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Listen – Never count your chickens before they hatch!

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Fri, Oct 22, 2010

Editor: The results of the referendum of last fall seem to have unleashed a tirade to dislodge the incumbent government. The results of the vote have largely been interpreted as a referendum on the party in office. The Opposition seemed to have smelled blood and are now in a rabid rant, confident of victory at the next general elections, constitutionally due by the end of March 2011.{{more}}

One would have to be in denial not to acknowledge that to some extent the result of the referendum was in fact a reflection of the mood of the electorate as it relates to the performance of the incumbents. That said, general elections are a horse of a different colour. The Opposition, spurred on by some radio talk show hosts and others interpret the results as though they were general elections.

Recently I sat and in total disbelief and amazement heard a talk show host commenting on the results. He went constituency by constituency and enunciated how many votes each National Democratic Party candidate “won by”. I sat there thinking: “Wait a minute, I participated in that process, and as I recall, there weren’t any party symbols on the ballot – neither key nor star.

Fence sitters jumping into the fray

So emboldened are they and confident of victory that some usual fence-sitters and hitherto stealth supporters of the Opposition have now jumped into the fray. They along with the usual PIP (party-in-power) opportunists, who try to read the tea leaves on the eve of general elections, are positioning themselves to get on the gravy train of the winning party. They demonstrate chameleon-like tergiversation and an uncanny ability to variegate at the drop of a hat. Even the opposition-friendly News newspaper sounded a warning in its editorial a few editions ago, under the caption: “Counting Chickens!”

The achilles heel or chink in the armour that may yet stymie the aspirations and dash the hopes of the over-confident Opposition is called: “compartmentalization” – the ability of the electorate to segmentalize. To discern the difference between apples and oranges. To distinguish issues and policies from idiosyncrasy and personality.

The referendum was defeated for a myriad of reasons, ranging from persons objecting to individual clauses, sub-sections, general confusion, apathy, indifference and resentment. Not the least of which was the backlash against what was perceived to be, fairly or unfairly, the condescending attitude and intellectual superiority of the part of some proponents whose job it was to win over the electorate. Statements such as: “You have to have a legal mind to understand”, did not exactly help. It was as though some people reasoned: “Ok, so I am not a lawyer and I do not trust you lawyers to explain it to me, so I am voting NO!” They applied the same rule as in dealing with suspect processed food – when in doubt, throw it out!

Vote for the future

There are no such ambiguities nor apprehensions in the general elections. They are able to consciously and
subliminally compartmentalize. The issues are crystal clear. When voters go to the polls, they will vote for their future, guided by their consciences. To students hopeful of going on to university, the most important issue may very well be the “disadvantaged student loan program”; in which the prime minister signs a guarantor, thereby permitting hundreds of ordinary people’s children who otherwise do not have the wherewithal to attend institutions of higher learning to do so.

To others, international air access may be the deciding factor; the most vital piece of infrastructure for economic growth. Whether a casual traveler being able to get in and out of St. Vincent with less hassle. Or business persons and entrepreneurs being able to ply their trade with more efficiency and at lower cost.

There is precedent to a political party virtually having a swearing in ceremony before the results are tallied. At times they are fooled by slanted polls where leading and close-ended questionnaires result in predictable responses. The case of the nineteen forty eight (1948) United States presidential elections is such a case history: “Dewey Defeats Truman” was the famously inaccurate banner headline on the front page of the Chicago Tribune on November 3, 1948. However, Americans awoke to a Truman victory, and that issue of the Tribune became an instant collector’s item as millions scrambled to get a copy for posterity.

It ain’t over till it’s over!

The question is: Are voters interested in action-oriented policies that produce tangible results or are they going to be swayed and hoodwinked by comical antics, a discombobulating conundrum of empty platitudes, emotional clap-trap speeches and hocus-pocus?

Yogi Berra of baseball fame, notable for his many sage sayings, coined the phrase: “It aint over til it’s over”, or as another version goes: “It aint over til the fat lady sings.” So to those who boldly make the pronouncement: “We done win!” I say, not so fast!! Stay tuned.

Benson Plaugh-Feddows

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