by Alfonso Suico, Jr., MD, CSsR
Race to the White House
Outside Catholic circles, the visit of the Holy Father in September this year has been eclipsed by the debates for the upcoming elections in 2016. The purpose of the Pope’s visit is about love and mission. His visits include Washington, DC, Philadelphia and New York; nonetheless, it has been politically-colored especially with his recent encyclical and statements made on his visit to Latin America in July. Indeed, US media is focused on the frenzy of the coming presidential elections next year – as to who will be the next occupant of the White House?
Over the past months, candidates from the Republican and the Democrats have been very visible and vocal. The GOP (Republican) presidential nominees’ debate in August sparked controversy as Donald Trump made lashing statements that were perceived as derogatory and controversial. He even hinted of a possible independent candidacy if he doesn’t get the Republican nomination. On the other hand, Hilary Clinton is running to return to the White House but no longer as First Lady. She is facing a different set of issues altogether. Emails recently declassified allegedly linking her with breaches in protocol on matters of national security when she was still Secretary of State. Now polls are showing Joe Biden gaining more support over her. What is striking is how commentators and analysts describe the significant shift of issues from those a decade ago or even in the last election.
The past decades showed diverse political agenda. In the 60’s, there were civil rights issues. In the 70’s Vietnam; and the 80’s was mostly about the cold war. After the end of communism in Eastern Europe, the issues shifted to the Gulf War in the 90’s. The turning point after that was of course 9/11. Today the war against terrorism is crucial: ISIS continues to be a real threat. But the Bush scion, Jeb Bush, has been very careful to distance himself from the controversy yet he is trying to defend the fiasco of the attack on Iraq in 2003 and the issue on weapons of mass destruction. Little has been said about the foreign policy on Russia and China.
In previous campaigns a decade ago, same-sex marriage and gay-rights have been a hotly-debated issue. Since the time of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” this has changed with the non-discrimination of gender in the armed services. Many politicians use this divisive issue in many ways for their own benefit with Republicans sticking to their conservative views of the ideal American family. With the so-called landmark decision by the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in June this year, same-sex marriage didn’t get as much attention in the debates today. Instead, candidates were more “careful”, “sensitive” and “inclusive”.
What is noticeable today is the growing number of illegal residents. In June of 2015, Republican nominee Donald Trump made a remark regarding Mexico accusing the latter of sending its people across the border and blaming it on the rise of drugs and criminality. He even suggested in building a wall in the border. This outraged many Latinos and other ethnic groups calling for a boycott of Trump’s many businesses and labelling him as racist and bigot. Another hotly-debated issue is the use of the derogatory term “Anchor Babies”. Children who are born on US soil by a foreign mother, securing the child and the mother legal status. The reports of raids in safe houses for Asian mom, particularly in LA area, again sparked controversy. Democrats, of course, decried these terms.
The bigger picture shows some significant things underlying these issues. One of these is a growing discontent on the part of the citizens. After the slump in the economy despite increasing national revenues, there lingers the dissatisfaction and insecurity by many Americans about their way of living. The blame then is directed to government foreign policy and international aid and to illegals who are accused of consuming government funds for welfare. They are also blamed for taking away jobs (which nobody would take anyway). Yet, this is also a symptom of another problem, which is the xenophobia in a pluralistic society. In the 1960’s, the civil rights movement fought for racial equality. But the races at that time were distinct. Today, more Latinos, Middle Eastern, Asians and Europeans and refugees migrated to the US. With their exodus to this country, they bring with them their culture and their religion. But it only fuels the fear that these “newcomers” might be illegals or worse, are connected with terrorist groups! These fears most remain unsaid, but are nevertheless palpable. They ask questions: what will happen to the American values like love for liberty and being a God-fearing nation? How to defend national security? Who will benefit from the economy? Many Americans (like the Republicans) still hold on to the nostalgia of their ideal nation. The race to the White House in on the way, but the truth is that American society has changed. Whether it is for the better or not, the change is inevitable.
**Bay Transit. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) serves cities across the Bay area from San Francisco to Alameda, Oakland, Berkeley and north to San Mateo County. A fitting description of how rapid and important correspondence is from one point to another. Also, Bay Transit describes the author’s transitional stay in the Bay Area until the end of his studies there.