Bran McCartney: Savvy Politician or ‘Lotioner’?

Monday 17th, October 2011 / 10:45 Published by

This week we continue our discussion of the career of  Branville McCartney, Member for Bamboo Town and leader of the Democratic National Alliance.

McCartney’s departure from Ingraham’s Cabinet seemed impulsive to me, poorly thought out.  His explanations weren’t very convincing.  I wasn’t convinced that he had a serious philosophical difficulty with the FNM (Free National Movement) and I wasn’t clear what he meant when he said he wasn’t being utilized fully.

His promise to challenge for the leadership of the FNM was bold and refreshing, yes, but ultimately foolish, since you ought never to tell a man like Ingraham that you are coming for him.  You just come for him.  Even if he had the opportunity he wanted to challenge Ingraham at convention, I seriously doubt he would have met a fate that was any different from the one meted out to Paul Moss, someone with a better political mind in my opinion than McCartney.

Since launching the DNA, McCartney’s remarks have simply confirmed my impression that he is playing a game and if he wins, we may lose.  What really is the difference, in terms of philosophy and vision, between the FNM and the DNA?  The PLP and the DNA?  Why does the DNA exist—outside of the fact that Ingraham refuses to leave the FNM and let McCartney lead?

And the DNA leader fails at convincing me that he truly understands the challenges and limits imposed on those who are governing this country—or worse yet, he doesn’t care about reality; he wants to sell us fantasies.  Witness these remarks from his maiden speech as DNA leader: “Imagine sidewalk cafes, well-lit streets, rows of theaters especially designed for young Bahamian playwrights, and a downtown that is world renowned and envied by the rest of the world, with Bahamian art and craft galore! . . . Imagine a Bahamas where citizens are no longer prisoners in their homes; where burglar bars are not a necessity . . .  Imagine a tertiary institution that attracts students from around the world and joins the top ranks of colleges and universities around the world. Imagine a Bahamian Harvard. Imagine these possibilities! . . . If we put people first, then perhaps we would no longer boast a national grade point average of a D that has made the outside world question our brilliance and our intelligence.  If we put people first, perhaps it will move to an A that will once again make us the respected and competitive, intellectually brilliant nation that we were meant to be and that many expect us to be; not only regionally but globally.”

“The DNA is here to create the same paradise for Bahamians that only tourists and foreigners seem to enjoy. The DNA is here to encourage you to dream beyond your wildest imagination; we are here to dare you to think the unthinkable, to do the impossible.” -Branville McCartney’s address at the launch of the Democratic National Alliance, May 12, 2011

I’ve said this before: the language, the tool of the “lotioner” is hyperbole.  PLP leader Perry Christie and McCartney specialize in exaggeration and overblown rhetoric.  Ingraham, the bulldog, specializes in red herrings, the tactic of distraction.  COB a Bahamian Harvard?  Harvard has a $32 billion endowment.  The Bahamas’ budgeted expenditure this year is $1.9 billion.  No more burglar bars in Nassau?  Really? The DNA will deliver that?  The city of Nassau will be envied by the world?  A model city, sure, but envied?  By the world?  The Bahamas will have an A average in its schools?  Really?  Every student will have an A average?  Christie couldn’t have done a better job at painting pies in the sky.

Then McCartney proposed that the country deny children born to illegals the right to apply for citizenship—ever.  This is a reckless and foolhardy proposition.  Rather than ensure the nation’s security it would undoubtedly endanger it.  McCartney is gambling here: demagoguing really.  Trying to capitalize on fear and paranoia.  Dividing us instead of uniting us.  All Bahamians of Haitian descent, Jamaican descent, all Bahamians whose parents or grandparents, out of desperation, came here illegally should note well and vote accordingly.  I for one will not vote for a party that proposes something so destructive and inhumane.  Yes, we must guard our borders, yes we must work toward a system of legal Haitian migration for purposes of employment, but I don’t see how dooming children to statelessness creates a better Bahamas.

McCartney then accused the FNM of being in the pocket of the Chinese and challenged them to reveal who financed them.  He himself refused to reveal who was financing the DNA. How does that make sense?  How is that a new political approach?  If you are going to demand that people be transparent, shouldn’t you first be transparent yourself?  Otherwise you are just like all the rest – playing the game.

And recently, he criticized Ingraham for not running in Bamboo Town and sending Cassius Stuart instead.  Was he serious or was this a bad joke?  Why on earth should Ingraham run in Bamboo Town?  Will McCartney run in North Abaco?  Does he imagine he will win in North Abaco?

I am not convinced that McCartney is experienced enough, thoughtful enough, skilled enough to lead this country at this time.  What I see is someone who too often is shallow, a “lotioner”, someone posing as firm, determined, and possessing a vision.

When I mention McCartney’s weaknesses to DNA insiders they tell me it’s a team effort.  But McCartney wants to be prime minister, the most powerful office in the land and I just don’t trust his judgment.  I have some serious doubts about the competence of some of the people he has entrusted with major responsibilities in his party.

And I think he moved too soon.  And moving too soon tells me one of two things: either you really don’t understand how politics works in this country or you have a monumentally over blown sense of your political capital.

He has certain qualities that make him an excellent candidate–until he actually speaks. And when he speaks he either utters facile nothings or he reveals a willingness to say anything to gain an advantage.  That makes him at best reckless and at worst desperate.

But I may be wrong.  I probably don’t speak for the majority of Bahamians.  We know what an empty talking PM looks like.  We also know what headstrong leadership without vision looks like.  We want better.  I know there is a yearning for change in Bahamians of all generations.  We want and need inspiring leadership.  Strong, innovative, competent leadership.  I just don’t think McCartney and the DNA are what we want them so desperately to be.  Nonetheless, the DNA will probably gain more votes than any third party in the last 20 years.

People have to choose the better of three unpalatable options in this election.  And it ain’t gonna be pretty.  Is it better to go with the devil you know or the one you don’t?  Certainly, the PLP and FNM have themselves to blame for a lot of what they will suffer in 2012, because they refuse to renew themselves, despite the people’s yearning for rebirth.

Now, there’s another possibility: I may be dead wrong in accusing McCartney of delusions of grandeur.  McCartney may well know the DNA can’t win it all (I don’t think he’ll even win his seat in Bamboo Town). But he may be gaining immense pleasure from knowing he’s going to give Christie and Ingraham fits.  He may also have concluded that he has nothing to lose and that by losing in 2012 as head of the DNA he sets himself ahead of anyone else who may be aspiring to lead the PLP or FNM in 2017. And that would make him a lot more savvy a politician than I have given him credit for being.

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