“What a long, strange trip it’s been.”
– “Truckin’,” The Grateful Dead
Election Day is tomorrow. We have reached the end of the 2017 campaign trail, the first one blazed under the Cayman Islands’ “one man, one vote” electoral system.
The journey has been alternately both boring and lively, disappointing and illuminating, insipid and elevated – but ultimately, historic.
The choices that voters make on Wednesday will have substantial consequences for the country and its inhabitants for the next four years and beyond. The campaign may be thought of as a sort of game. The election, on the other hand, is unmistakably real.
That is why we urge Cayman’s 21,228 electors, when they arrive at the country’s 19 polling stations, to vote with their minds and consciences fully engaged, and not for any other reasons. We strongly suggest that before the ballots are cast, each voter take the time to read and re-read the four front-page stories (and accompanying editorials) we published last week on what we believe are among the most significant issues facing our islands:
- Immigration and Permanent Residence
- Long-Term Public Sector Healthcare Liabilities
- Public Education, and
- The George Town Landfill.
When a group emerges victorious from the election to form Cayman’s next government, those knotty issues (and many others) will be waiting for them when they take office.
Throughout the campaign season, we have adhered to our self-imposed directive to focus on the “policies” of candidates rather than their “personalities.” The Compass has refrained from endorsing individuals or parties, in favor of focusing on what needs to be done by the next government, whoever that comprises.
The candidates themselves have not been as scrupulous about criticizing or attacking their opponents’ personally. Not only is that not unexpected, it is not inappropriate – given the candidates’ roles in the campaign and the nature of the positions they seek.
Some people may argue that a candidate’s personal behavior, domestic actions and, for lack of a better word, “morality,” should have no influence on their perceived fitness for office. The only thing that matters, they may say, is a candidate’s ability to do the job.
We disagree. Rather, as representatives of Cayman’s people, our legislators should be held to the highest standards of decency and ethics. What people do at the local bar late at night, or inside a hotel room overseas, correlates to how they would conduct themselves behind the closed doors of a conference room, on the House floor wrapped in the mantle of “parliamentary privilege,” or within the impenetrable cocoon of Cabinet proceedings.
Put another way, a candidate’s character does matter.
While we, along with many people, are attracted to the idea of infusing government with “fresh blood” from outside the established political aristocracy, we would also advise that electors be reticent to vote for anybody for a position that would be “the best job they ever had.”
If a candidate has never run anything, such as a business, how can he or she be expected to run the $900 million enterprise that is the Cayman Islands public sector?
Finally, we hope that Cayman’s voters listen to their better angels on Wednesday, and thereby avoid the potential pitfalls that plague electoral models defined by small, single-member constituencies. The inherent challenge in the new one man, one vote system is for legislators to remember that they have dual responsibilities: to fend for their district (which is their only source of democratic accountability) but also the country as a whole.
The danger of electing, and re-electing, proudly independent (i.e. “lone wolf”) representatives is that they lack a trait necessary to an effective statesman: “Getting along well with others.”
When “garrison politics” takes hold in tiny, isolated districts with little inherent clout, they can be become vestigial political appendages deprived of blood and oxygen … i.e., government attention, resources and infrastructure. (For relevant examples, look no further than Grand Cayman’s two eastern districts.)
Looking up and down the ballot (and across the world) we do not see a single “ideal” candidate. But each candidate, particularly the ones who succeed on Election Day, should be aware that there is an ideal, and that is what voters – and the country’s population – expect them to strive toward.