The recent reelection of Barack Obama as President, the increase of Democrats in the Senate, and their slight gains in the House of Representatives has led analysts to talk about a changing America. While Obama is a highly popular political figure in Canada, it was somewhat surprising for many of us glued to our television sets to see him declared President before the stroke of midnight on November 6. After all, the polls had been close, but the victory seems to convey that America has indeed begun to change.
There are two ways to assess what this U.S. election tells Canadians. One way is the actual results which show a changing electorate where minorities, women, and youth will continue to play an increasing role in the choice of future presidents. State referenda also showed a transformation on certain social and cultural issues—legalization of marijuana and support for gay marriage.
The Presidential map with its omnipresent Electoral College seems decidedly more favorable to the Democratic coalition. The Senate map is also favorable to Democratic candidates. The House may still be Republican, but districting in states led by predominantly Republicans governors (30 of 50) can be a determining factor. This has led to some public soul-searching on the part of prominent Republican leaders. In a recent television appearance, conservative Republican Newt Gingrich spoke of the U.S. “as a centrist country with a dominant left”. Where is the center right America of just a few weeks back?
Latino voters could make the difference Tuesday in a tight presidential race—especially in battleground states such as Colorado, Florida and Nevada, where the Latino population has grown exponentially. Latinos are now 16 percent of the U.S. population and account for a record 11 percent of the nation’s eligible electorate. This year, 23.7 million Latinos are eligible to vote—four million more than in the 2008 presidential election.
But despite the growing number of Latinos eligible to vote, approximately 10 million did so in 2008. Will 2012 break the pattern of voter participation being lower than that of other population groups? What will motivate Latino voters to go to the polls, and what issues will influence how they cast their ballots?
Immigration: A Key Issue for Many Latino Voters
Issues that are critical in the Latino community—such as the economy, employment, education, and health care—are the same issues that matter to the rest of the nation. However, immigration reform is also a top concern and was the subject of heated exchanges throughout the campaigns including in the vice presidential and presidential debates. Many Latinos have acutely felt the consequences of a failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and the Obama administration has deported an estimated 400,000 undocumented immigrants each year since 2008, more than any previous administration.
Obama’s executive order of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), issued in June, was greeted with much enthusiasm across the immigrant community even though it is only a two-year, temporary policy. While it is expected to potentially benefit 1.4 million undocumented young people hoping to avoid deportation, DACA does not guarantee a path to citizenship and applicants must meet stringent conditions to qualify. While the measure promises to provide some temporary relief, many DREAMERS are refraining from filing their paperwork. And the anxiety is only growing—Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has promised to not renew Obama’s DACA and instead replace it with his own measure. Few additional details have been provided. If Romney wins the election, some DREAMERS are weary that any personal information the government obtains through the Deferred Action application process could be used against them at a later date.
Top stories this week are likely to include: Argentina and Iran attempt to repair relations; U.S. presidential campaigns enter final week; reactions to the municipal elections in Chile; Harper begins trip to India; and Mexico celebrates Day of the Dead.
Argentine- Iranian Negotiations: Delegations from Argentina and Iran are meeting today in Geneva to discuss the 1994 bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (Argentine–Israeli Mutual Association—AMIA) in Buenos Aires, which left 85 dead and over 300 injured. Iran and its proxies have long been suspected of orchestrating the attack, but have never claimed responsibility for it—and the Islamic Republic’s diplomatic relations with Argentina have been hampered since, particularly because Argentina is home to South America’s largest Jewish community. Today’s dialogue builds on the meeting that Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman held with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, last month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
Final Week of U.S. Pre-Election Campaigning: Although early voting has begun in select U.S. states, most U.S. citizens will cast their ballots on Tuesday, November 6 for the presidential election and additional elections at the congressional, state and local levels. However, the campaigns of President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney have had to alter their schedules given the expected high winds, flooding and power outages that Hurricane Sandy is expected to produce along the eastern seaboard. Power could be out in some places for up to 10 days, meaning that polling stations may be affected. While Obama will spend the first part of this week in Washington DC to make emergency preparations on behalf of the federal government, Romney will take his message to Ohio and other swing states in the Midwest.
Dissecting the Results in Chile: Opposing parties to President Sebastián Piñera made gains in yesterday’s nationwide municipal elections in Chile; beyond the results, however, one big takeaway was the low voter turnout. Only 40.9 percent of Chileans turned out to vote in this first election where voting was optional. Piñera cast this low turnout as a “warning sign” for democracy in Chile. A government spokesperson has already hinted that Piñera will make changes at the ministerial level in response to the disapproval of his coalition.
Harper to India: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper departs for his six-day state visit to India on Saturday, where he will seek to deepen bilateral ties through meetings with his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, and other national leaders. Harper is expected to visit New Delhi, Agra, Chandigarh, and Bangalore—and will address the World Economic Forum in Guragon. In advance of the trip, Harper said, “India is a growing economy with enormous potential, and expanding our trade and investment links with India will create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity here in Canada.”
