Monday, September 10, 2012

Democrats and Republicans

I can’t get my students at UOG excited about the 2012 Presidential race. This is to be expected considering that Guam, as a territory has no Electoral College votes and so it doesn’t get to help choose the next most powerful man in the world. In most similar classrooms across the United States, a group of apathetic students is an affront to democracy and self-government! But what is the point of calling on people in Guam to care about a race that they are prohibited from participating in?

This November when you head to the polls you will get a ballot that asks you if you want to vote for either Willard Mitt Romney or Barack Hussein Obama. But since the vote doesn’t count, it makes you wonder why we even do it at all? It is yet another way that people on Guam seek to create the illusion of Guam being a secure and full part of the United States rather than face the truth of the situation. It is akin to seeing someone who is hallucinating that they are eating a gourmet meal and while they have their hands before them cutting imaginary rib eye steak with an imaginary knife, you politely offer them some teriyaki sauce to go with their meal.

The realities of American contemporary colonialism make the apathy towards Presidential politics understandable, but it is still inexcusable. It is a foolish sort of fantasy, and one that is dangerous because it makes people on Guam feel like the belong in a way they don’t, and so therefore they don’t perceive the way in which a Presidential election actually does matter to the island.

If you don’t follow the Presidential politics of Chile or Albania, the lack of knowledge doesn’t affect you as neither of those places have much influence over Guam. If President Fulanu as opposed to President Fulana is elected, it doesn’t matter here on Guam.

But the election of the US President isn’t like the election of a foreign leader at all, but at the same time it isn’t really the election of “our” President either. Did the place that you come from offer Electoral College votes that helped candidates get elected? If not, then the President isn’t really your President.

The most basic way in which you can perceive Guam’s colonial status is through that simple lack of representation/participation. You did not get to participate in the election of the President, not even to vote against him, and so all your feelings of patriotism don’t make that person “your” President. But, the glitch here, the reason Guam is a colony, is that you not being represented does not exempt you from the decisions of whoever is elected and whatever laws he signs and whatever people he appoints to his cabinet. Even though you are not included in American democracy you are still included in the everyday exercise of American power.

The reason why should pay attention to Presidential politics is because not all candidates are the same and most importantly not all parties are the same. Even if you don’t have the right to vote for or against them, they still have incredible influence over Guam and what sort of relationship it will have to the Federal Government.

In this upcoming election the stakes are very high for Guam. The Republican party has become far less cooperative, far more conservative and much more ideologically intolerant in the months leading up to this election Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan, a conservative darling who doesn’t easily appeal to centrist or independent voters is a clear sign as to how rightist their party is today.

You could argue politicians are politicians and the parties are pretty much the same, but in terms of relating to the territories, the Democrats are much nicer than Republicans. It is Republican politicians who repeatedly question whether people who live in territories are actually Americans or not (if you ask Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) for example, he would tell you they aren’t. The reason? The fact that people in the territories get all the privileges of being attached to the US, but don’t support it through paying taxes. If you search around the internet for those who don’t like the idea of Chamorros getting war reparations they are predominantly Republicans. The social programs on Guam that people often times feel their dependency towards the United States through, are all things that Republicans love to claim a need to slash.

There is a myth that Republicans are better in terms of supporting the military or the troops. This is far from true. Both parties favor giving a ridiculous amount of money to the US military and both parties advocate much oversight over it. Democrats are more willing to challenge ideas such as war and militarism, but only to a certain extent.

Republicans have a history of favoring defense contractors and private contracts who often times get paid more than the troops themselves. When President Obama became President Republicans balked at his “defense cuts.” In reality the defense budget increased under Obama, but it was recommended that more money be given to conventional parts of the military (soldiers and their infrastructure) and less be given to fancy high tech projects that often times go billions over budget or are never finished at all.

This difference derives from the ideological narrative that drives their parties. Republicans claim to defend the real Americans and attempt to return America to its roots (both of which the territories lie outside the bounds of). Democrats instead are driven to expand the union and are therefore more accepting of those of us in the territories.

Finally however, Democrats and Republicans differ on global warming; one side taking it more seriously than the other. As an island, Guam should definitely hope that the side that takes it more seriously prevails.

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