Excerpts of a presentation by Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles at a Forum at The UWI Regional Headquarters on 9 November 2016, titled “The Caribbean Say on USA Today”
The seismic but surely predictable shift in the political narrative of the USA presidential elections has thrown Caribbean–USA relationships out of alignment. More so than many parts of the world, the Caribbean states in the CARICOM sub-region have sought to align their economic and political strategies with those of the USA in search of an effective alignment. This development agenda has led critics to suggest that it has been more than alignment but a subservient culture of compliance.
The search for political alignment since independence was turbulent but never morally disrespectful. The 2–party democracy system which we both share has spawned a celebration of the political centre, while recognizing that a socialist left and a conservative right have powerful constituencies to represent.
The US electoral call for an extreme shift to the right originates with those groups who prefer a society based on Christian fundamentalism, white corporate elitism, military nationalism, ethnic solidarity, and the iron rule of communities by militarized police. They have rejected the concepts of multiracialism, social liberalism, community inclusiveness, racial equality, gender justice and equality, and the social role of government to provide health care and public education for the poor.
In the clash of philosophies, the Trumpists have won leaving the Caribbean nations that have generally been aligned to what Americans now call “Obamaism” — social inclusion, together we can, equality and equal justice for all-out on left field without the ball and a referee blowing a whistle. Clinton’s “stronger together” has evolved from “yes we can”, both connected to our “out of many one people” and “rainbow nation”. These rejected philosophies of how best to organize a society imply disdain for the Caribbean world view that has pushed democracy far behind where white America feels comfortable. CARICOM is therefore out of political and ideological alignment with Trumpism.
But more disturbing for CARICOM is the fear of losing economic alignment. The fragile economic recovery of the region is threatened by the economic narrative of Trump that calls for an abandonment of NAFTA, rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a trade war with China, greater domestic protectionism, and a celebration of Russia over the European Union. These unleashed financial forces, real or imagined, will adversely affect world trade leaving the Caribbean on the down side of the swing.
The reset of global diplomacy driven by the rise of ethnic nationalism in the USA and in Western Europe will affect not only the cultural sensibility of Latin America, but Asia, and Africa. With school children in US states calling for “white power” and women rejected as unworthy sexual others, domestic diplomacy throughout the world will, joined with formal politics, create a restricted global commercial culture that will adversely affect global trade and commercial relations.
The moral redundancy of the Republican campaign has sent shivers down the Caribbean soul, a place that has been demanding social sophistication from leaders. Public disrespect for women has been rejected and racial bigotry banished from our political life.
The Caribbean has done well to put the raw aspects of its history behind it in a search for common ground on which to build our young democracies. In this regard, also, Trumpism is not auguring well for the Caribbean. As we seek to keep our economies aligned with the fiscal and financial strategies of the USA, we are now out of alignment morally, spiritually, socially, and culturally. CARICOM is currently vibrating within this nonalignment. Our political leaders have rightly expressed salutations in the direction of the president elect, but will he ever reflect upon our best wishes, visit with us, and by way of generosity “hail CARICOM and big up Jamaica?”