Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, the leading Pan Africanist of our era, with a stature now approaching that of the founding fathers, comment on the recent elections in the US with its implications for Africa. Tajudeen wonders Africans should care about the US, if Americans don't care about Africa.
The outcome of the US presidential election is a shock to many people outside of the US who have been hoping against hope that Americans will do the world a favour with their votes and get rid of George Bush. Even the much predicted repeat of the disputed outcome of the
last presidential election, which Bush controversially won, not by popular vote but through electoral machinations in the state of Florida (in which his brother Jeb was and still is Governor) and the connivance of the Supreme Court did not materialize in the end. Bush this time has won with a clear popular majority.
Although winning by a whiff in 2000 did not stop him from behaving as though he had won an overwhelming mandate not just inside America but also to govern the whole world. He has divided his country and polarized the world. Indeed George Bush has succeeded in making America the number one bogey nation of the world with his reckless approach to international peace and security.
If the rest of the world had a vote in the US elections there is no doubt that Bush would have been booted out? If the views of the rest of the world mattered to Americans there would not have been any cliffhanger it should have been a thorough defeat for the Bushman.
The fact that this is not so shows a number of things. One, Americans are as bitterly divided today as they were four years ago. Two, at the end of the day they (or at least a majority of them, no matter how small) do not care about what the rest of the world thinks. The attitude is one of take it or leave it.
Three, opinion polls in America despite all the much-vaunted technology is as voodooist as in any developing country. All the exit polls indicated a Kerry victory but the actual declared results tell a different story. The same happened four years ago. Same mistakes twice should discredit the trade. Either American voters are incredible mass liars or the pollsters are fraudulent or both.
Four, all the fears, allegations and counter allegations about the electoral process should humble Americans and all westerners who are quick to judge other peoples that democracy even in the allegedly most developed country, is still a work in progress.
Now that Bush has been re-elected president the implications should be clear for Americans and the rest of the world. First, he will see the result as a legitimation for his domestic and foreign relations despite all the bitterness and agonies that they have caused. If Bush could wreak such havoc with a stolen victory what would he now do with a less controversial one?
Second, If Americans do not care about the views, interests and opinions of the rest of the world, why on earth should any other people or country care about America's views? A world in which every country does as it pleases is a recipe for global chaos. America has every right to decide who and how it is governed but it must respect that right to self-determination in other countries too. For instance if Zimbabweans want Mugabe or Venezuelans want Chavez and Cubans
still want their long term president, Castro, why should the US government give itself the right to proclaim or orchestrate regime changes in these and other countries whose leaders it does not like? This also means that if some countries' voters desire theocratic leaders whether of the Islamist or any other religious inclination it will be their right to do so. After all Bush fought on a Christian fundamentalist neo-conservative agenda and his last four years in office has tested the notion of America being a secular state to extreme limits. If that is democratic in America why should it be less so for other peoples?
Third, Bush' victory twice now over candidates who are definitely intellectually superior
to him and more nuanced about the world is yet another demonstration that the standard of both national and global political leadership is in free fall. Bush’ victory could mean a charter for charlatans, dimwits, liars, duplicitous and cruel politicians only need aspire for success. This is a publicly Christian president who will even change the American constitution to protect foetus and unborn children yet has no qualms killing women, children and innocent men in Iraq by the thousands! Four, the received wisdom in Western election studies is that the voters are so enlightened that they will vote for their economic interests but Bush victory has stood this on its head. His father lost when the economy was not doing badly and he has won with a wobbly economic record whose limited recovery has been jobless. All his life personal failures have never stopped him from political victory. Otherwise Five, Bush re-election may help reinforce a popular prejudice among non-Americans that Americans are one of (if not the most) ignorant peoples in the whole planet. Otherwise how does one account for the appeal of Bush?
The do not take account of the political value of fear and hysteria consequent to the real insecurity every American now feels after 9/11. Bush and his crew are just political parasites on those who had survived 9/11 and political saprophytes on the thousands who had died in the attacks. However America's selective disinterest in global opinion did not diminish the interest of the rest of the world in America's elections. I was particularly happy that observers from around the world including a few Africans were there to monitor the elections. The reaction of the Americans was predictably hostile believing that their democracy is beyond outside scrutiny. Yet US foundations, government, academics, NGOs and other election tourists from other parts of
the West are now institutionalised accessories for any elections in Africa, Latin America, and other poor parts of the world. If they could observe us why cant we observe them too. Why is what is good for the goose not good for the gander?
Finally , Kerry's running motto for the election was to exhort Americans not to vote for their fears but vote for hope in a new beginning, but no miracles in Ohio, it is clear that fear has won and the nightmare from it will not be limited to the shores of the USA in the next four years. But one thing is certain the world will survive Bush as we survived his real political father, Ronald Reagan.