I don’t think there’s been any secret that I have been rather critical, even to the point of some thinking I’m overly hostile, towards the NewBP. I was (and remain) shocked at their lack of planning in both how they came to be through the split, and failure to follow up with any policy positions, organisation or name. The individuals behind this split had been musing about such a move since the 2007 election. They had almost 18 months to think about how to do it, and I expected better.
Even with their new name, the Bermuda Democratic Alliance, and website, I still don’t know what they stand for. Their website seems to just repeat all the empty nice sounding rhetoric that they’ve been saying to the media all this time. About the most that I can get from reading over their site is that they seem to be modeling themselves on the UK Liberal Democratic Party or the South African Democratic Alliance. In fact, the more I look at the Bermuda Democratic Alliance the more I think they’re trying to copy the South African Democratic Alliance. Both Parties seem to be advocating a centrist liberal ideology. Which is exactly what the PLP and the UBP have come to adopt, more or less, as well.
Our political parties today are all parties of the ideological centre. Tweedledum, Tweedledee and Tweedled’oh. There are differences of course, both in some minor ideological positions and in their class bases. The PLP is an unholy alliance of the working classes with the rising Black bourgousie. The UBP is an alliance based on the White upper and middle classes. This new Party will, by the very nature of its split, have a base similar to the UBP, with the exception that it may be able to attract a significant number of Bermudian youth who have been alienated by both the UBP and PLP and are eager for a vehicle they can call their own. Ideologically the PLP has the best approach to the race question, in that they are willing to articulate it and advocate some measures to address it. The UBP by comparison adopts a ‘don’t talk about it’ position, while playing a patronising PR campaign with its parliamentary candidates. Quite frankly that is all that really separates the PLP and the UBP these days. The Democratic Alliance so far seem to be adopting the traditional UBP line, of colour-blind now, and lets not talk about it becuase its uncomfortable. Instead, lets all just hold hands and sing kumbyah.
I am not optimistic about the chance of success for the Democratic Alliance. Their stunted launch and lack of clarity is only made up by their nice sounding fluffy rhetoric and ‘why can’t we all just get along’ whining. Despite that, I do believe the Democratic Alliance has the potential to serve as a catalyst for Bermudian politics. I hope that its emergence could force the PLP and the UBP to clarify their ideologies; the committment to the centre has left our politics bland and based on poli-tricks as opposed to politics proper. About the only thing that is certain though, is that the Democratic Alliance poses a direct challenge not so much to the PLP but to the UBP. The UBP has already been forced to adopt change where previously it just dragged its feet; and tonight the UBP is choosing its new leader. How the Democratic Alliance changes Bermudian politics from now on is an open question. They may simply burn out after a brief, but bright, five minutes of flame. They may simply represent a foot in the door for a new politics. They may even become the new Opposition.
I do question the almost religious comments being posted on the Democratic Alliance’s FB page, with an almost chant-like mantra of ‘Change – I beleive’ and the like. Change to what? Change in and of itself means nothing. Change can be both negative and positive; we should not seek change for the sake of change alone. I worry that some people are too readily swept away by novelty, brought on through disillussionment with the current system. I am sure many are happy at the potential that the Democratic Alliance represents, however I would caution against an uncritical reception for them.
As an aside, I realise some readers may take issue with my decision to refer to the new Party as the Democratic Alliance as opposed to the Bermuda Democratic Alliance. I do so for a few reasons. Perhaps the main reason is due to my reading of Denis’ account over on 21square as to the origin of the name. While it is quite possible that it had been used long before the events he records, I am satisfied that his account represents at least an independent development of the name. More than that, it would appear that the events he describes led to the first public usage of the name, at least in a recorded sense. To that end, and in as much as the Democratic Alliance does not seem to be associated with those who were involved in its origin, I feel that their use of the acronym, while not illegal, is unethical. Beyond that, there are a number of political parties, some defunct, some active, which also use the name ‘Democratic Alliance’, ususally prefixed by the respective countries name. Some examples include the South African Democratic Alliance, the Singapore Democratic Alliance and the Italian Democratic Alliance. All of these parties are liberal parties, parties of the political centre, all sharing the same basic philosophy and approach as this Bermudian Democratic Alliance.