Round Table with Oscar
November 27, 2015
Illegitimate politics

More than once, someone has said to me: ‘the things that you are proposing make sense, but they can never take place in today’s politics; you must stop dreaming.’ But I did not dream up the news story about the Bahamas Government team that was touring the areas struck by the passing of a storm. When a flat tyre caused the touring party to turn back, the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader stepped out from the damaged vehicle in which they were both travelling, together.{{more}} That kind of political collaboration can happen in SVG too when there is a Prime Minister who is a statesman/woman right through. In this way, a nation building politics operates as a moral and cultural force, providing a value or standard for citizens to follow in their own conduct. Political maturity in leaders raises standards among citizens. When leaders and citizens have positive values in common, power becomes legitimate.

It is not unreasonable for us to pay to US President Barack Obama a tribute for saving the United States of America from a severe moral breakdown. Just imagine what could have happened to the moral fibre of the US if a president like his predecessor, George Bush, had been in office these past seven years. What is on my mind is not so much the reckless ventures into overseas massacres, the natural path for Bush type leaderships; rather I am calculating the moral index of America with a National Rifle Association condoning the right of men and boys to shoot up schoolchildren and teachers. I am looking at the stiff resistance to controlling easy access to guns; the righteous sounding crusade to deny health insurance to the ‘have nots’ of America; and I wonder if a movement against brutal police attacks on blacks — the ‘Black Lives Matter’ crusade, would have had such resonance under a president like the other candidates of the 2008 US presidential campaign. Without Barack Obama’s leadership and presence on those frontlines, the moral and cultural tissue of the USA would have been much more ragged and threadbare than it is. The political morality and rhetorical clarity of the nation’s leadership helps to enhance citizen standards and consciousness and also to hold back the march of crime, corruption and class domination. Political leadership must seek a moral impact or even more, a moral mission that it must accomplish if it is to be legitimate.


It seems to me that some governments and citizen institutions in Europe have been losing their legitimacy, or the respect of their younger populations in the present generation. That is how I interpret the search for meaningful lives that a small sample of citizens in Britain and some other European countries pursues in ‘terrorist’ organizations. If we take the case of Britain, at the level of political leadership over the past decade or two, the Prime Ministers have been lacking in a social purpose that embraces the citizens, with a focus on those at the edges of the good life. The passage from Prime Minister Tony Blair to David Cameron has not been a happy journey for the British people, and particularly the younger, poorer Brits who see their dreams sliding away out of reach. Blair, who seemed hooked on to George Bush’s coattails, and Cameron who has no clue as to what poverty tastes like, have made room in the minds of many young persons for new messages and missions to take some root. Now, some of them join political groups who make massacres seem glorious. When political power is illegitimate, watch out for dangerous fallout and unthinkable activity among those who are disaffected and alienated. SVG is getting its share.

One of the games that is on the schedule in the ULP’s politics is the Gonsalves to Gonsalves relay handover of political leadership. That relay may never be run, but I ask myself seriously, ‘Where in the younger Gonsalves’ politics do I detect that more profound quality of statesmanship and moral leadership that is hinted at in America’s Obama and the Bahamas’ Christie?’ That quality is not much in evidence, while at the same time, illegitimate power is already in the baton; so let’s not run that race.

To raise political power in SVG to a sufficient level of legitimacy and inclusiveness is not the mission of this general election. What will be the task of the citizens is to unseat the illegitimate power and in the new period, to raise a citizens’ movement, committed to seek and practise inclusion, and open a negotiation for citizen space in governance. We must be optimistic and vigilant, and assess and challenge all illegitimate conduct of politics. Legitimate power is no dream; it must become our work.