True suffrage was not achieved in Bermuda in 1968. While correct, Bermuda did extend the right to vote to all adult citizens regardless of sex, race, creed, wealth or property, Bermudians were only given the right to decide, just not at times of their choosing. It is this right to choose when to vote which composes the lesser known second foundation of true suffrage and is one which remains lacking in our society today. It leaves one to ask, are we ready for true suffrage? Are we able to decide for ourselves? If so, is it time we strive for a truer and more Direct Democracy?
Prior to 1968 it was believed that the majority of people without property or formal education were incapable of charting the course of our society. It was suggested that they lacked the capacity that the exercise of political governance required, namely a sense of responsibility and a greater understanding of the implications of their decisions.
Post 1968 we can wonder if this thinking has proven correct. Are women any less capable of making political decisions? Non property owners? People of certain races? Not only were people en mass able to make use of their vote, they have done so in a fashion that has evolved and fundamentally changed our society for the better. So if we today have the right to vote, why has true suffrage not been achieved?
True suffrage involves two components, the right to vote and opportunities to vote. Certainly ‘Universal Adult Suffrage’ provided us the right but our opportunities remain restricted. Individuals were afforded only the right to vote for the representative of their choosing at opportunities not of their control. This was not the right and opportunity to vote as per their needs and beliefs. While an advance from the de-facto standard, we have not advanced far enough.
The remarks by the political elite prior to Universal Suffrage in defense of the status quo reflect the same remarks we hear of politicians today as they cling to the power our system provides them. They suggest the common people are incapable of comprehending the sense of responsibility that weighs upon every decision and thus must not be afforded the opportunity to vote whenever they choose upon whatever they choose. Indeed, it is these same politicians that prey upon our unwillingness to decide for ourselves and convince us of its futility for their own advantage. They undertake and profit from the very same actions undertaken by those property owners who ruled us in yesteryear. The only difference is that they convince us things are different because they tell us when we can vote and allow us to choose the oligarchy in which we place the power. The issue is the such imbalances of power never end up yielding the best results for the people they’re designed to govern.
Today, true suffrage does not exist in Bermuda as we subsist on little more than a false facsimile. We are deprived of our right to decide for ourselves while today’s politicians bloat themselves leeching off of and fueling our ignorance. Is it time we strived for greater suffrage, greater freedom and the right to decide for ourselves? Are we capable of deciding for ourselves at times and topics of our choosing? Can we stand up and demand change? Can we stand up and declare ourselves fit to govern? If so, it is time we reach for true suffrage and demand a more Direct Democracy.