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Money and Wishful Thinking

Acting PM Jack Warner and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley
Acting PM Jack Warner and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
July 08, 2010


Jack Warner is a sensible and successful man in his own right. He has achieved much and will go on to achieve many more things in his life. He brought the UNC to the pinnacle of success through his unceasing efforts and his unbounded energy. Today he is the acting Prime Minster. Much to the consternation of Messrs Basdeo Panday and Winston Dookeran he may be the prime minister of this land in the not-so-distant future. Expect the unexpected: that is the motto one can ascribe to Mr. Warner.

Yet, precisely because of his unenviable power he may be planting the seeds of his own demise. He can be seen everywhere; making pronouncement on every subject; even promising to change the society overnight into his image and likeness. In his latest pronouncement he has vowed "to wipe the PNM and [Keith] Rowley off the face of the political map of this country." He may be feeling his shamanistic power and glory but as my mother used to say, "dat and God face, he wouldn't see."

Politicians have a way of saying silly things at the height of their power. Warner is no exception. One only has to read Rowley's speech to the PNM's Special Convention to understand PNM's glorious past and Rowley's reasonable proposals for the future. This is why we must thank the Trinidad Guardian for reprinting his address. It is one of the more important political gifts it has contributed to the society. It takes us back to when a newspaper understood its function of providing information that allowed a reader-citizen to carefully analyze what a candidate or a party has to offer and the ideas informing their decision making processes.

It is not entirely true to say that the People's Partnership (PP) in its inchoateness cannot emerge into a political force that will have the staying power to take us to a new stage of our social development or bring together in a coherent manner the divergent ideas that exist within its fold. Nor, for that manner can we say at this point that PP will emerge as a permanent alternative to the PNM. Winning an election is not a sufficient condition to advance such a proposition. Constructing a sustained alternative to the PNM is the challenge that faces the PP.

Mature societies are built on ideas that accrue over years of its development. The United States is about two hundred and thirty four years old. It came into being as a political entity in 1775, adopted its first constitution in 1787, and added its Bill of Rights in 1791 that concretized the fundamental rights of all of its citizens. In 1789 George Washington became the President of the US and ever since then the society has been developing into the modern democracy that it is.

In other words, the US did not become what it is in one fell swoop. As it developed its federal system it had to strike a balance between the federalist-that is, those who believe in the power of the federal government-and those who believe in limiting the power of the federal government thereby emphasizing the sovereignty of the states or what is called state's rights. Our own Alexander Hamilton (he was born in Nevis, West Indies) headed the movement for the preeminence of the federal government while Thomas Jefferson advocated the rights and power of the states.

But how did the US achieve this balance between federal and state power and the rights of the majority-which a democracy promulgates-and the liberty of the minority which ensures justice for all in a society? They did so through a series of practices and discourses, chief among which was the Federalist Papers that was authored by Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay which were first published in New York newspapers. Eventually, these political essays, fifty one of them, came to be regarded the guiding models of political thought in dealing with principles of the American system of government.

No matter how powerful Warner becomes, he can never wipe out the legacy of our political history, particularly the PNM's history. Like the Democratic or the Republican parties of the US, the PNM has shaped the political culture of our national life for fifty four of the eighty five years in which we have elected members to our Legislative Council. More importantly, through their discourses, Dr. Williams and the PNM have set the stage for what constitutes a democracy in our society and nothing the PP does or Jack Warner says can change that reality.

That is why I was so happy that in his inaugural speech as the leader of the PNM, Rowley outlined where the PNM came from, how it was born, the significant contributions it has made to our political discourse and the development of our society, how it intends to recuperate from its past mistakes, and what it intends for the people in the future.

This is why Warner's statement was so politically na´ve. No modern political arrangement in India, after three months of existence, would have the temerity to say that it would wipe the Indian National Congress which was built up by Tagore, Gandhi and the Nehru off the face of the Indian political map, especially when one knows and understand the foundation that the Indian National Congress laid for India's independence.

Sometimes in their hubris, politicians refuse to learn from the past. One only has to look at the history of the modern GOP party in the United States to realize that a party that after it was trounced in one election it rose up to be victorious in future elections. In 1964 Barry Goldwater was humiliated in the presidential election. However, between 1964 and 2008, the Republican party stormed back to victory producing more presidents within that period than the Democratic party which just goes to show that politics is not simply about the here and now but how well one organizes a political party after it has been defeated. The PNM is no exception to this rule.

There is no doubt in my mind that the PNM will raise again in glory. It possesses the leadership, the history and the membership to do so and it will.

Professor Cudjoe email address is scudjoe@wellesley.edu

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