Archives For presidential elections

April 7th, 2010

November 9, 2016 — 4 Comments

I looked around the school gymnasium and was humbled. We were a polyglot of tongues and colours, from many cultures – all immigrants. I stood with all the other immigrants to swear my allegiance to the United States of America. A country which I thought stood for decency. For equality for all. A still young country to which many others in the world looked to with hope.

In 2014 the population of America was 318.9 million and it seems, in the bleary light of a dull Houston morning, as if Secretary Clinton will win the popular vote by a squeak. America, though, is a representative republic as opposed to a direct democracy, and it is this that has allowed Donald Trump to win the Electoral College. The system whereby the number of electors for a state is based upon the voting membership of that state in Congress.

The system put in place by those who wrote the Constitution. James Madison, considered the pivotal writer of the Constitution, believed “factions” of the public with a common interest could arguably harm the nascent nation as a whole. I would argue that system has just irredeemably harmed the now 241 year old nation.

This is not the first time the popular vote has been defeated by the electoral system. George Bush beat Al Gore in 2000, and the same has happened on three other occasions in the 1800s. I wasn’t able to vote in the Bush v Gore contest but I cared, and was disappointed in the outcome. I was not, though, riven with a feeling of utter horror. Mr Bush might not have been my choice but I never questioned his belief in his country or his inherent decency.

The man-who-would-be-president in January 2017 fills me with such disgust and distrust that I feel truly ill. And almost worse, my anger at the millions of people in this incredible country who have turned their back on progress. Who have accepted the slogan “Make America Great Again” – when the merest glance over the border to the chaos in many countries in Central and South America, across the oceans on either side of us, would see just how great America is.

Fed on fear, much of America has shown the watching world just how ignorant we are of what is happening in the world. We are in danger of being considered an inward-looking, inbred country of misogynistic men and cowed women, uncaring and uninterested in life outside our borders. Unwilling to take a stand for the rights of people everywhere.

And everywhere includes the United States. Mr Trump has denigrated so many people here – women, African Americans, Muslims, the disabled, immigrants, those who have fought and died for this country, those who love someone of the same sex – and I suppose, as I wipe the tears away, I am shell-shocked at the gullibility of people through broad swathes of this country. People who have voted for a man who is proud of not paying taxes, a man who holds women in staggeringly low esteem, who sneers at climate change and believes coal extraction is a good way to increase jobs, a man who brags of business acumen but who is alienating many trading partners with his rhetoric of slashing international trade deals, won through diplomacy and patience.

Diplomatic and patient – two words never used to describe the man we the people have elected to the White House. To fill the rooms of that venerable mansion with crass flamboyance, and crude utterances. To replace a family who have lived there with grace, humour and courage.

And I am shell-shocked at the blatant disregard by women in this country of a man who threatens their very wellbeing, and that of their children, particularly their daughters.

The markets settled slightly after Mr Trump’s acceptance speech, more gracious than expected, but how can a country become “great” when the person leading it has such a low opinion of so many of its citizens, and the world outside its borders?

On April 7th, 2010 I proudly became a citizen of this incredible country. On November 9th, 2016 I am beyond dismay.

Which Way Do White Men Swing?

September 14, 2016 — 5 Comments

In case you hadn’t heard, the United States is nearing the end of a presidential race. It has been marred by rudeness and lies – far more, it would seem, than most elections. The vitriol spat across our screens comes mainly from a bumptious man intent on denigrating large swathes of the population. Immigrants. Muslims. Women.

Much emphasis has been put on the Democratic nominee being a woman. Somewhat surprising in the enlightened times of 2016. America, accepted by most as the leader of the free world, is dismally behind the arc with regard equality – and not just of the sexes.

Lyse Doucet, the BBC journalist, suggested recently the United States is a “binary country” – a phrase I wish I’d come up with. We are either Republican or Democrat. Man or woman. Gay or straight. Black or white. Pro or anti abortion. Protestant or Muslim. Most of us, though, fall into that vast vat of grey. We have our beliefs but are happy to allow others to have theirs. We are busy ‘getting-on-with-life-the-best-we-can’, and are not particularly vehement about one thing or another until a subject becomes personal.

I was fortunate to be born to a strong woman and a father who considered girls more than vassals, and at a time long after others had fought for the right to vote. The Pill was available, and, on the whole, greater encouragement was being given to non-traditional roles for women. In short, I have not had to fight for my basic rights, something for which I am very grateful.

But I am getting tired of hearing about glass ceilings. America is so far behind the trail with regard women in power in politics, it is risible. In modern times, lets say from 1960, there have been 58 countries with a female leader – and some of those countries have elected more than one. From developing to developed countries. From patriarchal to matriarchal.

These women have had to be tough – sugar and spice, and all things nice – do not win elections. Which is why I’m tired of seeing comments about Hillary Clinton’s likeability, her pantsuits, her hairstyle, and now her health. Apart from the rather mocking tones of reporters when wannabe presidential hopeful, Rick Perry, took to wearing heavy-rimmed glasses, I can’t remember anyone discussing Romney’s wardrobe or Obama’s hairstyle. Though comments were made about their aloofness.

There is an invidious manner of questioning – the dog at a bone kind – when questions are fired at Clinton, and yet, when the Republican nominee is called out on a proven lie, and the question is answered with the reiteration of that lie, the matter is let rest. One could use the dog analogy again – let sleeping dogs lie. Oops, there’s that word again. Lie.

In the land where freedom of speech is sacrosanct, election buttons and posters spout derogatory filth – Trump that Bitch – kfc special, 2 fat thighs, 2 small breasts, left wing – Life’s a Bitch, Don’t Vote For One – and so on. One wonders what it is that allows people to think this kind of language is acceptable? For anyone to use, let alone our children to see.

There is a lot needing to be fixed in this country (as in most countries) – blame for delays on some issues can be penned firmly in the Congress column – but America is not going to the dogs (when is an analogy overused?) regardless of pronouncements of doom from Mr Trump.

Despite antipathy to the Republican nominee, and for some archaic reason, 52% of white men (Public Religion Research Institute) – a large swing section of the electorate – hold “very unfavorable” views on electing a female president.

I found it hard to believe but spending a delightful hour over coffee with an erudite and forward-thinking man, born and bred in Texas, he confirmed the standpoint, telling me, “Many peers, some of them friends, most highly educated and who hold, or held, high-powered positions, cannot bring themselves to vote for a woman.” And yet this same element of the population feel comfortable when women are in a supporting role, conforming to traditional gender positions – healthcare issues, standing by her man – even as secretaries of state! Neither did these men vote for a black man.

What we really need is a black woman running for president. And winning. Only then would the glass ceiling be well and truly shattered. Only then could America be considered a country of equality – inclusive and not binary.

The Voting Process

February 24, 2016 — Leave a comment

In November 2002, at a reception in a small despotic West African country, I met an American purportedly in the country to advise the president on running true and fair presidential elections, to be held a couple of weeks hence. I was told the president had been strongly urged not to claim a win of over 87% of the vote. His suggestion was however ignored. The PDGE (Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial) won by a resounding 97.1%. The next presidential elections held in 2009 were won by the same party with a slightly smaller margin of 95.36%.

Now the cynical among us may consider those elections rigged. President Teodor Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and his family have after all been in power since October 12, 1982, and Equatorial Guinea is not a country known for her openness, freedom of the press, or human rights.

Having lived in a number of Continue Reading…