Never underestimate an opponent

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History is replete with examples that dictate that politicians should never underestimate an opponent. A dismissive stance or underestimation of an opposition’s appeal has undone many a politician and party and will continue to do so because of human nature.
We broach the topic because the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) has recently said it is not daunted by the newest political party on the block, the Democratic National Alliance (DNA); going so far as to label the party as a “sideshow”. It is clear that the UPP has decided to eschew all the observations and advice coming from the political pundits regarding the risks of splitting the opposition vote in the next general election. In brushing aside the potential of the DNA to pull votes from the UPP, the UPP Political Leader Harold Lovell has declared that his party’s fight is with the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) and not the DNA.
Lovell said, “We really are not going to become embroiled in any sideshow with DNA … we live in a two-party system, and so the second party must die or at least one of the major parties must die in order for a third party to live; third parties don’t do anything. So, our focus is on the Antigua Labour Party government.” We can’t say that we disagree with the core of that statement (ie, we are a two-party system) but no one can forecast the future and say with 100 per cent certainty who the surviving political parties will be.
Senator Lovell need only look back in his party’s past to see the uncertainty of any party’s political survival. To his point, the Antigua Caribbean Liberation Movement, the Progressive Labour Movement and the United National Democratic Party all had to die in order for the UPP to emerge in 1992.
Granted, as we said in a previous piece, third parties are traditionally ineffective in our bit of paradise, but traditions do not last a lifetime and it would be unwise to dismiss any political opponent. One of the reasons why Donald Trump became president of the United States is because he was underestimated and dismissed as a “real” contender. That happened first in the primaries and then for a second time in the national election. The “sideshow” that was the unelectable outsider was invited to the main event and walked away with the prize. A good lesson for any politician or political observer.
What is a bit baffling about the UPP’s stance is its apparent understanding of the risks. Lovell said that he believes the DNA does not expect to win the next general election, and surmised that the party’s strategy is to try to join the ruling ABLP in attacking and attempting to weaken the UPP, so the DNA will have its day in 2024. On the face of it, that does not appear to be a bad strategy so, on the face of it, that should not be dismissed in the way that it has.
Maybe “dismissed” is the wrong word because Lovell did say “Our strategy in response to that is to stay focused on the ABLP and deal with the DNA at the doorstep with our base, not in the public media but brutally deal with them on a one-on-one basis when we meet our people and in communities.”  Adding, “But we will not give them any room to gain relevance.”
We are not political strategists but it would seem that dealing with the DNA on the doorsteps may not be enough; especially if the rumours and Senator Lovell are right and the DNA and ABLP will team up to weaken the UPP.  It would certainly be a smart move on the ABLP’s part to support the DNA through the next election and hope that they split the opposition vote. It could provide an advantage and increase their chances of returning to power. Maybe!
On the other hand, if that were to occur and the rumours of a strategic alliance were to be proven true, then will it have any impact on the election? Certainly, the voters who will vote anti-establishment will not put their ‘X’ against any party that forms an alliance with the establishment. For all involved, the manoeuvres are high risk. Adopting the mantra that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” has the possibility to create strange bedfellows. And if that is the foundation of any type of marriage then it is destined for divorce.
The next election is shaping up to be a doozy. With new political parties emerging and existing parties shoring up their support, we will see whether traditions will hold and whether any outside party makes a dent.
We leave you with the wise word of Sun Tzu, who wrote in classic, The Art of War, “He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them.” Those words were originally published in 1521.

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