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RON IN COMMON: Lessons for Barbados from US election

ERIC SMITH, [email protected]

RON IN COMMON: Lessons for Barbados from US election

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THANKS TO THE Internet and the easy access to US television, Barbadians and most of the world are hooked on the presidential election to be held on Tuesday.

Some of us will pretend that we couldn’t care less about the outcome and have no interest in the vote, but the reality is that most Barbadians do have a view on the American poll, even if from a cynical standpoint.

After all, there is no country which shapes the world like the US.

This is why many people, whether in Flatbush or Eastern Parkway, New York or somewhere in Barbados will be on tenterhooks given how the contest has gone and the predictions of the polls.

Polls in recent voting in some major countries and cities across the world have been off the mark, so on this occasion, the option is for the exit polls.

Many Barbadians have openly indicated that they would prefer Hillary Clinton to be victorious. But they are those who see Donald Trump as a hero with his message which has resonated with the far right, whether the Hindu nationalists in India, France’s National front, the Party of Freedom in Holland, Italy’s Northern League Party, the UK Independence Party and the KKK in his homeland.

But there is a lesson from the campaign that will undoubtedly be repeated in Barbados whenever the next poll is held. It will be that of character assassination, politics driven by ugly and vitriolic attacks. Indeed, such behaviour will begin long before the bell is rung.

Unfortunately, voters will lap it all up depending on which side of the fence they sit, and often exaggerate the misinformation and downright lies. The media will be in for a hard time as politicians will identify journalists they see as supporters of one party or the other, especially if believe a journalist is not taking their side. Again it will be no different to what’s happening in the US. Yes, many journalists will also take sides.

The unfortunate thing is that after the elections we are supposed to settle down understanding that Barbados is bigger that either the Bees or the Dees and that the nonsense proffered is what is expected in the heat of a political campaign.

The promotion of dirty – and even deadly – politics in campaigns across the world has become an increasingly commonplace feature over the past five years but Barbadians ought to signal that they don’t want that kind of conduct.

What is required is an electorate willing to think for themselves and not simply follow the politicians and parties like sheep. The case of the Brexit vote in Britain in June, when many people voted on emotion and without thinking and then regretted the outcome, should teach us in Barbados a lesson.

The campaign should not be devoid of the issues and most importantly the solutions unlike what we have witnessed in the US presidential race. We must be wary of the dangers of social media and indeed cybersecurity issues while the importance of political debates cannot be underscored. We do not want promises which cannot be fulfilled.

Let us hope the next poll in Barbados does not reach the level of acrimony which has characterised election campaigns in many democracies. We need to keep at bay the venomous nature of politics. Hopefully it is not too late.