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Opinions of Monday, 24 December 2012

Columnist: Adorsu, Yayra Franklin

What Qualifies To Be An Issue In Elections?

Discussion among the political elites and pundits always point to the fact that, voting in Ghana must be issue based and not on based tribal, regional, affiliation or sentiments. But the nagging question that kept crossing my mind is “what qualifies to be an issue”? The voter as a human being has fundamental needs beyond bread and butter, thus economic issues or whatever the pundits and watchers considers to be issue, cannot encompass all important issues that provides voter utility. Taking your mind back to Maslow theory of need.Self-actualization, esteem, love/ belonging, safety and physiological needs all come to play when the individual is making choices. These are issues that analyst don’t consider relevant to our democratic process. They therefore make abstract arguments to condemn and castigate anyone who meddles in that so called “non-issues” A vote may depend on what you mean by “rational choice” Can voters give you a reason for why they did what they did? Yes, absolutely. A more formal economic definition of rationality is the utility they derive in taking an action. They very actively and conscientiously consider the consequences of the different alternatives for their own well-being. In this case, they vote for the candidate that maximizes their self-interest.
If economic and developmental issues are the ones considered to be the so called important issues on which a voters must base their decision on, then am sorry because for me there are absolutely no issues in Ghana to vote on, and no ideology to follow. Is it not the same issues and promises that are recycled and repackaged every four years? Haven’t every government since the inception of the four republican constitution done their due? So what could be new? You most of the time hear our politician use phrases like “social democrats” “property owning democrats” “ centre to the left and centre to the right” which in reality does not exist in our context. It is just a parody of ideology being bandied around. When you go in to the manifestos of both the NDC and NPP you will realised that they are all trumpeting the same policies in different languages. At the end of the day they must all resort to basic social interventions because as drawers’ of water and heavers of wood, there is nothing ideological about our approaches. So what philosophy or issues are there for anybody to follow? These economic and developmental issues may gain the attention of the few swing elite voters but the hard-core voter has their own issues that override what the eyes can see.
It is a truism that in every muti party democracy world over, every political party has it stronghold and such massive show of support is dependent on variety of issues they consider important. Even In advance societies where issues like pro-life and pro-choice abortion, Gay, Economic meltdown, terrorism etc. are big issues for which voters consider before voting,they still have people who are hard-core voters regardless of the forerunning issues. Somebody born in to a republican family is likely to keep that tradition, it doesn’t matter what policy a democrat has. In America they have red states, blue state and the swing states. Why do you think that is so? Don’t these states vote on issues on the table? Are they ethnocentric? Backward? or illiterates who don’t appreciate what the watchers consider as issues? Why are blacks’ traditional democrats? All these voting pattern has their histories and they are respected in America. Though the virulent racist group the (Ku Klux Klan) KKK was affiliated to the Democratic Party, blacks later on found a voice in Franklin Roosevelt’s non discriminative social intervention “the new deal” during the great depression.Lyndon Johnson championed the cause ofcivil rights and practically offered them the freedom they long yearned for. So why won’t the black race and their generation be forever grateful to the democrats? Up till today black votes overwhelmingly up to 80% for democrats because they always feel threatened by the republicans. This is an issue for them! The Jews of America have heavily been associated with the Democrats. In the 1992 general election Clinton received 80% of Jewish votes and Bush only 11%. In the 1996 general election, Clinton received 78% of their votes and Dole 16%. In 2000, Gore continued this theme gaining 79% of the Jewish vote with George W Bush only gaining 19%. Am not sure anyone can describe the Jews as backward or inward looking people because you and I know what they are made up off. The Jews are one of the most persecuted race in history, their antecedent informs every decision they make. The link between the Democrats and the Jews of America is almost certainly similar to the reasons the African Americans support them. Hispanic voters are not different either. Am sure there were so called bigger issues in all these elections but they maintained their trend based on issues they consider most important for them. The white voters in the southern states support the Republican Party because it is not associated with the civil rights movement and that is their issue! These voting segmentations are not different in the UK between the Whig, tory (conservatives) and labour and other elite democracies. When there is distrust and fear of threat among a group against a particular leadership, you can’t get the people to do otherwise but to take measure to protect their interest in whatever way possible. And if that measure is by exercising their franchise in a particular direction, that is their issue!
If base on the political history of the Ewes, Akan and Northerners they decided to be hard-core voters, what in God’s name is evil about that? Must you be an illiterate to vote consistently on a certain line? Why must tribes continue to receive flacks for voting a certain way? They have issues! Most of these issues have more to do with respect, dignity, and self-esteem rather than economic. As I alluded to from the beginning, esteem of the voter in these regions are paramount and on top of their scale of preference. All humans have a need to feel respected; this includes the need to have self-esteem and self-respect. Esteem presents the typical human desire to be accepted and valued by others. People often engage in a profession or hobby to gain recognition. These activities give the person a sense of contribution or value. Do you ask yourself why the NDC continue to enjoy an overwhelming endorsement in the Volta Region despite the fact that the flag bearers’ and their running mates do not come from the region since 2000? The founder of the party who many thought was a tribal factor, “disowned” the party at a time and “broke away” I am using these words advisedly with his wife to form a new party but the region refused to follow them, rather they stack to the NDC. There is an interest at stake beyond the personality of the founder. The Volta region benefited the least from the NDC but they prefer to go to bed hungry than to go begging for arms. That is dignity not foolishness.
The Akan NPP vote has its antecedents with the PP, while Dr.Bussia won all seats in Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions in the second republic, Gbedemah’s NAL never had that overwhelming support in the Volta region. The PP enjoyed a considerable support from the Volta Region then, so did Paa willies’s UNC but the trend changed when Rawlings supplanted himself on to the scene as the “saviour”. This many considered to be a tribal support by Voltarians but to me the charisma of Rawlings made it difficult to draw that line. From the beginning the love for Rawlings transcended beyond tribal boundaries until he started stepping on toes. So long as there is unequal power rations in society, some may feel marginalised and looked down upon by others and there will always be the struggle for identity and recognition. You have absolutely no right to call any tribe names just because they think differently from the way you think. Though it is healthier to compete with ideas other than tribes, these schisms will continue to exist in the absence of mutual respect and people will continue to hold on to their own. It is true that ethnicity must give away for our national politics to be shape by other progressive issues but so long as political party leaders continue to spearhead and play the tribal card, followers will continue to dance to the tune. Pre-judicial name calling and nepotism cannot go scot free without reprisal actions. Even if you disagree, that is my issue!