Dr. Minnis, whom Christie must thank his lucky stars, is Opposition Leader.
Christie’s calculation is clear and plausible: With Dr. Minnis as FNM Leader and with Branville McCartney leading the DNA into another election, he [Christie] can lead the PLP to another victory, tying Ingraham in terms of electoral wins.
As it is likely that Dr. Minnis would lead the FNM to another defeat, one of the only people with the tenacity and the appeal to upend Christie’s bid for a third term is the MP for Long Island, more of which next week.