Vincentian-style political strikeouts and home runs
EDiTOR: The American bat-and-ball game of baseball is the national sport in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean whose three countries make up most of the population and territory of the region.
In baseball a strikeout can occur when a player fails three times to hit the ball while swinging the bat, resulting in his being called out. A home run is scored when the ball is struck in a way that allows the batter to circle the three bases and reach home plate in a single play, earning his team one point in the process.
The Caribbean sport of politics is also characterized by strikeouts and home runs. Strikeouts occur when there are damaging scandals like the embezzlement of public funds, the imposition of unpopular policies like large tax increases, and, above all, constituency defeats.
Conversely, home runs are tallied when important achievements occur: the successful completion of a large public project, the granting of international honours, and, of course, the winning of a national election.
No better example of the role of political strikeouts and home runs is the nearly 20 years of gamesmanship that has played out in SVG.
As far as electoral wins are concerned, the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) has won five championships in a row while batting at the electoral plate. To make the analogy more precise, the ULP actually scored 49 home runs by winning two-thirds of the 75 seats contested in these five elections.
The ULP just won its latest political tournament based on at least four non-playoff home runs: completion and operation of Argyle International Airport in February 2017; election in June 2019 to a prestigious two-year seat on the powerful United Nations Security Council; the construction of several medical facilities across the mainland; and the promise of thousands of new jobs and economic spinoff effects in the international tourism industry over the next several years on the back of five mainland hotel and resort projects.
Viewed from the perspective of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), its game-losing strikeouts since 2001 include: boycotting Parliament like spoiled brats for weeks or months at a time on several occasions, most recently in 2014, 2016, and 2018, leaving their befuddled fans disenfranchising in the process; propping up a lacklustre batter, Arnhim Eustace, for 15 years without recognizing that he could never hit a home run against the charismatic and brilliant incumbent Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves; flip-flopping on the construction and viability of Argyle International Airport; and foolishly contesting the results of the 2015 election, a decision strongly criticized by the party’s founder Sir James F. Mitchell, who lead the NDP to four championships in a row, and who rightly opined that, “In my book, as I have said before and I will say it again: elections are won on election night … Name me the time that elections were won in the court. It doesn’t happen…. and when you are finished an election, in my book, number one, you have to concede defeat.”
This last electoral beating, actually consisting of a serial set of strikeouts, is emblematic of its defeats, because it means that the NDP has now been declared losers in the 2015 elections by eight different bodies over a period of nearly five years: (1) the voters on election night; (2) their very own NDP agents who voluntarily signed off on the election results after the second count; (3) an independent Organization of American States observer team; (4) an impartial CARICOM group of eyewitnesses; (5) members of the non-partisan SVG National Monitoring and Consultative Mechanism; (6) Supreme Court judge Brian Cottle whose legal decision on the NDP petitions contesting the elections in two constituencies was overturned on appeal because of a questionable accusation of “alleged bias”; (7) the Eastern Caribbean High Court in a case heard before Justice Stanley John on the same issue of numerous alleged election violations; and (8) finally, by the NDP party executive itself which quietly decided to drop their laughable appeal of Justice John’s verdict before the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court of Appeal, a decision we have only just learned about.
A fifth in a row political thrashing, the second last of which was achieved eight times, must be something of a Caribbean political strikeout record, a feat that surely gives new meaning to the term out. No wonder the NDP leaders have been called “political Flintstones.”