In 1971, a young American political strategist named Patrick Buchanan wrote a seven page memorandum to the then United States president Richard Nixon that epitomized the depth to which some will sink to hold on to power.
In the document titled Dividing the Democrats, Buchanan, a right-wing conservative, recommended, among other tactics, the use of abortion to deepen the split between Catholics and social liberals, eliciting white working-class support with tax relief and denunciations of welfare and exploiting racial tensions among Democrats.
“Bumper stickers calling for black presidential and especially vice-presidential candidates should be spread out in the ghettoes of the country,” Buchanan wrote in his memo to Nixon.
“We should do what is within our power to have a black nominated for Number Two, at least at the Democratic National Convention,” he suggested, adding that this could cut both the Democratic Party and the country itself in half.
“My view is that we would have far the larger half,” he wrote.
Nearly 50 years later, we fear that the Buchanan doctrine of political polarization is about to be unleashed here in the dirtiest and most naked form with the aim of not just splitting the country in half but to shatter it in tiny bits, too small to ever put it together again, so one party can have by far the larger half.
At a Democratic Labour Party (DLP) St Michael Central branch meeting at Bank Hall, St Michael last weekend, DLP stalwart Derek Alleyne gave more than just a strong hint that his party was prepared to go into the gutter if necessary, in order to secure a third straight term in office.
Mr Alleyne spoke of fighting the next election on moral grounds, leaving no doubt in the minds of the informed what he meant when he said “this same sex marriage thing” would be raised during the campaign.
“Who lives with whom is going to come up, as part of that election campaign,” Alleyne said.
“Make sure you get your representative of the area at church every Sunday,” he advised in what sounded very much like he was leading a noisy argument in a congenial hang-out for disputatious and less than sober men.
It goes without saying what the DLP means and who will be its biggest target. It is also difficult to figure out who gave the DLP apparatchik the certificate of title to morality and sanctimonious priggishness.
It is equally baffling that at a time when the economy is tottering like a man who has had a few drinks past the stage of drunkenness, when our ratings have sunk below the level of junk, when everything seems to be falling apart, the ruling party will choose to attempt to divide the country along moral lines.
It is puzzling as to why, instead of spelling out concrete measures it plans to implement to bring the country back on track, instead of marshalling Barbadians to come together to rebuild this nation, the ruling party would deliberately seek to drive a double-edged wedge through the heart of the country.
It is reckless divisiveness and open bigotry, and it is not the sort of qualities we expect from our leaders, even if it is a party struggling to gain the voters’ trust. We, as a people, are better than that.
Like every country on this planet, we have our political mavericks and clowns. But this was no tomfoolery from Mr Alleyne, because we have heard this song before.
Minister of the Environment and Drainage Dr Denis Lowe raised the issue on Mothers’ Day when he spoke of his opposition to the greatness of the nation being bounded up “in any individual who does not regard the importance of motherhood, of family, and of marriage according to the biblical standard.
“We want our boys and our girls to grow up in a society where they are not embarrassed because they live in a house where mum is a woman and dad is a man,” Lowe said back then.
Several months earlier, in late October last year, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler was the first to reveal plans to make morality an issue in the election.
“The next election is also going to be fought for the moral heart of this country,” declared Sinckler to loud applause as he addressed party supporters at a DLP meeting at the Deighton Griffith Secondary School, even as he accepted the economy would come up.
And in a naked appeal to the religious element, he said: “The discourse in this election, whenever it is called, will have to be about the morals of Barbados, because if they [Opposition political forces] feel that many of us good Christian soldiers are going to roll over and play dead, whilst they rampage around Barbados and bring their form of thinking to this country, they have another thing coming.”
Such division is not good for any country, let alone one as small as Barbados.
Like John Milton’s Lucifer in the 1667 epic poem Paradise Lost, it seems the DLP would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven.
However, its attempt at dividing our country into uncomprehending tribes will have consequences well beyond 2018, if we fall for it.
But we have faith that Barbadians understand prudence and probity and are wise to the hucksters – one all sides, on every matter – who try to peddle division and bigotry in an attempt to portray the other side as Evil in human form.
As our response to the recent disasters that struck our neighbours demonstrate, we are a fount of tolerance and warmth, something of which we all can be proud.