An Amen People vs. A Thinking People
As elections near, and the party faithful rally around their party leaders for the election party that is underway, I believe that Jamaicans can be divided between "Amen" people and "thinking people."
"Amen" people are those who do very little thinking for themselves. They do just enough, perhaps, to make a decision about what point of view to hold, and the rest of their lives defending that point of view against all comers.
They can't really explain why they support one party or another in rational terms. They probably can't say why they believe the religion they adhere to, either.
Their response when asked is "that's what my family believes" or "this is what I have always believed" or "the Bible says.... / the party leader says..."
They make up perhaps a half of the electorate, and fortunately for Jamaica, no single party has a tremendous advantage over the other in the size of their Amen corner. This might be why our democracy is such a vibrant and energetic one.
"Amen" people are easy to entertain and sustain -- all it takes is some sustained bashing of those who hold the opposing view, and some reminders as to why the holders of the prevailing view are better.
On the other hand, there are Jamaicans who are "thinking," and refuse to adhere to one point of view or another without giving it some serious thought. They could not care less which party is in power, but they do care what policies are being promoted and employed.
They vote with their minds, rather than with anything else, and support principles rather than people.
In this election, the competition has come down to a battle for those who are thinking, because the Amen votes are largely unchangeable. There remains a tremendous number of undecideds, up to 20% of the electorate by some measures.
In this context, a recent series of PNP advertisements seems to be a huge mistake. They are trying to make hay of the fact that Bruce Golding left the JLP for the NDM in the early 1990's, only to return in 2002. He did so because the JLP did not support his call for constitutional reform. He returned when they agreed to include these ideas on the party's agenda.
The PNP's ads are trying to paint him as a "Flip-Flopper" because he made these moves.
In other words, they are trying to appeal to those who value party loyalty, by emphasizing the fact that he has changed parties twice.
Unfortunately, all the ad does for the "thinking" person is to emphasize that Bruce is also a thinking person. All it does for the "Amen" people is to emphasize that he is not one of them.
The problem is that the PNP needs to be appealing to the thinking people who are undecided, not the Amen people whose minds are forever made up.
I have a sinking feeling that Portia herself is an Amen person, and might be thinking that most people are like her. Unfortunately, someone who values powerful ideas that benefits Jamaica, and puts them above their political future, and party loyalty, is the kind of politician that Jamaica needs more of.
The ad only serves to boost Bruce Golding's reputation as someone who the country needs.