Since the end of Second World War back in 1945 that saw the emergence of United States as a global superpower and the passage of leadership of the democratic West from London to Washington under the so-called “Pax Americana” or American Peace, US presidential elections have generated keen interest around the world.
The reason is pretty obvious. As the US is home to the world’s largest economy, with the biggest consumer market, and is also the dominant military power, policy decisions made in Washington have far-reaching implications for countries around the world which includes Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean. Indeed, this reality is often expressed in the saying that when America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold. We saw this quite clearly in the case of the last global recession which originated in the US.
Global interest in tomorrow’s presidential election has been no different, even though US influence has arguably waned in the last 25 years, despite the fact that it is now the world’s lone superpower following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union which was the other superpower which emerged from World War II and was leader of the rival communist East which is now predominantly democratic and capitalist.
If anything, global interest in this election may have been a bit higher primarily because of the often scary rhetoric of Donald Trump, the candidate of the Republican Party, deemed by some observers as a threat to world peace. Promising to “make America great again”, Trump’s abrasive and divisive campaign rhetoric caused jitters in some quarters, resurrecting the ugly image of America the global bully which outgoing President Barack Obama had deliberately sought to change because he recognized it was generating more enemies than friends for America.
After a campaign spanning just over a year, the world will know for sure by midnight tomorrow whether Trump will be the next occupant of the White House or if it will be Hillary Rodham Clinton who, if she wins, will be the first woman in history to be elected president of the United States. Though the media are saying it remains a close contest, the latest opinion polls give the edge to Clinton, former President Bill Clinton’s First Lady from 1992 to 2000. She subsequently served as Senator for the State of New York and Secretary of State during Obama’s first term.
Caribbean nationals, both at home and residing in the United States, have traditionally supported the Democratic Party. From all indications, it is the same this time around as public opinion suggests Clinton is the region’s choice for more than one reason. Trump’s rhetoric has alienated the immigrant community, with his virulent attacks on Mexicans and his plan to deport millions of illegal aliens. Obviously among this number are many Barbadian and Caribbean nationals.
Clinton, therefore, appears to be a safer choice. However, some observers argue that, despite the loyalty of the Caribbean constituency, Democratic administrations do little in real terms to support the region’s development. In some instances, Democratic policies have actually harmed the Caribbean. The destruction of the Windward Islands banana industry was aided and abetted by the Clinton administration’s push for global free trade. The Obama administration’s crackdown on offshore financial centres for tax reasons has squeezed our island’s international business sector, causing a decline in registrations and a loss of vital revenue for Government.
On the ground, the Democrats seem more organized than the Republicans which means the Democratic political machine will be more effective tomorrow from a GOTV (getting out the vote) perspective. That is where the battle will be won. Trump has been virtually abandoned by the Republican top brass who came to see him more as a liability especially after his offensive comments suggested he lacked respect for women, who constitute a powerful bloc of voters.
Given the development challenges facing the Caribbean, it is our hope that the new administration which will take office in Washington next January will be open to more engagement with the region and also demonstrate greater understanding. The Caribbean has essentially fallen off the US foreign policy radar screen in the last two decades. Caribbean governments also need to be more assertive in their diplomacy to gain the attention of the decision-makers in Washington.
We wish America well as democracy is given the fullest expression via the ballot box tomorrow. At the end of the day, whoever emerges winner will be the clear choice of the people. That is the beauty of democracy over other forms of government. The expressed will of the people through the ballot box is always paramount. Good luck, America!