By Dickson Igwe, Contributor
Niccolo Machiavelli was a prominent 15th Century political philosopher. He was political adviser to the Italian City State of Florence and its rulers.
Machiavelli’s summa work was ‘THE PRINCE’. In that historic work, Machiavelli stated that the love of the people was the strong fortress of the prince. The leader that was loved by his people was in a safe place.
Consequently, the converse must was true. The dislike and even hatred of the prince, by the people, would open the door for the prince to be attacked successfully, by his enemies and friends, internal and external.
The Prince that was disliked was in peril no matter how powerful his army and personal protection.
The loss of popular support is the politician’s worst enemy. It is the greatest evil Caesar faces. It is therefore ‘head scratching’ that politicians continuously forget, or simply ignore this vital political truth.
Now, this Old Boy had the privilege of sitting down to lunch with a ‘political titan’ some years ago.
The ‘Big Shot’ told this old boy something that remained ingrained in the mind.
He stated that, ‘when you have the support of the people you can do anything you like’. There was truth to that assertion. The Great Man for years after that dinner was very successful politically.
However, this writer noticed, that after the man’s organization was in power for a number of years, that ‘he and his buddies’ no longer lived by his very valid assertion.
The powerful organization appeared to grow detached, and even remote from the people.
OK, one example of Machiavelli’s theory of the political benefit of popular support is Donald Trump.
Trump is a political paradox. Trump – a very unlikely presidential candidate when he started his campaign- recently got elected US President with a minority of the vote.
The first weeks of Trump’s Administration have been tumultuous and difficult. Trump has failed to get through a number of his key initiatives.
However, Trump’s continued political survival is based on one important fact. Trump is supported by a base of supporters that appear ready to follow Trump into the very center of hell, if need be.
Trump is loved by a significant block of voters, much as he is hated by an even larger number of Americans. Trump’s support from his loyal followers is his FORTRESS TRUMP.
The love of his people has kept Trump swimming, and alive, in the shark infested waters of politics.
The day Trump loses that vital tectonic plate of popular support will be his swan song, his ending. Trump will disappear in an earthquake of ill will. Trump will sink like the Titanic.
Trump understands Machiavelli’s assessment of the importance of popular support both inside of government and outside it. The goodwill of Jack the Voter is a very valuable political asset.
And that is why Trump will drop everything at a moment’s notice – even as US President – and attend a rally of his supporters in some air hangar or stadium somewhere.
Trump understands the need to keep that vital link to Jack and Jill Voter. Trump has read his Machiavelli, or at least his advisers appear to have!
And Machiavelli would view the present political climate in the Virgin Islands with great interest.
A number of politicians in the Virgin Islands today inhabit a separate and unbridgeable parallel from that of Jack Public. Why?
Well, two factors that appear to have been ignored by politicians over the years are transparency and accountability. And this is not anything particular to this territory.
Governments worldwide tend to be opaque – non transparent- and unaccountable, especially after they have been in power for a substantial length of time.
Ironically, in modern complex society, transparency- the ability of Jack the voter to see what is going on at the deepest levels of governance – is actually good for both government and governed.
Transparency creates trust and confidence. When you have the trust and confidence of the voter you are very near ‘untouchable’ politically.
In any event, with the advent of social media and the obtrusiveness of the digital age, nothing is hidden for long.
Then, accountability is the reporting back to Jack the voter on the activities that have been undertaken on Jack’s behalf regularly and accurately. Accountability too, creates trust and goodwill.
Effective transparency and accountability could have saved Julius Caesar a whole lot of headache today.
Alas, there is something very perplexing in the air at the summit of ‘Mount Governance’. It is an anomaly.
It works this way: when the Great and Good ascend to those dizzying heights of power, they often forget who placed them at the mountain top in the first place.
They begin to act with impunity. Humility is lost. The people become an inconvenience that Caesar and his fellow senators would rather ignore.
It appears that, when Caesar reaches the summit of power, and this is not unique to these Virgin Islands, he places transparency and accountability in a trash can.
He then kicks the can over the precipice causing it to come crashing to the bottom of the mountain.
Caesar then carries on like everything is ‘hunky dory’.
However, the long suffering voter is always watching. He may appear silent, but sooner or later his anger simmers to the surface.
And that is what has happened in the territory in recent times. For all the ‘back and forth’ on whether one ‘super official’ should have, or should not have acted in a specific but constitutional manner, the key question is how did matters get to this point.
They got to this point because as this Old Boy’s Big Shot Friend stated, when they met for lunch, ‘when you have the support of the people you can do anything you like’.
But the people have abandoned my good friend and his associates it appears. And another Caesar may have picked up their support.
The people currently support the present status quo. So the best thing Julius Caesar can do at present is look at how he found himself back at the bottom of the ‘proverbial mountain’.
Maybe it has something to do with Machiavelli’s assertions on Caesar’s lovability. How did Caesar lose the love of Jack and Jill?
Paradoxically, there is another Caesar in opposition who seems set to ride the current wave of the Reigning Caesar’s unpopularity to power at the next election.
For now, he appears unstoppable. Not that he and his soldiers are any more or less loved, than the courtiers in the court of the present and reigning Caesar.
The New Caesar has just found himself in the right place at the right time. He is presently on the right side of history.
Whether he will pluck defeat from the jaws of victory is entirely up to him and his supporters.
The people are watching him closely too.
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