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EDITORIAL: Lessons from US election


EDITORIAL: Lessons from US election

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WHEN AMERICANS VOTE tomorrow for their 45th president, the entire world will be paying close attention to the process and the outcome. That Hillary Clinton could become the first woman to occupy that lofty office is as intriguing as the idea of her opponent, the unorthodox businessman Donald Trump, winning the poll.

It has it been a very divisive campaign dogged by controversies which drew attention not only across the United States, but internationally. This election contest has forced most people to take a position: you supported either Mrs Clinton or Mr Trump whether you were eligible to vote or not. There is no room for fence sitting, hence a number of prominent Republicans have openly indicated they will vote for Clinton. The invective displayed at all stages will leave America either bitterly polarised or in need of much healing in the aftermath.

The campaign has been characterised by controversies and blunders offering lessons for politicians in Barbados as they prepare for a national poll within the next 15 months. Our politicians must steer clear of the negative behaviour exhibited. This US election showed that dubious actions of the past can be used to haunt those seeking high office, and the abuse of key demographics will only work against aspirants. The widespread interest in public debates among those seeking to lead indicated the importance voters attach to such events, and they can no longer be dismissed as unimportant, as has been the attitude of some of our politicians.

Opinion polls, which have become a feature of elections the world over, are now viewed with some scepticism given how they have missed the mark in some recent instances. The polls and the pundits on the Brexit vote in Britain in June this year got it very wrong, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss the polls done for tomorrow’s contests. 

It only highlights why getting supporters out to vote remains a key factor for politicians, whether Clinton and Trump or those who will face the poll in Barbados whenever the bell is rung. It is on the day of the vote that matters most.

A point of key importance for the US election is that while the popular ballot is crucial, the real focus should be on the Electoral College vote which will be key since victories in battleground states such as New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California, given the large numbers they command, can determine the winner. While focus is on the two presidential candidates, attention must also be paid to the US Senate and House of Representatives elections, given their role in the overall US government system.

As we watch from afar, we must disabuse our minds of the notion that the outcome is unimportant to us. We are part of a global community and what happens in Washington DC directly impacts us.