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Big money and elections

Wignall's World

Mark Wignall

Sunday, November 11, 2012    

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In the just-concluded US presidential elections, really big bucks were spent, especially by billionaires backing the crazy causes of the Republican party.

In the end it proved that if voters were sufficiently charged up on causes that mattered deeply to them and, if the election machinery was clinically organised to get to them, money in support of lies will only reinforce the beliefs of the crazies and stir the will of the concerned to get up, out, stand in line and vote.

The real winners were the electronic networks which aired these ads. They must be now considering huge Christmas bonuses for their main players.

One billionaire blew US$54 million (small change for him) on GOP causes. Most election spending was in the form of TV ads and in paying staff over a long election campaign. We have been informed that some GOP staffers found that their credit cards were cancelled within an hour of President Obama being declared the winner. The love may have been there, but it operates on the clock.

Maybe next time the Americans can learn something from us. Here in Jamaica, although we do spend money on TV and radio ads, most are just plain stupid ones designed to attract the attention of the moronic. One PNP radio ad of last year urged voters to vote PNP if they wanted 'nice times to come back again'.

It is my contention that if one can be swayed by an inanity like that, one deserves any time, even time in a mental ward. But I had said that the Americans could learn something from us simply because we have learned the usefulness of the short circuit.

Instead of airing expensive ads in an environment where the laws on campaign funding are non-existent, plus, significant sections of the electorate are low-information voters, we simply dole out hard cash to potential voters.

One of the ploys, played by both the PNP and the JLP, is to target one's opposition voters on the day before elections, pay selected numbers of them in key areas, say, $3,500 each, get them to dip their voting finger in the indelible ink and voila, it ensures that the vote for the other side is suppressed. Come election day, that voter cannot wash off the ink and hence, cannot place a legitimate vote for his party.

Additionally in Jamaica, candidates oftentimes run election funds through specific bank accounts set up in the name of the candidate. He or she is free to plunder the funds at any time, especially after the elections. Once the election is held, any funds still in the account is transferred to the personal account of the candidate, winner or loser.

In America, there are harsh, well-policed laws on funds for election campaigns; not so in Jamaica. In Jamaica, a 'druggist' will approach a politician in the heat of the election campaign and offer him, say, $5 million in cash, and nine out of 10 times those funds will be accepted. Quite possibly the first action on the part of the candidate would be to place a million or two in tranches in his personal account.

It has always been accepted that big money usually wins elections. In America, the side with the deeper pockets lost not just because the core message was off, but long before that the Republicans had alienated too many of those not considered to be part of 'traditional' America, that is, Latinos, Blacks, Asians, the young and educated women.

In Jamaica, the educated are drifting away from the voting process and the present party in power loves it. While both parties pay lip service to the dangers of a shrinking electorate and the perils it poses to the democratic ideal, the party which has more low-information voters supporting it actually prefers a decreased electorate.

One, the same amount of election funds can be used to chase down fewer voters and one doesn't have to appeal to pressing issues of national importance. Just promise them 'nice times', rum and jerk pork. Then, have funds left over to transfer to one's personal bank account.

If one wins and is not appointed to a plum Cabinet post, skilful demands to the business community can continue to be made for 'ongoing developmental projects' in the constituency. Many times the projects take the form of the latest girlfriend and weekends on the north coast.

In America, the Republicans would like us to believe that they are the party of God, traditional family values and America. When President Clinton had his dalliance with young White House intern Monica Lewinsky (can't carry butter to puss mouth), the Republicans lathered up and went at him. Even those in his own party, like the late Ted Kennedy, went for the jugular.

Eventually Clinton was impeached, but survived because ordinary Americans loved him.

I am never usually saddened whenever a so-called straitlaced Republican is found in a closet with either one of his same sex or with a girlfriend. Hmm, they're human after all.

That said, after the spending of billions of dollars on the recent presidential elections, it may make more than some sense for us to take another look at the way our political parties are funded. Presently, it is a free-for-all frenzy.

That brutal attack on suspected gays

The very thought of two men 'getting it on' is repugnant to me.

I consider myself fairly intelligent and I am at a loss to comprehend the huge gulf between my views of tolerance for homosexuals and the views of the 'average' Jamaican in relation to the recent incident at UTech where security guards assaulted a suspected homosexual.

Even more troubling is the report that students from that university wanted in on some of the action, that is, the beating.

'Dem fi dead,' said my Rasta friend. He and I have always had that discussion whenever homosexual incidents and violence crop up. Then he relates to me a matter involving a 'big man' from the ruling class who moved into an affluent neighbourhood near him many years ago.

'Him tun all di young buoy dem inna b.... m..'

After pointing out to him that about eight per cent of the population is homosexual and that they cannot help but be what they are, I said to him, 'Is it not possible that these young boys were already that way but were repressing their feelings due to rage against the lifestyle in Jamaica?'

'No!' he said. 'A him tun dem so!'

To me, the most fundamental attribute of intelligence is the acceptance that others will be different from me, in political viewpoints, religious beliefs and even in sexual orientation. That is known as tolerance, even though we may have heated discussions.

If two men want to indulge themselves in sex with each other, it is no business of mine, just as long as it is not done in the public space. Indeed, in this country we frown on the idea of a man and a woman having sex in a public bathroom. We call them 'nasty'.

Most 'average' Jamaicans I speak with are extremely straitjacketed on sexual matters but very bullish on the basics. One older man said to a small gathering of men that he could never live with a woman who wanted to indulge him in oral sex, although he had no problem with getting some outside the home. Strange.

The 'typical' Jamaican wants to intrude on the sex life of homosexuals, to the point of jumping the fence, beating down their door and assaulting them.

"What is it about a man that he would have the time to join a mob and 'drop a lick' on a suspected homosexual?" I asked a group of men.

One man turned to me and said, "Missa Mark, yu always a defend dem. Why?"

In Jamaica, one has to tread lightly on such matters. "My brother, my point is, if dem over fi dem side a di fence an me ova yah so, whey me a go ova dey an trouble dem fah?"

He turned away. My Rasta friend said, "Dem fi dead!"

The incident at UTech offers a full display of the lack of basic intelligence in our young people. To be fair, when I was in my teens and 20s I was most horribly anti-homosexual to the point of congratulating those who would beat them, although I was never at any time in my life a supporter of mob action.

To me, the society has not sufficiently advanced, even though much of our political antagonisms have been lessened. I believe it has something to do with our 'SexQ' as in IQ. We are woefully unintelligent on sexual matters and those students and security guards are perfect examples of it.

We already know of the shame of the need for remedial English at university level. Do we need remedial sex education at that same level?

observemark@gmail.com

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