This week, I wish to offer a perspective on the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections and provide some contrast, if not comparison, with our current situation in Barbados. If one were to break down this race at its core, I conclude that on one hand, it’s a fundamental battle between the sexes that dates back to the pre-World War II (WWII) era when white males were the breadwinners and women were considered homemakers only to produce children.
Since WWII, women have integrated fully into the work place and this has largely driven the greatest expansion of economies across the world. On the other hand, greater racial integration through the Civil Rights Movement, Voting Rights along with affirmative action initiatives to provide greater access to groups other than white males, have been perceived as an affront to their sense of social superiority.
Republicans have always agreed with the free market principles and have pushed that policy for decades. From an economic standpoint, more integrated and inclusive public policy drives development and poverty tends to reduce significantly. Democrats or liberals have always pushed for these policies as a means to deliver greater prosperity and enhance citizen participation whilst Republicans have both overtly and covertly worked to systematically deny much of the rights and privileges white males enjoy from being bestowed to other demographic groups in the population including white women.
Now there is still a large segment of women across the globe who still think a woman’s place is in the home. Republicans took great offence to Hillary Clinton during the 1992 campaign of her husband because of her infamous statement “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfil my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life”. That statement brought to the fore the longstanding debate in America about the role of women and the fact that a large portion of women took offence is testimony to the psyche of American society.
To make matters worse, as First Lady, she was not concerned with changing curtains or choosing which china was to be used for state dinners. In fact, she showed little regard for anything that the American electorate had grown accustomed from whoever was in the role of First Lady. To compound matters even more, she was the first “First Lady” to have an office in the West Wing of the White House and was involved in public policy rather than staying in the East Wing doing what perhaps, in her mind, were mundane things which didn’t reflect the capacity she possessed.
She openly fought with Congressional Republicans around the health care debate in the 90s during her husband’s presidency and from then until now, she has been pilloried by those on the political right. It was the first time that a First Lady engaged elected officials in Washington openly on public policy and she has not been forgiven for it.
Jane Elliott, an American former third-grade schoolteacher who is well known for her anti-racism activism, coined the moniker Donaldsaurus T Rump to describe the emergence of the Republican nominee for the 2016 US presidential election. I share her view that Donaldsaurus is a representation of the old guard who still believes that women in the workplace should be engaged exclusively in secretarial duties confined to typing and making tea and coffee for male bosses. In addition, Trump’s slogan of Making America Great Again is a message that caters to the egos of white males in America with every other group considered to be subordinate.
There are still citizens in Barbados who share this view of women and strongly believe that men should lead and that women ought to subordinate themselves to their male counterparts. It is reinforced religiously and used to justify the treatment of women not only in Barbados but across the globe. That aside, having watched all three presidential debates, it is clear for all to see that Secretary Clinton is by far the more competent and sane person to lead the US, given the choice in November.
I would dearly love to see three debates between Opposition Leader Mia Mottley and Prime Minister Freundel Stuart so that Barbadians can benefit from their vision for Barbados and how to achieve such. I hazard a guess that those of us who watched the US presidential debates, might come to the same conclusion as to the competence of the females versus their male counterparts. The choice of leadership both in the US and right here in Barbados could not be more crystal clear.
Far too often, the talents of women are absent from boardrooms, executive management and other decision making bodies. We must ensure that going forward for the good of the society and certainly the economy, that our public policy framework is predicated on the building of consensus rather than on division. Competence will be the critical element in that process along with a clear sense of purpose to know that the politics of inclusion will make for a better Barbados rather than the divisive nature of our current public policy. In that we will be striving to build a better future for Barbados rather succumbing to the rhetoric and sentiment similar to that of Donaldsaurus T Rump.
(Ryan Straughn is a UWI Cave Hill and Central Bank of Barbados-trained economist and the endorsed Barbados Labour Party (BLP) candidate for Christ Church East Central to contest the next general election. Email: [email protected])