USA elections and Jamaica
On the first Tuesday of each November, you are likely to find an election someplace in the United States of America. The date is always fixed, but the nature of the election varies with the office being selected by the voters.
Every other year is the midterm election. All members of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate are up for re-election. Every four years, the election of the president is added to the electoral mix.
This year was a midterm election. The president, Barack Obama, was not on the ballot, but his policies were on the ballot for the electorate to render an opinion. Only one-third of those registered to vote bothered to do so. The results were a thumping tidal wave, a resounding defeat of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party (blue).
The Republican Party (red) ended this campaign cycle with results it was only dreaming of. The results make for fascinating reading and most indicative where the USA, as a society, is heading. In the Senate, the Democratic Party has lost, to date (one still to be decided), seven seats. The Democratic Party now has 45 members. The Republicans now control 52 seats, which will likely increase with the Louisiana run-off of December 6, 2014 to 53, and there are two independents. The Republicans are within shouting distance of the super majority of 60 seats with the aid of the Blue Dog Democrats. Those are persons whose ideology and geographic locations predispose them to be Democrat only in name.
The House of Representatives is even more dramatic in its composition. Only 180 Democrats and 243 (two pending) Republicans. Only 218 votes are needed to pass legislation. The talk now is that this may lead to the Republicans, on the strength of the power, purse strings and organisation of incumbency, being in power for the next 50 years.
The rest of the electoral structure of the USA is similarly situated. The Democrats only have 17 governors; the Republicans have 31. The gerrymandering to set the boundaries for congressional seats is the prerogative of the governor and the state legislature. The governors are aided by the fact that the Republicans control 69 state legislatures and the Democrats only 30 - an advantage of more than two to one. May the Democratic Party rest In peace.
The Republican Party has been referred to as the choice of white Anglo-Saxon males. This is simply supported by the representation in Congress. One black male senator. Three black females in the House of Representatives. Imagine a black female congresswoman from Utah, the Mormon State. Live long enough and you are likely to see stranger political occurrences.
An analysis of the current Republican electees show that they primarily have their base in the following places: the business community, the military establishment, the religious community of churches and civic organisations. This is the Republican government of IBM, Reebok, Red Cross, McKinsey Consultants and the army. No labour unions or civil-rights representatives. Welcome to the new America.
No wonder Barack Obama is shell-shocked. His policies for the last six years have been weighed and found wanting.
I am of the opinion that any analysis of this electoral result provides both potential gain and loss for Jamaica in its relationship with the big neighbour to the north. It will not be business as usual for the next two years.
Start with one of the likely big pluses. At present, the regulations do not permit the export of liquified natural gas from the USA. At this point, the USA has become a huge producer of natural gas. This is due to the discovery of new fields in the Dakotas and Pennsylvania. This is also because of the technological advance associated with fracking - pumping hot water into the depths of the earth and forcing out the gas.
OPPORTUNITY FOR JAMAICA
The Republicans, being pro-business, will move to export LNG. Here is an opportunity for Jamaica. The transportation cost will be low, the gas price cheap, and the supply abundant. Let us move with dispatch to position our energy needs for swift, sure access to LNG at a price significantly lower than what was quoted mostly recently, in other markets.
The other major area to be impacted by the election is US Immigration policy. Family-based petitions are likely to be most restricted. Educated persons in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields will be induced to migrate. Those without the appropriate documentation already in the USA will be obliged to 'self-deport'. Getting employment where you are undocumented will carry heavy penalties for the perspective employer, hence no more ready access to jobs.
Currently, the USA has an e-Verify system to determine if a job applicant is eligible for employment. It will have to be more widely used now, as some employers who have an interest in employing the undocumented Jamaicans illegally in the USA will be heavily penalised. It is to be anticipated that the mandatory use and subsequent report from the E-Verify system will see large numbers of Jamaicans losing their 'off-the-books' employment. These are the most immediate impacts.