Jamaica has two political parties: the Jamaica Labour Party and the People’s National Party. Just by looking at the names, you probably already realised an important fact. These are both socialist democratic parties that share ideologies. This reflects how surreally united Jamaicans are, even if we do not often recognise this.
In fact, both parties fight each other mercilessly for power. Our PNP and JLP friends spend a great deal of time arguing during election season. Even in high school, parents and teachers warned us to avoid wearing party colours to stay safe.
PNP also ruled over Jamaica for a very long time. I was literally in college before I saw someone other than a PNP Prime Minister at the head of the country.
How the 2020 Jamaican Elections Made History
On September 3rd, not only did JLP win a second term, but the party won a landslide victory. Because political parties in Jamaica are not ideologically polarising, it would be unfair for me to draw any strict parallels between Democrats and Republicans.
Progressive Ideologies Won
However, PNP definitely draws an older crowd, while JLP attracts more millennials and zoomers. JLP also has a large number of women leaders in its body, which appeals much more to young liberals. So, for JLP to win the vote by a landslide, it gained the support of women, millennials, zoomers, and other contemporary progressives.
We Had a Record-Setting Win
So, what exactly is a landslide victory? There are 63 seats to be won in Jamaica. JLP won a whopping 49 seats, while PNP won an embarrassing 14 seats. The last time anything like this happened in Jamaica’s democracy was in 1983. That year, PNP thought it would be a good idea to “boycott” the elections. This led to a default victory to the JLP.
New Seats Won
This year, even the PNP town my family lived in was fully converted to JLP, for the first time in my lifetime. I turn 31 next October, so let that sink in. Many other people on Twitter shared similar stories about the communities they grew up in.
How Liberals Win Elections
When JLP won their first election in my lifetime, the year was 2007 and I was attending the Montego Bay Community College. This was the first time they won an election since PNP came into power in 1989, which is also the year I was born.
Not Trusting the Elections to Fate
When elections came around again in 2011, many JLP supporters felt that the results spoke for themselves and that the vote was in the bag. Subsequently, many JLP supporters did not vote and we lost to PNP. People lamented not voting, for years to come.
So, when 2016 came around, more of them voted and we won the election. This year, the coronavirus led to a very low voter turnout, but JLP continued with a lesson well-learned. They created one of the biggest political wins in our nation’s history.
Appealing to Younger Voters
Throughout JLP’s last term, we also experienced an unprecedented level of access to our ministers and other party leaders, because of social media. We can literally tweet the Minister of Health or the Prime Minister himself. Believe it or not, they often respond. Our tweets have affected policies countless times.
This more personable approach to politics humanized our Prime Minister. Before long, he earned the colloquial title of Brogad on Twitter, when he is on our good graces, and Anju, when he is not. This changed the political landscape for us, in the same that way Obama did when he made his appearances on talk shows and Buzzfeed.
Why Liberals Lose Elections Anyway
Again, both Jamaican parties are liberal. In my opinion, any conservative policies are a reflection of our Jamaican culture as a whole, not so much one party versus another. Even so, there are a few political parallels I can draw, especially when we treat JLP as the more liberal of the two parties.
Like I touched on before, JLP lost the vote in 2011, because so many supporters believed they did not need to vote. In 2016, America made the same mistake. Americans were so sure no one would vote Trump into power that many abstained. The end result is the mess we’re currently in.
This year, political analysts and onlookers believe PNP failed to attract a strong turnout for elections because the people did not particularly like the party leader. After the 2016 U.S. elections, every liberal I spoke to, who did not vote, told me they disliked Hillary. You will never get your perfect candidate, so choose from the options you have.
This is very closely linked to the idea of perfectionism. Once you dig into why liberals did not like Hillary, most had moral concerns. They abstained from voting because they felt they were too “pure” to vote for the lesser of what they considered to be two evils. Instead, they wanted someone who embodied all their values. Again, you will never get your perfect candidate. Choose someone or everyone else will choose for you.
Take a Lesson From the LGBTQIA Community
Fortunately, some Americans do understand how to win elections and why this is the first important step in ensuring liberal ideologies prevail. The group I have to give the most credit to is the American LGBTQIA community. Here’s why.
When Obama ran for office in 2008, that was the first year I ever paid real attention to American politics. I could not believe that America was potentially about to have a Black president. I was, however, disappointed to hear some of his initial thoughts on the LGBTQIA community. He very explicitly stated that he believed marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman.
In spite of this, every American LGBTQIA person I knew was campaigning on his behalf. They were loud and proud about their intentions to vote. Quite a few times I drew them aside and asked why they would vote for a man who did not support their beliefs.
Every single time, they would just smile and say they felt confident that this was the president who would make the change. There were also several who believed he already supported the LGBTQIA, but was only holding his tongue to win the vote. They believed he would make changes in their favour, at a later date.
He almost completed his first term in office and did not appear to change his mind. I felt sure the LGBTQIA community would abandon him out of disappointment, but they held on. It was May 2012 before Obama finally became the first American President to openly support same-sex marriage. It was 2014 before solid protections took effect.
Maybe you are a liberal who does not support the LGBTQIA community. You might not even like Jamaicans. Even so, there is a lesson to be learned from both of us. Sometimes, you have to vote for people who embody most of your values, exercise other civic responsibilities and privileges, and then hope for the best.
I don’t agree with everything Joe Biden says and I have a personal and non-political dislike for Kamala Harris. However, compared to the current political situation, I think they are the better team for reuniting the country, steering us to safety, and preserving widespread American freedoms.
To add to this, as an immigrant, I have spent the past five years living in America under policies put in place by leaders other people voted into power. I look forward to the opportunity to have my own voice heard, for the first time.
If you do not intend to vote, I implore you to change your mind. There are millions of American residents and citizens who only WISH they could vote — and are counting on you to make a good decision.
PS:- Not all Jamaicans agree that JLP is the more liberal party. I am drawing my leftie calculation by comparing the demographics both parties attract. Can you imagine living in a country where you can debate about which party is more left? Ha!