By the end of today, November 3, 2020, barring some unforeseen development, the world is likely to know the outcome of the United States (US) Presidential Elections. By the end of the day on November 5, 2020, we are also likely to know the outcome of Parliamentary Elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
In the case of the US, the elections are of global significance because the US is still at the top of the global pecking order.
After four years of Donald Trump’s presidency, there is a near collective fatigue around the world with respect to perceived US disregard for multilateralism and an apparent preference for unilateral action on issues of global importance; and the seeming unpredictable and incoherent nature of policy making. Against this background, many are hoping for a victory for the Joe Biden ticket, as it potentially offers some respite for both America and the world from the misadventures of the Trump years.
Writing in the Foreign Affairs Magazine a week ago, Elliot A. Cohen predicted that Trump’s re-election would bring about a permanent and unstoppable American decline. A Trump win in Tuesday’s election “would likely force a shift in the way everyone thinks about the United States,” Cohen writes. Cohen further argues that should there be a second Trump term, the US “might as well be understood as a monument to the past. Not a failed state, but a failed vision, a vast power in decline whose time has come and gone.”
In its endorsement of the Biden ticket, The Economist acknowledges that Joe Biden is not a miracle cure for what ails America. Nonetheless, the publication affirms that “he is a good man who would restore steadiness and civility to the White House.” In contrast, the publication delivers a scathing assessment of the Trump Presidency, arguing that “he has repeatedly desecrated the values, principles and practices that made America a haven for its own people and a beacon to the world.”
Whether these concerns are sufficient to sway the electorate will be known in short order.
Turning to elections in SVG, the significance of its outcome for the rest of the world would pale in comparison to that of the US. Nonetheless, they are important for the people of the country. The major issues this election cycle appear to hinge on leadership, jobs, foreign policy, namely the One China Policy and economic citizenship.
Essentially, the two major political parties are offering different pathways to economic growth and development, and governance. However, no matter who wins, they will be confronted by the same challenges. These challenges include vulnerabilities to exogenous shocks, including the ongoing global fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic, climate change and natural disasters; small size with few natural resources; fiscal constraints; and narrow policy space.
The winner, out of necessity, must be able to navigate these circumstances to bring about the kind of economic and social transformation needed for success in the 21st Century.
It would be remiss of me to conclude without stating my concern about the divisive and tribal nature of politics in SVG and many other small states which is antithetical to the overall wellbeing of the country. Tribalism of course predates the current crop of politicians and their supporters, but it is no less problematic. Tribalism undermines norms, policies and institutions, and it also erodes trust in a country’s democratic traditions. Whatever the outcome of the elections, the country will not reach its full potential if we situate solutions to our problems almost exclusively in binary partisan terms.
Finally, being able to participate in free and fair elections is a fundamental aspect of any democracy.
As a Vincentian national living abroad, I am always envious of my American friends who can vote irrespective of where in the world they are. My plea and hope are that if I do not make it home for the next elections, I will still have the option of exercising this important franchise. This makes it even more important for those who are on the ground and registered, to go out on the day and take part in this important democratic process. X marks the spot!