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Ronald Thwaites | Lessons from US politics

Published:Friday | June 17, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Ronald Thwaites

Travelling to the USA last week to help boost the cause of partnership between Jamaicans living abroad and their homeland has exposed me to two memorable trends.

First is the extraordinary zeal and yearning for Jamaica by so many of those who have migrated. The contributions of the scores of alumni associations of Jamaican primary and secondary schools give an immense but often hidden boost to the quality of local education. At their invitation, I went to encourage them to concentrate on aid to the early childhood and special education sectors, where their dollars and mentorship have most effect.

Most times, though, we in Jamaica do not thank these benefactors sufficiently, if at all, nor do we remove quickly enough the annoying and expensive obstacles that diaspora groups face when sending needed supplies to our schools.

These growing numbers of contributors, who have not forgotten where their educational navel-strings were buried, are not usually rich people. Some are holding down two jobs to get by, but they reinforce their identities by claiming and supporting their Jamaican heritage. And they value the texture of their school experiences, often more than the rest of us do.

Government must activate a standing committee of Parliament on diaspora relations. We all must make a real commitment to include overseas Jamaicans in all possible aspects of island life. The reflexive feeling that these people have abandoned us in our struggles is as unhelpful as it is untrue. I don't see them getting a vote, but it should be entirely possible and desirable to create, say, three places in the Senate for representatives of the three major communities of Jamaicans in the USA, Canada, and the United Kingdom.




It seems that from now until November, the American media will be obsessed with the contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I hope she will choose Elizabeth Warren as her vice-presidential candidate, not because she is a woman, but because she is the most competent by achievement and personality for the job. Those should always be the only criteria there, here, and anywhere. The only time gender should really matter is in the choice of a spouse.

I hope, too, that Mrs Clinton will make up soon, soon with Bernie Sanders and the millions of progressive Americans who find Hillary boring and 'same-old' by ironic contrast to the male septuagenarian and socialist Sanders.

These two tendencies in the Democratic Party need each other to defeat the Trump juggernaut.




Donald presents himself as a cross between a bully and a buffoon, and to think of him as president should curdle the blood of all Caribbean-American people who have migrated to a great country still trying to get rid of endemic racism. It is heartening to have met several leaders of the Jamaican diaspora movement who have now become actively engaged with the Clinton campaign.

As well they might. The frightening reality is that Trump has legitimised the tendencies of jingoism, chauvinism, bigotry, and classism among tens of millions of Americans. They feel they now have a champion.

Thank God there is the strong antidote in President Obama, for whom there has been a resurgence of favourable ratings, and the strong, critical support of people like Elizabeth Warren, who represents the tolerant, progressive, humane side of the American political culture!

Looking over the transoms of United States politics from the southern sea, my greatest unhappiness is that Trump is gaining such support from religious organisations. Many Evangelicals and Catholics have become single-issue voters on the matter of abortion. They ignore his "torture works", "we're gonna send them all home, I'm going to build a wall" statements.

This is no urbane Reagan of the eighties.

- Ronald Thwaites is member of parliament for Central Kingston and opposition spokesman on education. Email feedback to