Bermudians now know that no matter which of the two dominant political parties has a majority, our system of elected/appointed Parliamentarians who formulate, debate and enact laws and policies, supported by a civil service who administer the policies, can and does work.

While we may have varying views on the direction and quality of governance emanating from the PLP versus the UBP, we can be fairly confident that the system won't crash from a change of government

Knowing now that either side is capable of keeping the country running, we must turn our attention to and choose between the quality, style and direction offered by the two parties, and the independent candidates.

Looking at the independents first, Roger Russell and Harold Darrell have qualities of courage and community-mindedness that I would welcome into leadership positions.

If elected, neither of them would likely wield policy-making power, but their contributions, unfettered by party loyalty, could be fresh air.

The UBP is certainly singing a different tune than when they were last in power.

That's to be expected, assuming some lessons were learned and some humility gained since 1998.

They are trying to walk the thin line between claiming the legacy of governance skills and experience obtained from their 30 years of forming the government, and shedding the caricatured image of an old-guard oligarchy.

I believe there's overlap. Among the UBP's supporters and some of their candidates, there is some holdover of condescending attitudes toward blacks in general and the PLP in particular. Also among the UBP candidates and, I believe, a majority of UBP supporters, there's a more enlightened view about race and competence.

Perhaps more importantly, the UBP has the experience of seeing the reins of government, once unshakably in its hands, torn from its grasp.

Its unabashed advocacy of governance/social reforms suggests to me that it has learned some valuable lessons from the nine-year stint as opposition, and is ready to work for all the people.

The PLP has also experienced being opposition and government, but in reverse order. After thirty-plus years of trying, the PLP won a majority of seats in 1998 and again in 2003.

For them, the direction has only been up, and it isn't surprising for them to have expectations that it will always continue in that direction.

Unfortunately, the PLP seems not to have learned the lesson they helped teach the UBP, that the government really belongs to the people.

The people delegate their power to the parties only temporarily; the people should not be taken for granted.

This lesson was there for their learning in 2003 when two ostensibly strong PLP candidates, including the Premier, won by very slim eight-vote margins. That should have sent a signal - and maybe it did, to everyone but Dr. Brown and his coterie.

While Dr. Brown has demonstrated exceptional skill in working the system, taking out two Premiers and installing himself in that post, he has taken on an imperial style that has run rough-shod over fellow Cabinet members and MPs, Parliamentarians in general, and even grass-roots party workers.

Of course, his style has attracted a segment of the PLP community who welcomes his brashness and cheers him on.

Several in this group have put themselves up for election and have their eyes on the big prize of being Dr. Brown's future Cabinet. They have, I believe, visions of using that concentrated power to pluck economic (no-bid contracts, unregulated medical facilities) and diplomatic (independence?) plums from our collective tree.

Based on hatred

To achieve that end, Dr. Brown's election campaign has unleashed race-based hatred as a wedge to divide the electorate so that we will vote for his image as liberator and vote against those he declares are enemies.

And how will we put that genie back into the bottle? How will we play host to our tourists, most of whom are white?

How will we remain cordial towards our international business sector, most of whose members are white? How will we treat each other?

Just what are we in for after the election is over?

Is civility to be abandoned in the interest of scoring political points, no matter the damage that barbaric language and symbolism might have on our children and our community in general?

Are we to have racial tensions further exploited from finger-pointing and hints of vengeance under the guise of "conversation"? Are threats and payback to be the way power is wielded? It's time to see whether the UBP has learned the lesson we taught them in 1998.

They now know, and we know, that we can take them out again if need be.

It's time also to remind the PLP that we don't want to spend the coming years in racial or diplomatic intimidation and turmoil.

Violence and vengeance, whether in words, deeds or spirit, are not what Bermuda is about.