Resident socio-political columnist, Dickson Igwe.


On a specific Facebook thread in April 2021, there were very interesting assertions on Virgin Islands politics.

First there was a call to move away from two party politics which has been a feature of politics in the territory for over 20 years. This old boy appreciated these assertions but he offered a caveat.

It is near impossible to move away from two party politics as viewed from THE international politics model. The reason is two fold.

First, established parties become institutional. They swiftly hijack the avenues to political, social, and economic power. These parties acquire a strong following owing to decades of political partisanship. That following is composed of powerful people and organizations.

It is difficult to remove this core component from party politics. At elections these followers and organizations are the financial and political capital that drives political campaigns. It is very difficult to challenge this two party hegemony.

Then there is the matter of brand. Brand is always a very powerful component of two party politics. Yes there are independents: politicians who will win with specific constituencies and constituents owing to factors such as family clout, very well organized grassroots politics, and simple energy. The preceding remains a rare species of animal.

However brand is the leading reason for the preponderance of two party politics.

Photo courtesy cottonbro, PEXELS.COM

Think of brand this way. We walk into a supermarket for soda. Frequently we will place the well-established brands in our shopping cart: Pepsi, Sprite, Coke -a-Cola. In fact the supermarkets will stock these brands notwithstanding their quality. The supermarket buyers know that stocking an equally good quality but lesser known brand will usually mean a loss of revenue.

It is the same with politics. Voters in the booth behave in much the same way. Voters will usually pick between the main political brands.

Now on a parallel vein, ideology is a reality ignored by Virgin Islands politics. However ideology is a fact of politics. Ideology is a constant that derives from centuries of world history. Concepts such as communism, socialism, capitalism, social democracy, fascism, and dictatorship did not arrive from nowhere.

The USA for example is described as a capitalist democracy: albeit recent years have made that nation appear more of a fascist state. Hopefully, with the election of President Joe Biden the thoroughfare called democracy may be back on track in spite of attempts by Republicans to make voting very difficult for blacks and minorities.

The UK is a traditionally social democracy, especially between 1945 and the Margaret Thatcher era when the ideologies of free trade and economic deregulation gained supremacy. Today the UK is becoming increasingly authoritarian with a capitalist culture that drives social and wealth inequality.

So, can Virgin Islands voters identify any type of ideology in the two party politics that drives the social economy?

The answer is yes.

For the Virgin Islands, economic ideology is clearly the key parameter that drives politics. To understand Virgin Islands politics look at how the political parties rule economically.

Ironically, an independent observer can identify ideology in the activities of the two parties from rhetoric and action.

One party follows a supply side economic type that favors business and foreign investment. That party’s ideology is the classic – what is good for business is good for the country. The party is allied to drivers of business and appears to be favored by foreign investors.

However the preceding assertion is not easily established until one looks at where the cash comes from at campaign time and who rubs shoulders with whom when the rubber meets the road on the campaign trail. When in power the party invests in projects that it believes drives business investment, first and foremost.

The second party appears to be more of a stimulus oriented social democracy. It thrives on the idea that what is good for the small man- Jack and Jill Average- is good for the country. It claims to be the party of public investment. But most important of all it has captured the public imagination as the party of – us versus them- ‘us’ meaning the party of the ‘small people.’ It has succeeded in that claim and in-spite of the recent social and economic crises – may well succeed again.

Effective politicians use ideology as a platform for establishing their visions, manifestos and policies. Voters use ideology to understand what they want from their politicians and political parties.

Ideology cannot be divorced from politics. 

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