Power 101 by Ian G. Strachan
What do you need to do to get power in BaHAMaland? Let’s run down this list quickly for those of you who don’t know and are trying to figure out the science. If you don’t have the heart or stomach for this game, stay out and join become a volunteer somewhere instead.
Clothes and Colors
No matter what kind of power you are aiming for, you need to look the part. You have to get it right. To win an election, it’s smart casual for televised press conferences, and sporty golf shirts with the party logo for rallies and door to door campaigning. Stay clear of the three piece pin striped suit, it’s a bit much.
Now as for the people, they love free things, including clothes. Make the colors bright. Like children, the voters are drawn to bright colors. Yellow and red are strong; they exude success, virility. People like to fit in; they want to be on the winning team, the t-shirts and hats give them that “all a we is one” feeling. Besides, this is a carnival culture. Buy the people t-shirts, streamers and pompoms. And then watch them put on their costumes and wild out.
You need to destroy the character and reputation of your enemies. You better do it and don’t be squeamish because your enemy’s doing it to you as we speak. The best way is to set up a blog or website with an “anonymous” author who can spread the vicious rumors while you stay clear of lawsuits. But you will have to dog your adversary out while going door to door as well.
Now when he scandalizes you back, don’t panic. If it’s sweet hearting or stealing money he pins on you, you’ll be ok. Scandals ironically help voters feel superior to you; it gives them the opportunity to “do you a favor” by overlooking your indiscretion and voting for you any way. The appropriate response is to humbly praise and thank the people of your “great” constituency for allowing you to serve.
Let’s face it, people hate the truth. We already know the truth and we don’t want you to tell it to us. When we want the truth we’ll talk to each other, thank you very much. We want to hear some b*llsh&t from you. Tell us everything is going to be wonderful once you’re in charge.
Now, you can avoid lying for as long as possible by simply not answering questions properly. Evasion, circumlocution, distraction, use em all. But eventually, inevitably, you will have to say “you don’t know” when you know, “you don’t have information” that you have, and “you’ll look into something” you won’t look into. Besides, lying also keeps your enemies of guard. Tell them A and do B. That’s a fundamental strategy when dealing with people you need to out maneuver, keep off balance or catch by surprise.
Elections are like Christmas. Everybody wants a present, no matter how small. If you want to gain power you must be prepared to give as well as to receive. A 50 here, a yard there, a washing machine here, a light bill there. Just be smart about it and spend someone else’s money, not your own.
Freshly paved roads make me feel happy, and I am not the only one. When you live on a rock and the traffic is bumper to bumper in all four directions from sun up to sun down, Monday through Friday, you don’t then want to drop 5 feet deep into a pothole and break off your front fender. That will just make you bitter beyond words. So yes, please pave the roads.
You ain’t serious about getting elected if you can’t do some major hiring a month or two before election. If you’re in opposition, all you can do is promise. But you better promise.
The cool thing about credibility is that you don’t actually have to be the credible one. You just need someone credible trailing around with you. A credible person is like someone with a highly contagious disease, you will “catch” some of their trustworthiness if you hang around them long enough. It has to be someone that ranks really high in the respect polls, particularly if you have had a number of scandals, or if you are not very well liked, otherwise the association will have the complete opposite effect. Next thing you know a previously credible person suddenly has a shot through reputation, and you have gained nothing.
Don’t let pride stop you from making a poppy show of yourself and the entire campaign. Poppy shows have high entertainment value and Bahamians like a good show. If you can’t put on a show you need to go home or step aside and let someone else lead. With the thousands gathered, with the television cameras trained on you, with 100,000 souls sitting in their living rooms longing from the golden light that will drop from your mouth, with the fate of the nation hanging in the balance, this is when it’s time to . . . dance like it’s New Year’s Eve night on Bay Street; pull out a funny ole hat and talk some nonsense about Obeah; pull out some boxing gloves and practice the Rope a Dope; recite the lines of some popular calypso or concoct a little slogan. Whatever it takes. Make the herd laugh. Poppy show.
From Ian G. Strachan’s “East Street Blues” column that appears every Thursday in The Nassau Guardian.