But when it comes to standing up in the Legislative Assembly against the practice of “vote buying,” Mr. Connolly — unable to muster support from his colleagues to introduce systemic reforms — stands alone.
Proverbially speaking, Mr. Connolly flung the first rock at this beehive back in May, saying, “What I … have found in my two years in politics is that, on top of social services, the norm is to go to your politician for a ‘top up,’ so you don’t have to go through the proper channels and that, in my view, is wrong.”
He continued, “My own view is that it serves to absolve those politicians that do hand out money from having to cure the issue for another month. It’s shut-up money.
“When did it change that proud, able-bodied Caymanians would rather not work — even for entry level pay — but go to politicians for cash and rely on social services instead?”
Judging by the ensuing consternation among Cayman’s political class, Mr. Connolly’s aim was true. (For our part, we said at the time in an editorial: “If Diogenes is still looking for an honest man, tell him to stop. We have found him.”)
Mr. Connolly took another shot at the topic in October, during discussions over “one man, one vote.” He said, “I saw firsthand during the last election, money being handed out. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking elections can’t be bought.”
The government approved the implementation of “one man, one vote” — specifically, transitioning to a system of 19 single-member voting districts — for the 2017 election, but without Mr. Connolly’s proposals to outlaw vote buying and to enact term limits for legislators. Not only were Mr. Connolly’s ideas not adopted, apparently they were not even given serious consideration.
Responding to Mr. Connolly’s concerns, Premier Alden McLaughlin said, “In my experience … you don’t buy any elections. You may influence a few votes here or there … but you don’t buy elections.”
Ponder Mr. McLaughlin’s statement, which we think is a concise summation of the conventional wisdom prevailing among both of Cayman’s major political parties.
As Mr. Connolly rightfully points out, fostering an informal system of political patronage — where individuals obtain assistance by directly lobbying elected representatives — subverts legitimately structured public assistance programs and thwarts their intent, which ideally should be to empower people to break free from dependence on others … not addict them to it.
Last week in the House, Mr. Connolly reiterated his concerns about vote buying and expressed his disappointment about the lack of support from his colleagues.
He said that when politicians decide who gets handouts and who doesn’t, such “charity” could be seen as “corruption.”
He said, “That could easily turn from one ‘c’ word to another.”
We have received a considerable feedback on Mr. Connolly’s remarks. Many of our readers agree with him. Many don’t.
One of our regular commenters was particularly, and characteristically, candid. She said the anti-vote buying motion would “cut [Mr. Connolly’s] voting popularity in half with the people.”
She said people look forward to the “turkey, ham or fruit basket at Christmas, or a $50 food card now and then.”
She said, “There are people who need that, and they deserve it, and I do not call it vote buying.”
Suggesting lawmakers start saving now for the goodies they’ll soon be giving away to voters, our commenter said, “Come 2017, politicians will be crawling up people’s front door for that one ‘X’ that can get them in. … The ‘X’s’ have never been free.”
Really? Our view is that in a free society, the “X’s” must always be free. Anything else is too high a price to pay.