In 1921, Albert Einstein remarked that, "As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain: and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."
Suppose we paraphrased Einstein's comment to read: "As far as the perceptions of the Senate refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."
Then we must certainly beg the question of what exactly is the reality of serving in the Virgin Islands Senate.
Is it to follow the prescriptions of the Virgin Islands Code exactly? Or perhaps to twist in every political wind that blows in an effort to survive, rather than thrive at leadership? Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in-between and can be deciphered by an examination of what constitutes leadership within that special body.
The reality is that each member of the Society of 15 (which is what I call the Senate) must utilize his or her leadership skills in forging a two-year Critical Path by which to accomplish plans for serving constituents.
The crafting of these Critical Paths for the future presumes three important hypotheses.
First, that the members possess the leadership skills and experience requisite to the position. Second, that they can quickly master those skills if they do not possess them. Thirdly, that they are able to utilize those skills to garner a consensus for their Critical Path from amongst the Society of 15.
Casual political observers will believe that membership in either the Majority or Minority caucuses is the sole barometer for one's success. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is, in fact, nothing more than the excuse of one incapable of functioning in a setting designed for success.
Except for the budget process and formal sessions, the Society of 15 places little emphasis upon what caucus an individual member sits. In committee meetings, committee members have an equal right to present legislation, question testifiers and make motions.
An astute and capable Minority member will have significant pieces of legislation placed on the agenda for passage. Conversely, inept Majority members will have no significant legislation to act upon, but instead will continuously appeal to the baser instincts of their constituency to inflame them and shield themselves from any real scrutiny of their failure to create a Critical Path.
To reiterate, success within the Society of 15 is determined by leadership skills – either innate or learned – and the ability to create consensus for their Critical Path.
The proving of the third hypothesis regarding the crafting of a Critical Path is somewhat more complex because it is external to the Society of 15, no personal leadership skills can influence the outcome, and the dynamics change each term.
It is the fact that the voting public determines the membership of the Society of 15 and each member within that body is forced to find consensus amongst a group he or she had no hand in creating.
Should the voting public elect a preponderance of a certain political party, then they, the voting public, have created a Majority caucus comprised of members of that political party. Should the voting public elect a majority of independent candidates, then they, the voting public, have created a Majority caucus comprised of independent candidates.
Thus, while political affiliations may serve to dictate membership in a Majority or Minority caucus, one's ability to function is in direct proportion to one's ability to create consensus within the entire Society of 15, and not solely within one's caucus.
Cream, however, does indeed rise to the top.
The election of a majority of candidates from a certain political posture does not necessarily mean that the voting public has selected the most capable individuals available. Some will be popular, rather than competent.
Thus, members who have the requisite leadership skills to create consensus in the Society for their Critical Path will work through, above and around the boundaries that have been created by the voting public.
The members who do not have those requisite skills to deliver on their promises will instead deliver excuse after excuse as to why they have no Critical Path. The truth, however, is they have fallen in love with the position, but not with the tremendous amount of work it takes to be successful.
In an earlier column, I alluded to the fact that the voting public is often blinded from true knowledge by the sheer volume of noise that it hears. Unfortunately, much of this distraction comes from those members of the Society of 15 least capable of forging a Critical Path.
Herein lies the true tear-jerking tragedy.
Should the voting public not decipher who has the ability to function, they will create a Society of 15 who will be little more than circus clowns committing political pratfall one after the other. The voting public must become more aware of the efforts and lack thereof on the part of the Society of 15 if the Territory is to move forward.
In closing, I'll leave you with a song. A '70s group named Blue Magic had a huge hit with a ballad named "Sideshow." The chorus is as follows:
"So let the side show begin
Step right on in.
Can't afford to pass it by
Guaranteed to make you cry"
Need I say more?
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Editors note: Emmett Hansen II was a member of the 24th and 25th V.I. Legislatures and holds degrees from Dillard University and the Defense Information School, and has taken graduate courses in public administration at the University of the Virgin Islands. He is presently at work on a book about his experiences while in the Legislature.