I don’t predict political results, because I don’t like making mistakes, but I’m beginning to think that maybe I should. I knew in 2008 from the moment that he announced his presidency that Barack Obama would be a two-term president; I had a feeling in 2007 that the PLP was going to lose the election, and had a feeling as early as 2011 that the FNM was going to lose in 2012. I had a feeling that Obama was going to have a tighter race this time around, but had no doubt whatsoever he was going to win the election.
It’s not hope that makes me feel this way; it’s something else. It’s the sense that we live in a revolutionary time. Let me be up front here. I buy into the idea floated by Marshall McLuhan that the medium is the message, that modes of communication transform society. Reading his The Gutenberg Galaxy changed the way I thought about the world, and taught me to watch the way in which human beings communicate with one another to help to guess what kinds of decisions they are going to make.
The world—not just my Bahamaland, not just the USA, but the world—is currently going through the greatest revolution in communications since the printing press. The digital revolution has changed the way in which information is shared and processed, and it has made the prediction of outcomes in any election unstable. Most political prediction machines are fundamentally anchored in the twentieth century and have not fully adjusted to the universe of social media, where conversations about politics are not limited by political party, national boundaries, or even ideological leanings. The world is talking to one another, ideas are flowing more freely than ever before, discussions are being held outside of the various centres of discussion, and individuals are making up their own minds. The expenditure of money is important, there is no doubt about it, but it is not the deciding factor in any democratic exercise. The deciding factor are the millions of conversations that are happening online, between people who may not be connected in any way beyond their phones, and these conversations are not yet being closely enough monitored to be able to make any decision on political outcomes.
Beyond that, and perhaps in part because of this true spread of democracy (as opposed to the pretend spread of it as touted by the USA)—the ability, finally, for individual citizens to make their own contributions, through places like FaceBook and Twitter, to make their opinions known—the ideological temperature of the world is swinging to the left. I don’t find this surprising, given the erosion of social and economic landscapes for the ordinary person around the world, and given the fact that it is pretty accepted by the global community that the current so-called recession is the culmination of years excessive right-wing economic policies.
The other thing that I find notable is the demographic of the social media universe: it’s younger, more diverse, and more radical than the mainstream media. It looks more to me like the faces that are appearing in the shots of the various crowds gathering at Democratic Headquarters across the USA than it resembles the faces gathered in the Republican ones. It is this situation that led, I believe, to the election of the first African-American president of the United States of American in 2008. It’s this that led to his re-election this year, which, despite the noises being made by the non-conceding Republican party, is pretty well a given. And it’s what’s underpinned what I read as a general swinging of the world and the default of ideology to the left, from the far, far right.
So I haven’t been surprised at all by recent election outcomes. I haven’t been looking for people to hold onto their seats, or for governments to change; I’ve been looking for a swing to the left in every case. And that’s what I’ve seen; and that’s what I expect to continue to see for years to come. For me, that’s no bad thing.