BVI News

COMMENTARY: Demographic politics and the BVI

By Dickson Igwe, Contributor

The Virgin Islands population mix, demographic, and migration pattern matrix, and how it responds to Julius Caesar’s campaign rhetoric, is the great unmentionable in the room.

OK. Virgin Islands General Election seasons are a volatile, tumultuous, and exciting time for journalists, commentators and pundits. And one strategy in politics is termed: divide and rule.

Divide and rule works. Today, divide and rule is a very subtle game that uses demographics to leverage a general election campaign. OK. This Wannabe met a critical player in Virgin Islands 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 the demographics favoured his party. He was certain that was their trump card. This ‘’Idealist’’ responded, that he would never vote based on his personal demographic. Now, this voter is a BVI Citizen and UK born. He is 50 percent Kittitian, Nevisian, Trinidadian, and 50 percent Nigerian.

Based on that demographic the man- actually a friend despite vast political differences- stated that he expected Dickson Igwe to vote in a specific manner that would benefit his party. This Old Boy responded that he always voted 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: ear to ear. He squinted at lightning speed, and mischievously and further asserted: “Igwe! You too stupid, you na know that you one a we?”

Demographic politics

Whatever that meant! Yes! Demographic politics is potent politics. Why? Because demographic politics is tribal politics; it is politics based on them versus us: 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 — an ex British Colony — has inherited that “British Colonial Strategy” with it tumultuous and bloody politics.

Nigeria is the poster boy of demographic politics, with each tribe and population group voting in a uniformed manner, based on bloodline and tribal loyalties. Trump’s Pitchfork Revolution and Brexit are further examples of the politics of demographics. Trump – a rabid opportunist – smelled a political rat.

Trump observed that white working class men were very unhappy with their economic lot brought about by globalized economics, and the wealth and social equalities that globalization has driven. Trump decided that the best strategy would be to put the fear of ‘brown people’ into the hearts and minds of these white folk. Trump’s anti-migrant rhetoric worked dramatically.

Trump was elected President on a minority vote: “the angry white vote”. Today the USA is the most divided developed country in the western hemisphere. But 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 more in number than the “angry white working men” used by a billionaire salesman to get into the White House.

On election day, the ‘democratic party base’ — larger than the white Republican base that is shrinking owing to the higher fertility rates of Latinas – is equally angry. It will put pay to Trump’s politics of hate with the USA going moving hard left in spite of a Conservative Supreme Court. In the UK, 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.

UK racism

However, a closer look at Brexit revealed major demographic divisions. White working class men were overwhelmingly Brexiters. Minorities preferred Europe 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 to 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 British Virgin Islands, demographic politics is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. in the upcoming February general elections, politicians who are leveraging demographics as a strategy may believe they are playing a winning hand, just like that ‘thug’ stated when he met this ‘Johnnie Walker’ in Road Town.

And playing one tribe against the other may be a winning hand. However, as another politician stated: divide and rule is a losing strategy for the Virgin Islands community as a whole. A man or woman may become Premier by dividing up the Virgin Islands 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, US, and Europe. Vote vision, not tribe!

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  1. Longshanks says:

    I would bet a dollar that Trump will not be a one-term president. The demographic split is not uniform across the US and he can afford to ignore the democrat heartlands. It doesn’t matter if Massachussets votes for Democrat 100% or by one vote more than necessary – its electoral vote goes to Democrat.

    Also, Wales voted for Brexit.

    But interesting article, thanks, albeit it might be a bit subtle for me. What is the demographic divide which the politicians are playing in the BVI? I had assumed that given only belongers can vote that there is less to leverage, but was equally confused by politicians putting out things which would be positive for non-belongers. Is it possible to be clearer about what the issue is (appreciate that there may be sensitivities which have led to it not being discussed directly in the article).

  2. Bruce says:

    Excuse me sir, you are not an American. You don’t understand our politics or voters. That’s evident in your article. Our president won with votes from more than just white people. Just as the president before him won with votes from all people. Americans,and we make up all ethnic groups, voted for the candidate that understood the pain of socialism. And WE voted against socialism.

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  3. Sheila says:

    Bruce, mate, you need evidence to back up your assertion that this bloke isn’t one of you. Many fellas in the BVIs are American as well as BVIslanderish. But your point that it wasn’t just Bruces and Sheilas and other country folk that voted for Trump is well taken.

    One example among at least ten is Kanye West, a well known supporter.