Day of the Dead: This Mexican holiday will be celebrated on November 1 and 2 to remember family members and friends who have died. This Indigenous Aztec tradition was moved by Spanish conquistadores to coincide with the Christian holidays of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Celebrations will occur throughout Mexico and other communities with Mexican influence such as select cities in Texas and Arizona.
Top stories this week are likely to include: the U.S. embargo of Cuba turns 50; Chile votes in municipal elections; final U.S. presidential debate; Argentina-Ghana standoff continues; and Canada may reconsider protectionist energy move.
Cuban Missile Crisis: Fifty years ago today, then-U.S. President John F. Kennedy announced a naval blockade of Cuba after U.S. spy planes found missile sites supported by the Soviet Union. On that evening in 1962, President Kennedy delivered a television address vowing to end the Cuban Missile Crisis, which he termed a “clandestine, reckless and provocative threat to world peace.” Today, Cuba is slowly undergoing economic reforms and the Cuban government is fending off rumors of former Cuban President Fidel Castro’s death—“yet oddly a policy that has failed to produce change and has hamstrung U.S. diplomacy (the embargo) is still in place. It’s telling that the embargo will likely outlive Castro—the man whose government it was intended to take down.” says AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini.
Chilean Municipal Elections: On Sunday, Chileans will head to the polls for elections in municipalities across the country. For the first time, “voting will be voluntary with automatic registration, which will allow all Chileans 18 and older to vote. The change could potentially double the number of voters, allowing up to 5.2 million to vote—half of which are under age 29,” according to AS/COA Online. Also, Chile’s ongoing educational protests will come to the fore, as the secondary school system is administered by local municipalities and 70 percent of Chileans support students’ calls for inexpensive, high-quality education.
Extra: Stay tuned for an AQ Web Exclusive this week from NYU Professor and La Tercera columnist Patricio Navia on the elections.
Last night, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney appeared on Univisión’s “Meet the Candidate” forum—President Obama was interviewed today—where the questions from Jorge Ramos and María Elena Salinas almost immediately turned to his stance on key immigration issues. Unfortunately, Governor Romney did not provide much additional clarity as to his stance on issues such as continuation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), deportation and a balanced approach to comprehensive immigration reform.
First, the question of Deferred Action. When first asked about whether he would keep the President’s temporary policy, Romney responded: “The immigration system, I think we all agree, is broken and it’s been a political football for years and years on the part of both Republicans and Democrats. It needs to be fixed.” This answer did not address whether he would continue with DACA. Further pressed to specifically provide an answer on the fate of DACA under a Romney administration, the answer was that a “permanent solution” would be his goal—again, refusing to address whether he would keep the policy.
Clearly, a permanent solution is necessary. But in the absence of Congress and the White House being able to agree to one—a reality given Washington’s bitter partisanship—voters were left still guessing whether the 1.7 million potential beneficiaries of Deferred Action would be left out in the cold under a Romney administration.
Given Mr. Romney’s vague response to his stance on the DREAM Act—saying it would “have to be worked out by the Republicans and Democrats together”—the answer is that the President’s Deferred Action policy would likely not be upheld in its current form. This is a good reason for Romney to avoid the question in front of Univisión’s Spanish-speaking audience.
Why? Deferred Action is largely modeled after the DREAM Act that failed to pass Congress in late 2010—a bill where Mr. Romney disagrees with its core provisions. DACA, similar to the most recent DREAM bill, applies to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before age 16, and who are over 15 years old and under age 31, and have lived in the U.S. continuously for at least five years. Potential beneficiaries must also have a high school diploma or a GED, or be currently in school. Military veterans are also eligible. The major difference is that DREAM provides a pathway to citizenship but Deferred Action beneficiaries are only granted a two-year reprieve from deportation along with work authorization.
A large crowd of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s supporters blocked a main road near an airport Wednesday prior to the arrival of opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles. The crowd congregated near the Bartolomé Salom airport in the coastal town of Puerto Cabello, causing turmoil during Capriles’ campaign rally. A truck and motorcycle were set ablaze and both sides hurled rocks, giving 14 people minor injuries.
At an outdoor rally afterwards, Capriles said, “Those actions aren’t spontaneous. There’s someone responsible for those actions.” Referring to Hugo Chávez without mentioning the president’s name, he added, “It’s you who wants that scenario. It’s you who wants to sow fear.”
Chávez recently claimed that his rival has a hidden right-wing agenda “that would lead Venezuela to a civil war.” As the melee erupted, some of the red-shirted government supporters went into the airport compound and carried away speakers and a generator. In a separate incident, the AFP and Reuters reported that one of their assigned photographers was beaten and kicked as Chávez supporters attempted to get hold of his camera.
Jorge Rodríguez, Chávez's presidential campaign manager, blamed government opponents and said that the Carabobo police, which are under Governor Henrique Salas' command, attacked Chavez's supporters. He said the crowd had "a right to protest and demonstrate freely" against Capriles’ visit.
Carabobo state Governor Henrique Salas Feo, a Chávez adversary, condemned the violence on television and said, “the country needs peace.” Yesterday was the third time in less than a month that Capriles has visited Carabobo state, and each time his presence has sparked altercations between Venezuela’s current administration and the opposing party.
