The tone of political rhetoric
Over the last few weeks some very aggressive rhetoric has been exchanged between the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the Free National Movement (FNM). During elections, debates should be fierce, but they should also be decent.
Former PLP Cabinet Minister Leslie Miller has called for a ‘truce’ between the PLP and FNM during the remainder of the election season. Miller has made public jokes about State Minister for Social Development Loretta Butler-Turner’s weight and accusations directed at National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest that Turnquest said have offended his wife and family.
Turnquest has uttered homosexual innuendo about PLPs and also used words like rape and prostitution. The FNM’s candidate for North Andros and the Berry Islands Desmond Bannister said the PLP had a bunch of geriatrics at its recent North Andros event. Among those sitting up front were former Governor General A. D. Hanna, Dame Marguerite Pindling and retired Archbishop Drexel Gomez.
Politics is not for the weak and timid. To enter the political arena one needs to be able to withstand attacks of all types. Some of these attacks pertain to ideas, some to past conduct, some to the conduct of friends and relatives, some to relationships.
It is fair and reasonable for political adversaries to scrutinize the records of opponents. In fact, such scrutiny by opponents and the media is essential to the functioning of our democracy. The party that wins the general election will exercise executive control of the government. The electorate should be presented with relevant information by the media and other parties so it can make the best possible decision.
A line should be drawn, though, at personal attacks that have nothing to do with governance, politics or policy. Calling someone fat, for example, should not be part of the process. Similarly, suggesting that people are gay, to disparage them, should not be how we campaign. It is not illegal to be gay or fat in The Bahamas.
Furthermore, candidates definitely should not accuse opponents of crimes of violence they have no proof of. Such an act should be condemned by all sides and should not be repeated from any political platform.
The nastier the personal attacks get, the more hostile the relationship gets between Bahamians on the various sides of the political divide. If the rhetoric between the sides gets violent in nature, it is possible for supporters to take those verbal sentiments and to transform them into deeds and actions.
For the most part, there has been little violence in Bahamian politics. This is something to be proud of. It indicates that as a people we are able to disagree aggressively without needing to inflict physical harm on each other.
We should all work to keep our politics this way – aggressive but not unduly hostile. In doing so we keep our country stable. The Bahamas has had four murder records in five years. Our politicians need not add hostility through public discourse in a nation that already has a violence problem.
Mar 12, 2012