The 2007 Election Campaign – Brief Thoughts

For some time now I have been meaning to write a more thorough review of the 2007 Election Campaign as this issue has been continuously re-discussed and demonstrates some rather clear differences in perception along Party lines/supporters. I still haven’t had time to really get into it in-depth, but as the issue has re-ermerged in the threa ‘Vampires & Werewolves’ I thought I might as well give it its own thread for discussion.

There have been a few relatively recent articles in various media that have tended to discuss this issue as well, and they are well worth reviewing as starting points for this discussion.

I believe that the article by PLP Chairman David Burt in the Bermuda Sun recently can offer some insight into his perception of the election campaign, but one must realise that such was not the intention of his article and read it in that light.

Also, there is an editorial from PLP Senator Walton Brown on Bda Network News.

I am sure there have been other articles, including ones from the UBP side, but I am not sure of their links at the moment, nor their content. Readers may feel free to recommend and provide links to articles that they think relevant.

In the immediate run-up to the election and in its aftermath I did offer some thoughts on the topic in various threads and other online discussions. My position has not fundamentally changed. In many ways I am in broad agreement with the sentiments articulated by Senator Walton Brown in his article.

I will primarily speak of the PLP election campaign, it should be noted. I do this, not to set Senator Brown against Chairman Burt, or to ‘pick on’ the PLP, but mainly because I think that discussion is much more important to the long-term benefit of the Party, especially due to me conclusion that at this moment in time the UBP is an irrelevant political factor. It may over time regain its relevance, but its hard to see that happening at the moment to be frank, and I don’t think I’m alone in percieving them as consigned to the dustbin of history at this present stage of Bermudian development. The main interest for me is not so much in the UBP’s campaign, but in the perception by many of its supporters of the PLPs campaign, and what this means for going forward as one people. As to the different opinions on the PLP campaign presented by Senator Brown and Chairman Burt, I think it is immensely valuable to the Party to engage in critical discussion of that campaign, something that their respective positions offer, to their credit, to Party members and supporters.

Briefly then, I found certain aspects of the PLP campaign to be unneccessary and counter-productive to the objectives of the election, and that the Party won more in spite of these variosu tactics than because of them. In particular I found the infamous ‘Puppet’ video to be a piece of trash campaigning that was beneath the dignity of the Party. I understood the sentiment, but really think it could have been illustrated in a better way, especially one that didn’t leave the Party open to a similar attack. All tactics should be viewed as double-edged swords, weapons that can be used both against an opponent and against the initiator. To me it is better to bring the election campaign and the electorate up through rational and critical discourse of the respective platforms and participants rather than mutually drag it down through trashy negative campaigning. It is true that at certain times it is necessary to respond to negative campaigns. Generally I feel the rule of thumb, to borrow from recent US presidential debate terminology, should be to not throw the first punch but to throw the last. To me this means not responding in kind but essentially giving the opponent a rope to hang themselves with and demonstrating the falseness of such negative attacks. One other aspect of the PLP campaign that I disagreed with was the misrepresentation of the UBP’s position on crime and law. It is true that I found many aspects of the UBP’s platform on this area troubling, and criticised them on this site accordingly, but I found the PLP ads attacking it to be effectively one of scare-mongering and distorting of the UBPs position.

This is not to absolve the UBP of blame. Personally I found their campaign to be much more negative, even desperate, than the PLP’s. I know many of the UBP supporters will strongly disagree with me on this one, something not unfamiliar to the phenomena in football where one generally ‘doesn’t see’ the fouls committed by ones own team but exagerrates those of the opponents. One thing I must concede to the UBP though is their greater sophistication in using ‘proxies’ – that is employing propaganda attacks against the PLP that is almost impossible to trace back directly to the UBP themselves. Notable examples of this would be the numerous anomynous letters to the editor that followed the general narrative of ‘I am a PLP supporter, BUT… and so this time I’ll vote UBP,’ and the Bermudians Against Independence group that ran a whole series of misleading and scare-mongering attack ads, nominally against Bermudian independence (which was not an election issue at all). Their infamous ‘fish cartoon’ and that video featuring many of their Black candidates in a park were just truly pathetic and the acme of stupidity as well.

Ultimately I feel that these tactics led to a mutual ‘dumbing down’ of the election. If our Party (the PLP) had a better platform then we should have had no trouble debating and trashing the UBP platform. That we didn’t, in general, engage in such discourse does not mean that our platform was not the best one, it just means we didn’t engage in it, which was unfortunate.

I know many of the UBPers took umbrage to such quotes as ‘back to the plantation’ but I really had no problem with that. They actually provided an opportunity to engage in a discussion of the race issue and should have been explored, not attacked. As much as the UBPers accuse the PLP of launching a ‘race-based campaign’ I actually found the UBP to have done very much the same, but using codewords of White fears (crime, independence) rather than the more obvious at times approach of the PLP.

