The Virgin Islands’ demographic and migration patterns, and how these are used in the election campaigns, is the great unmentionable in the room.
VI election seasons are a volatile, tumultuous and exciting time for journalists, commentators and pundits. And one strategy in politics is termed “divide and rule.” It works. Today, divide and rule is a very subtle game of political chess that uses demographics to leverage a general election campaign to the advantage of a political party.
This writer met a critical player in VI politics last Tuesday morning as he ambled about town. This man is a super campaigner with one of the big two parties. He stated that demographics favour his party. He was certain that was their trump card. In response, this writer stated that he would never vote based on his own personal demographic, or tribe.
Now, this voter is a VI citizen who was born in the United States. He is 50 percent Kittitian, Nevisian and Trinidadian, and 50 percent Nigerian.
Based on that demographic the man — actually a friend despite vast political differences — stated that he expected Mr. Igwe to vote in a specific manner that would benefit his party.
This writer responded that he always votes on policy and vision — and never tribal instinct. He further told the “political thug” that he will be voting on what party offers the best future for his children and grandchildren. Period.
As yours truly ambled away from a tense exchange, the “political activist” smiled in a roguish manner. He blinked at lightning speed, and mischievously asserted, “Igwe! You too stupid! You na know that you one a we?” Whatever that meant!
Yes, demographic politics is potent politics. Why? Because demographic politics is tribal politics. It is politics based on them versus us: in other words, tribal division.
In colonial times, the British were expert at divide and rule. The British kept various ethnic, religious and racial groups at each other’s throats as a potent way to manage “troublesome savages.”
Today, Nigeria — a former British colony — has inherited that “British colonial strategy” with its tumultuous and bloody politics.
Nigeria is poster child of demographic politics, with each tribe and population group voting in uniform manner based on bloodline and tribal loyalties.
United States President Donald Trump’s Pitchfork Revolution and Brexit are further examples of the politics of demographics.
Mr. Trump, a rabid opportunist, smelled a political rat. He observed that white working class men were very unhappy with their economic lot brought about by globalised economics, and the wealth and social inequalities that globalisation has driven.
He thus decided that the best strategy would be to put the fear of “brown people” into the hearts and minds of these white folks. Mr. Trump’s anti-migrant rhetoric worked dramatically, and he was elected president on a minority vote — the “angry white vote.”
Today the US is the most divided developed country in the western hemisphere.
But Mr. Trump will be a one-term president based on the hatred he has cooked up. Why? Because of cause and effect: America’s brown people, women and white liberals are greater in number than the “angry white working men” used by a billionaire salesman to get into the White House.
In the United Kingdom, Brexit was a similar story — albeit unintended at first, when the 2016 referendum to get out of Europe was won by 52 percent of the UK’s population.
However, a closer look at Brexit revealed major demographic divisions. White working class men were overwhelmingly Brexiters. Minorities preferred Europe — probably in part as a protection against UK racism.
There were regional differentials in the 2016 vote. Northern working class towns and northern and midwestern city areas voted Brexit. Scotland and Wales voted remain. London and specific regions in the southeast voted remain. And so on and so forth.
The paradox of Brexit is that the white working class voters who voted to get out of Europe have the most to lose, as economic numbers clearly show today. Demographic politics has not been good for Britain. Today that demographic differential has created two parallel societies. Brexit may indeed tear the UK apart.
In the VI, demographic politics is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Leading up to the Feb. 25 general elections, politicians who are leveraging demographics as a strategy may believe they are playing a winning hand, just like that “party thug” told this writer Road Town.
However, as another politician stated, divide and rule is a losing strategy for the VI community as a whole. It will further divide the community.
A man or woman may become premier by dividing up the VI community into tribes, ethnicities and races. In the long run, that type of politics will always backfire. If you do not believe that, take a look north and see what is happening in the UK and US.
Vote vision and policy, not tribe!
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