DNA Leader Branville McCartney’s central political equation is that he’s not A or B, but C, with A or B representing the leaders of the PLP and FNM, respectively, Perry Christie and Hubert Ingraham and now Christie and Dr. Hubert Minnis.
“The best/greatest thing since sliced bread” idiom was popularized during the first half of the last century. It refers to when someone thinks that, “they are extremely good, often better than they really are” at something.
The idiom also expresses “a sense that something is innovative, outstanding, and generally superior to something that has come before.”
Bequeathed the coveted FNM Bamboo Town nomination at the 2007 general election McCartney already saw himself as a rising star, a child of destiny, from whom the universe, or at least his universe of fans, expected great things.
Following the FNM’s electoral victory he was appointed a junior minister along with the late Charles Maynard, Loretta Butler Turner, Desmond Bannister, Phenton Neymour, Byron Woodside and Zhivargo Laing.
Laing was returning as a junior minister. He has never served as a substantive minister. To their great fortune, the others in the incoming group of junior ministers, all new to the House of Assembly, did not first serve as backbenchers before receiving a cabinet appointment.
By contrast, a number of former PLP MPs and others like Tommy Turnquest, Dion Foulkes and Carl Bethel did not immediately go into the cabinet after their election to the House. Turnquest did initially serve as a parliamentary secretary.
In an early cabinet shuffle, two of the seven junior ministers, Charles Maynard and Desmond Bannister, were made substantive ministers.
McCartney, who left Tourism to go to Immigration as junior minister was crestfallen and angry that he was not given his own ministry. His ego bruised, the clock started ticking down to McCartney’s exit from the FNM.
A more mature and less egotistical personality would have bided his time and demonstrated to his cabinet colleagues and others that he possessed the gravitas necessary to advance in the FNM. Many of his colleagues recall that he had little to say around the table and that he was largely unimpressive.
McCartney was given a junior ministerial assignment at Immigration, quite a political plumb for a neophyte MP with no experience and no distinguishing attributes except a penchant for grandstanding. He used much of his brief tenure at Immigration to exploit the xenophobia of some Bahamians.
Then came the break. A clear sentiment emerged amidst the quite incoherent utterances McCartney made upon leaving the Ingraham cabinet. It was that the then Prime Minister had not fully utilized his talents! Translation: Ingraham had not made him a substantive minister. For that he left the party and started his own vanity party.
None of the other junior ministers who were not promoted bolted the party. In leaving the FNM, McCartney threw a mega-tantrum, deciding to play the role of the Big Bad Wolf, huffing and puffing to blow the FNM house down because he couldn’t get his way.
Never mind all the later rationalization, the tortured logic, the revisionism, the considerable effort to show that the DNA is somehow dramatically different from the major parties. Had Ingraham made McCartney a minister he would undoubtedly have remained as his ego would have been satisfied.
He would likely do cartwheels and somersaults were the FNM to invite him to lead the party. The DNA would be a distant memory and would soon collapse were he to leave his institutional alter ego.
To justify his political existence McCartney has tried to master the art of triangulation. He’s sometimes proficient at it. But not because of his own genius. He sometimes succeeds because the other political players are often that bad at their craft.
Take the idiotic example of the FNM agreeing in a House Committee with the PLP to look at increasing the salary and allowances for MPs. If the FNM had another leader other than the continued disaster that is Dr. Minnis, McCartney would have been denied another opportunity for grandstanding and pandering.
Having lost his House seat McCartney does not enjoy the platform he once had. He rarely has anything original to say, preferring to reiterate the criticisms of others against the Christie administration. His comments are typically glib and unsubstantial.
His politics and policy views are mostly derived from others, such as his joining the bandwagon in criticizing the government over the National Intelligence Agency. His is the “me too” politics.
With the DNA now several years old, McCartney has failed utterly to establish any reasonable grounds to justify his breaking away from the FNM and establishing what many regard as nothing more than a vanity party. He has not demonstrated any substantial ideological difference from either of the major parties.
With one exception, none of the third parties that have sprung up from time to time have had any real philosophical or ideological justification for existence since both of the two national parties seem to offer adequate accommodation for the fairly narrow range of Bahamian political philosophy which is generally liberal or right to left of center depending on the issue.
The exception to this rule was the short-lived far-left Vanguard Nationalist Socialist Party headed by the late Dr. John McCartney.
Since the consolidation of the two-party system by the Progressive Liberal Party and the Free National Movement -- both claiming liberal credentials -- all other third parties have also claimed the same credentials. The differences have been mostly over issues of leadership, style, competence and good governance.
Although our Constitution places no limit on the number of political parties, our history indicates that the Bahamian people are deeply invested in the idea of two national political parties. They have consistently rejected the idea of third parties and the instability that multiple political parties have brought about in other jurisdictions.
The existence of the DNA is more about voter frustration with certain political personalities and the need for ongoing reform within the major parties. A new, vibrant and competent leader for the FNM can quickly upend McCartney’s political calculations.
But for the FNM it is about more than attracting DNA voters. Forget the conventional wisdom and look at the hard numbers. With small margins the FNM may have lost some seats because of the DNA.
But a more persuasive reason for the FNM’s loss is that it also lost the under 35 vote, the youth vote and women to the PLP, who won because they defeated the FNM among those demographics.
The FNM does not simplistically have a so-called DNA problem. The greater concern for the FNM is to attract younger voters and women who voted PLP, as well as DNA voters, not the other way around.
And, the FNM can attract DNA voters without kow-towing to the interests, vanity fair and megawatt ego of Branville McCartney.