Anyway, thats all the time I have right now. I expect some itneresting discussion on this issue.

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3 thoughts on “The 2007 Election Campaign – Brief Thoughts

  1. What proof do you have that those proxies were actually created by the UBP? Perhaps all those “Joe the plumber” letters supposedly written by PLP supporters were really all penned by David Burt?

    We should have taken Lovitta Foggo’s comments as an opportunity to explore the race issue instead of attacking them? Uh huh. Perhaps next time a black person is called a “nigger” by a white person, he should take that opportunity to have a discussion about race with them too?

    And if “crime” and “independence” are really code words for “bad black people”, how the hell are the UBP and its supporters meant to have any kind of discussion about them?

  2. Jonathan,

    I’m finding that you too readily drink the kool-aid or, as you put it, ignore most of your team’s fouls while the focusing on those of your opponents.

    Perhaps the UBP was behind a large covert operation to subvert the mass media and introduce sophisticated propaganda but really I think you give them far more credit than they deserve.

    The UBP isn’t just weak at politicking; they’re downright abysmal at it. To claim they were behind a mass conspiracy to create an anti-independence group and a letter writing campaign among other grand schemes is far reaching in the least. If the UBP was any good at propaganda and manipulating mass media they certainly would have done a whole lot better not only with propaganda but their whole campaign. Really, you’ve already reminded us how sad their fish cartoons were along with much of the rest of their advertising. Yes, masterminds can create vast behind the scenes subversive campaigns but in front of the curtains they put on a gong show? That’s not what I consider as evidence of genius at work, especially when their ‘tactics’ are so over the top they turn people against them and lose the election. Masterminds? Really?

    Your suggested arguments of the UBP’s fouls are like having a fan at a football match throw something at a player and having the ref turn around and foul the fan’s team for misconduct. The lunatic fan was at fault but the team is punished? What if things were switched around and people wrote/created outlandish things about the PLP to make them look like a victim?

    Let’s twist your argument around from the opposite perspective shall we? What if the real propaganda experts put together blatantly offensive emails and sent them around to make it look like the UBP was the source of such emails? If so, they succeeded in making the PLP out to be the victims and turned the public against the UBP did they not? What if the media was hounded as the enemy and everyone was warned ahead of time that people would be out to get the PLP, that they would use every dirty trick at their disposal? What if they sent letters to the Premier with bullets in them to make it look like the Premier was having his life threatened? (especially considering we haven’t heard a peep of an investigation police assured us would be solved)

    Indeed, by your case the argument could be made that Jahamal Simmons and Gweneth Rawling’s racist claims against the party were part of a mass conspiracy. Indeed, they never named names and Jahamal was awarded with a fancy position that allows him to ride around in GP cars all day with no real clarity on what he actually does for his money.

    Is it possible there were great propaganda masterminds out there pulling the strings on one side of the other? Sure. Likely? Who knows. Conspiracy theories abound, it makes sense to go with what is tangibly evident rather than pulling fanatical conclusions out of thin air. If there is no tangible evidence to support such claims and we’ve got such lax freedom of information legislation that they remain little more than conspiracy theories and should be treated as such.

    The distinction that some saw with the past election was that the PLP was blatant about their use of despicable rhetoric, they made no effort to hide it and nor their (specific party candidate’s, not random supporters) distaste for and attacks on whites while at the same time calling out whites for not rushing to support the PLP and using this as a sign that all whites are racist. There was a limited attempt to approach the election from the perspective of the issues and rational discussion of what is best for Bermuda and who can best achieve it. Instead the bulk of the campaign was about opposing the UBP out to be the oppressors who would return our people to oppression. Was the PLP alone in their tactics? No, but it cannot be claimed that they were less guilty than the UBP.

    Speaking of the PLP’s campaign specifically, what bothered me and turned me off was that they were heavy on the rhetoric and light on substance. Limited policy plans were made as a part of their platform and few if any promises or goals for later measure were established or made. It was a, here’s what we’ve done (of which, there were claims that were untrue), vote for us to keep on doing it, hate on the UBP and everything will be peachy approach. Oh, that and an abundance of the use of ‘free’. It was a free for all (though later, clarified to be conditionally not all). Free transport. Free education. Free health care for seniors. Free child care. In reality, nothing in life is free and now what we’re seeing is that other programs such as their much lauded housing projects, our much needed new hospital and who knows what else are at risk of being cut because they have to uphold the handful of poorly supported policy ideas that were never rationally debated outside of the minds of the converted.

    The sheer lack of debate and proper discourse amongst our government is astounding and frankly makes me yearn for a blue pill for it shows no signs of ever changing.

  3. Election are one punch issues not technical debates that make sense. Plp people were gonna stay home until the UBP said they would give long term residents status that rallied the sympathy vote even though they hate Brown.

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