    • Bruce says:

      Evidence? 40% Hispanic vote in 2016. That support is now 60%. 8% of Black voters supported Trump on 2016. That support is now over 30%. Smart people are not represented in the media.

      • Sheila says:

        “Evidence to back up your assertion that this bloke isn’t one of you”.

        I have no idea what passports Mr Igwe holds but reckon you probably don’t have a scooby-doo either, yet you say “Excuse me sir, you are not an American”.

  4. Political Observer (PO) says:

    @Bruce, Dickson clearly can defend himself. Nonetheless, here is a news flash. One does not have to be an American to understand US politics and its voters. For example, politically, the US is a divided country mainly between the two main political parties, Democrats and Republicans. The US is a melting pot yet it is divided along racial, ethnic, religious, minority, religious, social, economic, regional, demograhic …..lines. Political parties have clearly diffrent political philosophies. One party attracts mainly White voters with the other attracting mostly minorities and a variety of other groups(a big tent). The number of non-White residents will soon surpass the White population and Whites are getting antsy, fearing that it may be losing political power. To hold on to power, they are employing a myriad of voter suppression tactics instead of encouraging full voter participation.

    Moreover, racial hatred was being held somewhat under wrap (go along to go get along). But of late, people are feeling emboldened to wear their hatred on their sleeves. After the Civil Right Act of 1964, the South tacked solidly for the Republican Party. The Birtherism nonsense was employed against President Barack Hussein Obama who was borned in Hawaii (to a Kenyan father and White mother) to keep him from running for President against the late war hero, Sen. John McCain who was born in the Canal Zone, Panama. Millions of people still believe that President Obama was born in Kenya; many are still vex and waxing about how he became president, not once but twice. Further, there is a conscious effort to undo all his policies, ie, the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care), Iran Nuclear Deal, Asian Pacific Trade agreement, Paris Climate deal…..etc just because they happened under his presidency .

    The US is currently the number 1 economic force in the world; China is nipping at its heels. The divide, ie, racial, political, social,demograhic ……etc in the US is threatening its world leadership. China, along with other BRIC countries, is investing in and modernizing its infrastructure, ie, bullet trains…..etc while the US fuss about whether it should invest in much needed infrastructure. Demographics is playing a part in US politics and elsewhere. By the way, you do realize that every country has at least a tinge of socialism; capitalist countries have socialism and socialist countries have capitalism.

    • @Bruce says:

      @Bruce, oops, there it is! Apparently, you are locked in Trump’s orbit and needs to free up yourself, release from reality TV and find a way out.

    • Bruce says:

      Your understanding of our political system is basic at best. I can tell that you watch CNN, Clinton news network. You obviously don’t know that the Republican party was based on anti slavery. And, that many Republicans died for the cause. Lynchings were of Republicans. 4000 we’re Black . 2000 were white. They were ALL Republican. We are not divided based on ethnicity. We are divided because of arrogance and ignorance. And it’s dangerous because it breeds hatred.We tried socialism here when the pilgrims first landed. It didn’t work. Americans do not, I repeat, do not want socialism. Only lazy people and elitesie Branson and Obama and those like them want socialism. Hey try Venezuela.

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  5. Bruce says:

    By the way Sheila, my comment was directed at the disrespect and wrong headed assertions made about our great American President.

  6. Where's the data? says:

    SMH….What do we know about BVI demographics? Last census was in 2010 .My guess is there’s now plus or minus 30,000. I believe somewhere I read 60% are non belongers, so that leaves 18,000 locals. (BVI Labor statistics show that BVIslanders represent about 25% of the labor force) Of that probably 30% are too young to vote, so that leaves about 12,600 people qualified to vote. Say 75% are registered to vote, that comes out to be around 9,500. So, if there is 50% percent voter turnout means the fate of 30,000 is determined by fewer than 5,000 voters. That’s not a lot of voters to persuade using populist tactics including a tribalist approach (Outsiders vs locals, my party vs your party, etc.) I’d prefer to hope that the fate of the territory is based on who offers the most reasoned approach that unites us rather than divides us in solving the problems we face, and that ends the corruption and mismanagement that has brought us to our knees.

  7. duck1951 says:

    Socialism ! What a misunderstood and overused word used by politicians to score points . Aren’t Social Security and Medicare a form of that ? I would rather see a country have some type of universal healthcare and education system rather than catering to trickle down BS . Igwe is right .You must have a vision .

  8. Bruce says:

    Nothing is free!

  9. Bruce says:

    Social security is paid into by workers. A better system is to allow people to invest their money. Never give money to government for future promises of taking care of you.

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