The Republican (GOP) and Democratic national political conventions were interesting. Of equal interest was the near absence of anything African in them.
More broadly—while the conventions illuminated the vast differences between Democrats and Republicans in America, at least with an unusual nominee on the GOP side, they spelled out where both parties would like to take the country when it comes to domestic and foreign policy matters.
I have been particularly curious to find anything–the connotations, subtleties, correlations, anecdotes, parallels, and references to the African continent, while the two dominant political parties in America held their big nominating conventions.
The purpose of these conventions is to select or confirm the person to lead each party into the November election.
Now that the primaries and conventions are over and as we head into the November election, what can we infer from what was said or not said by party affiliates?
As I sat on my perch, far from the crowd, taking in the convention via radio, television and print, a few things continued to ignite my curiosity. Let’s begin with the Republicans.
With election 2016, it’s been easy to bash Republicans, because, as I’ve found out, everyone is doing it. I hear it is because of GOP standard-bearer, Donald Trump. Trump has been a lightening rod on the campaign trail, angering many people. Even Republican faithfuls have refused to endorse or support him.
But I won’t focus on that in this post.
What I am concerned to find is what was in the speeches and discussions made by GOP faithfuls in Cleveland, Ohio to connect to the African continent and the world outside of America.
In his acceptance speech that contained more than 4,000 words and went on for more than an hour, Trump said everything he thought was wrong with America, with several mentions of Libya and Egypt. He referenced “radical Islam” and the question of fighting terrorism at home and abroad. This is something that, as Trump says, underpins his foreign policy.
“America is far less safe—and the world is far less stable—than when Obama made the decision to put Hillary Clinton in charge of America’s foreign policy. I am certain it is a decision he truly regrets,” Trump said. “Her bad instincts and her bad judgement—something pointed out by Bernie Sanders—are what caused so many of the disasters unfolding today.”
For the most part, Trump talked about the “savage killers,” ISIS, the challenges the U.S. is confronted with in the Middle East, as well as what he described as “poverty and violence at home, war and destruction abroad.” The GOP candidate, in other statements, signaled he would disengage from the world, including possibly making alterations to U.S. commitments in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The substance of his remarks were not very surprising though. As I noted earlier during the primaries, the GOP ignored the rest of the world, including the African continent, in this election.
The Trump website is lacking on information pertaining to global partnerships. The official Republican platform, the party position on many of the subjects discussed at the convention, shows a marked improvement from our earlier analysis.
With specific reference to the African continent, the platform says, “Both the United States and our many African allies will become stronger through investment, trade, and promotion of the democratic and free market principles that have brought prosperity around the world. We pledge to be the best partner of all African nations in their pursuit of economic freedom and human rights.”
“The Republican Congress has extended to 2025 the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and President George W. Bush’s health initiatives — AIDS relief under PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria — continue to save millions of lives.”
Before the convention, there was a lack of any substantive GOP policy positions, vis-à-vis what I’ve called the “rest of the world.” That rest of the world includes developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Latin America and the African continent.
It’s true the U.S. is the world’s only super power with enormous influence. Yet, we live in world that is interconnected, where we are each others’ keeper. In other words, America alone does not make the world go around and America alone cannot solve all of the world’s problems.
On the Democratic side, I stated earlier that the Democrats edged out the GOP on matters of global partnerships based on our own look at this issue. We see this in the discussion of a broader U.S. foreign policy that takes into account a globalized world, that problems abroad affect the United States in fundamental ways.
The subject of AIDS is an example and we heard a lot of references to HIV/AIDS in the speeches delivered by leaders and activists at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, PA.
In the area of U.S. global leadership the 2016 Democratic Platform, a set of principles and policy positions the party stands for, states what Democrats will do on issues of AIDS and refugees. Additionally, the platform states how it plans to engage with the African continent.
“We will engage our African partners on the full range of global challenges and opportunities, and we will continue to strengthen democratic institutions and human rights, fair trade and investment, development, and global health,” the Democratic Platform party Committee said.
In her opening remarks, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, quickly charged that Trump wanted to divide America.
“He wants to divide us; from the rest of the world and from each other,” Clinton said.
Speaking about America’s enemies and with an indirect reference to earlier statements from Trump about NATO, Clinton stated: “I’m proud to stand by our allies in NATO against any threat they face, including from Russia.”
Now that we have heard and read something, scattershot as they are, about where each party would like to go on these matters, isn’t it time that we actually push for something to happen come January 2017?
For something to happen requires action. What would Trump or Clinton do about the reductions in the global funding for HIV/AIDS that have happened in recent years, for example? More than this, it’s important for those who are concerned, whether Republican or Democrat, to vote in this election to make their voice heard.
Our news analysis now on the Africa News Matters website