The latest flap over Missouri GOP senatorial candidate, Todd Akin, and his atrocious comments about “legitimate” rape received much coverage north of the border. This, along with the rise of the Tea Party in 2010, has led many Canadians to wonder about the state of the Republican Party today.
It was not always that way. The presidency of Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s saw much cooperation and few differences between the governments of both countries. The Reagan years also marked important areas of cooperation such as in acid rain and free trade. Over the years, many in Canada recognized the Republicans as friendlier on economic issues despite clear contrasts on social and cultural issues.
Yet, since the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Canadians have shown more interest in candidates of the Democratic Party. This can be attributed partly to a question of similar views on the role of government and social issues, as well as the tone of the rhetoric. The 2008 election and the selection of Barack Obama reinforced this sentiment. Most Canadians would still prefer President Obama win in November.
With a close election in the offing between President Obama and Mitt Romney, Canadians will have to come to grips with the reality that the Republican ticket of Romney–Ryan could win. Considering we have a Conservative government in our nation’s capital, one can actually expect that relations could be warm and productive. Would a GOP in November be good news to Canada? How will Canadians react? Before answering, let us see how Canadians see the GOP.
A little more than a month from the October 7 Venezuelan presidential election, President Hugo Chavez and opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski have heavily increased their campaign spending—but by how much remains unknown. According to Rafael Guzman, finance administrator for the opposition coalition, Chavez has been able to maintain a strong campaign spending advantage by tapping into funds from the state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, and a separate development fund, Fonden. Chavez supporters, on the other hand, accuse Capriles of being bankrolled by wealthy businessman and bankers who have fled the country. While Venezuelan election law requires candidates to present detailed monthly financial reports to electoral officials, the National Electoral Council doesn't publicly provide financial figures.
The director of the Americas program at the Carter Center, Jennifer McCoy, observed that "because there's no regulated public financing, then that means that all of the sources of money are private or undisclosed, and so it's very difficult to assess how much each side is spending and where the money comes from.”
The latest poll from Caracas-based polling company Datanalisis revealed that Chavez maintained 46.8 percent support compared with 34.2 percent for Capriles. While this lead has narrowed since June, Capriles still faces unlimited radio and television slots by President Chavez as well as countless billboards and signs of the president throughout Caracas and the country.
Top stories this week are likely to include: López Obrador files a legal challenge to Peña Nieto’s win; cholera spreads in Cuba; standoff between Bolivia and a multinational Canadian mining firm; the Chávez factor in the U.S. presidential election; and Unasur sends a delegation to Paraguay.
López Obrador Contests Peña Nieto’s Victory: Although Enrique Peña Nieto won the July 1 presidential election according to the independent electoral authority Instituto Federal Electoral (Federal Electoral Institute—IFE) earlier this month by over 6 percentage points, runner-up Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has now filed a legal challenge to the ruling, claiming fraud on the part of Peña Nieto’s Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI). AMLO’s team says it will prove that “illicit money” was used to buy votes. Despite IFE having recounted over half the ballots and still upholding its verdict of Peña Nieto’s win, AMLO’s legal challenge submitted to IFE will now be forwarded to the Federal Electoral Court; in turn, the Court will deliver a ruling before early September.
AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini notes, “While fraud remains a problem in Mexican elections and with it people's trust in the results, AMLO is going to have an uphill battle explaining the direct, logical connection between any allegations of fraud and 3 million plus votes of difference between him and the winner, Enrique Pena Nieto."
Cuba and Cholera: According to the Cuban health ministry in a release over the weekend, there have been no new cholera-related deaths since the three ones reported earlier this month in the eastern city of Manzanillo. However, the health ministry has reported 158 cases of the disease, a significant increase from the 56 initially disclosed. Given that the health ministry has remained rather quiet, leading to rumors about a wider problem with the outbreak, pay attention this week to growing concerns about the spread of cholera.
Just completing a week of instruction at the University of Montreal Summer School on U.S. politics, I am astonished and impressed to see the level of interest of Canadians ,and particularly Quebecers ,for U.S. Presidential politics. In 2008, Canada was as caught up in the classic Obama – Clinton primary battle as many Americans were. The stakes on U.S. – Canadian interests and issues were not at all the concern. The contest and the candidates is what captured the attention.
To understand this phenomenon, it is important we go back to the beginning of the television age in Canada in the 1950’s. Our national network, CBC, would regularly include coverage of both party conventions in an election year. This is how we got to know about Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy and their epic battle. No such coverage of our campaigns would ever be considered north of the border by U.S. television networks.
When President Kennedy won election in 1960, interest peaked for this first-ever telegenic president. We wanted a Kennedy of our own. And who can forget November 22, 1963? Canadians were glued to their television sets, and shared the tears and the sorrows over the tragedy in Dallas. Since then, the interest for who will become the President of United States has never wavered. The rise of Barack Obama and the nature of the campaign in 2008, however, brought it to new heights.
Why is it important to follow the various election cycles in the U.S.? Despite the attractiveness of some candidates and appeal of American political campaigns, we cannot be insular to events and issues affecting our closest neighbor, friend, and principal commercial partner. The most powerful nation on the planet sits on our border.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.