Bahamian pundits have come out of the woodwork to express their opinions as to why the FNM lost the 2012 General Election. Opinions range from the foolish drivel of Ortland Bodie to the reasoned analysis offered by columnist Larry Smith.
But not one of them have hit the nail on the head.
Ortland Bodie suggests that Mr Ingraham lost the election because the Prime Minister refused to appear as a guest on Mr Bodie’s radio programme.
In a letter to the newspapers which, curiously, always have room for Mr Bodie’s vindictive diatribes, the disbarred lawyer said:
“I predicted, months ago that any political leader who did not appear on the most influential and listened to radio talk show in the nation would, ultimately, lose the now mercifully concluded general election.”
What a pompous fool.
He notes that Perry Christie appeared twice and Mr Ingraham never appeared on his show.
“The rest is history,” Bodie says, so full of himself he might explode.
One thing is certain… an appearance on Mr Bodie’s radio show meant nothing in terms of an election win or loss.
Leading up to the election, many people were saying that the country was ready for real change. Bran McCartney and the DNA made this their mantra. Obviously, that prognosis was dead wrong. Not only did the DNA not win one seat, but the re-election of Perry Christie’s PLP, which has been in power for the majority of the country’s independence, hardly indicates change, especially when the PLP was running many of the same scandal-ridden candidates.
It wasn’t change the people wanted, but a return to the “good old days”. Bran McCartney himself summed it up nicely when he said the election of the PLP was a step backwards, not forward. And it was certainly not the change Mr McCartney envisioned.
Some go so far as to say that the DNA caused the FNM’s defeat at the polls. That is patently absurd. In actuality, the DNA siphoned almost as may votes from the PLP as they did from the FNM. The impotence of the DNA is reflected in the fact that not even their leader, Bran McCartney, could attract enough votes to retain his Bamboo Town seat.
Another reason for the FNM loss, that was proferred by pundit Larry Smith, had to do with Hubert Ingraham’s hardline – some say “dictator-like” – personality. That too is nonsense, as most Bahamians prefer decisive leadership. Even Perry Christie has promised to be more decisive in his latest reincarnation, particularly in light of the report by an American polling firm that said his indecisiveness was one of the major reasons the PLP lost the 2007 election.
Others have cited the cost overruns and mismanagement of the New Providence Road Improvement Project as a major cause of voter defection from the FNM. Yet, those same critics are among the first to praise the new roads as they whiz across town in half the time it used to take. In fact, the biggest critics of the road project fail to realize that the slow pace and mismanagement was mostly the fault of Bahamian workers, not the Argentinian construction company that is being blamed. And if Leslie Miller has his way, and the Argentinians are booted from the country to make way for more Bahamian workers, you can bet the roads will take even longer and cost even more to complete.
Nor, was the sale of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company the “game changer” in this election. Despite all their negative rhetoric, there is not one PLP supporter who has not benefitted from the sale of BTC and many, many Bahamians received huge payouts during the sale process that financially enriched them and their families. The new management of BTC has done an excellent job and even the most staunch critics will admit (in private) that the sale of the company was a wise and timely move.
The fact that the public can now invest in and actually own a piece of BTC is revolutionary and truly empowers Bahamians.
So what was the real reason the FNM lost the election?
Marketing, plain and simple.
The FNM tried to appeal to logic, the PLP wisely chose to appeal to emotions.
Former FNM MP Desmond Bannister said, “Our message didn’t resonate with them (the Bahamian public) in this election sufficiently for us to win.”
He’s right about that.
It didn’t matter that the FNM really did accomplish many good things in the last five years. And it didn’t matter that most of the PLP’s statements were lies, half-truths or otherwise deceptive. What mattered was that the PLP played on the emotions of an intellectually immature and overly emotional, xenophobic public; the same way that many corrupt pastors do to enrich themselves at the expense of their congregations.
And how could the Bahamian public be so easily duped by marketing propaganda?
Because, as FNM supporter Shonell Russell told a Tribune reporter, “Because the Bahamian people are stupid. Instead of going forward, they want to go backwards.”
That statement may seem insultingly hurtful, but it is true. With so many Bahamians functionally illiterate and not prone to deep thinking, many Bahamians could not tell the difference between emotion and hype, so it was easy to dupe them.
History is full of examples of lousy products and people being marketed successfully. From the Pet Rock to Britney Spears, it has been shown that marketing and media manipulation is all about perception, not quality or talent.
The PLP’s catchy slogans and well-orchestrated campaign (exclusive of the disingenuous murder rate billboards) had more emotional appeal than anything the FNM put out. And everyone in marketing knows that people make buying (voting) decisions based on emotion. Marketing must use emotion to sell what people want, not what you think they “need” or want them to need.
Logic is boring. The world is a busy, cluttered place with advertisements and messages everywhere. If your message is boring, you don’t stand a chance.
The PLP hit on what Bahamians want, and what they hate. They played on the things that keep people awake at night and events they dread. They understood what it was that Bahamians were emotional about and they designed their campaign to address those emotions.
The PLP used catchy slogans and advertisements that harmonized with the emotions of the Bahamian public, allowing them to to turn people on and off at will. This is the greatest and most profitable form of marketing, and always will be.
Now, with 97 days left in his first 100 days, Perry Christie has a lot to do in order to live up to the promises he made.