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What Nigerians, INEC should learn from U.S. mid-term election, by Falola


Professor Toyin Falola. PHOTO: UT College of Liberal Arts

Professor Toyin Falola of the University of Texas in Austin, United States of America in this interview with Head South West Bureau Chief, MUYIWA ADEYEMI spoke on the significance of the mid-term election in the USA to Africans and their expectations.
Are there lessons Nigerian leaders and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) could learn from the U.S. mid-term election?
Considering how there is now strong evidence that United States security was compromised during the United States’ 2016 presidential election, it is important that the United States – as well as the INEC – keep its voting rights secure in the future so that policies made are truly chosen by the people themselves.With the results of the United States 2016 election, Brexit, and the presidential election in Brazil this year, it is clear that across the world there is a tendency to become isolationist, nationalist, and fearful. As a result, international relations have been strained. I encourage Nigerian leaders not to isolate themselves as other leaders across the world have done so that we all can promote our own interests but also work together for the greater good of the world.

Do you think Trump and his party have delivered on their campaign promises?
For the most part, the Trump administration has not delivered on Trump’s campaign promises, but this could change with the results of the 2018 midterm election. As of now, Trump has yet to fulfill promises on repealing and replacing President Obama’s healthcare system (also known as Obamacare). Also, in spite of the fact that Trump claims the United States—Mexico border wall construction has begun, this has actually not happened. However, Trump has clearly fulfilled his campaign promise of limiting immigration from certain countries. This particular issue is extremely attractive to his supporters.

What is your overview of the mid-term poll?
At this point in the nation’s history, the public is incredibly partisan and divided. It seems to be increasingly rare to see average Americans and politicians on either side of the political spectrum willing to make compromises and address important bipartisan issues with one another. These past few years in the United States have been marked with extreme animosity, bitterness, and fear.

Indeed, the current political atmosphere in the United States is incredibly toxic, and this toxicity is tangible in everyday life. Many of our Latino friends are afraid that their rights would be legally taken from them. They resent the anti-immigrant language that Trump espouses. Many women, after the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh (a man accused of committing sexual assault as a teenager) to the Supreme Court, are desperate to overthrow the Republican senators who allowed him to be seated.

On the other hand, the people who support the president are genuinely afraid of the supposed “caravan” of “illegal immigrants” who are “invading” the country. They believe that the government must be strict on deportation and not allow entities, whom they deem to be potentially dangerous enter the country. Other Trump supporters are intent on keeping a conservative government in hopes of promoting more pro-life agendas in the Supreme Court in particular. Trump supporters fear that if Democrats win seats in this election, the “true American values” will be threatened.

Democratic and Republican candidates alike are emphasizing just how important this midterm election is because it could either signal the continuation of an all-Republican Congress—Trump agenda, or it could bring about some checks on the Trump administration. I agree that this election is critical. It could predict the direction this country will go in the next two years until the next presidential election in 2020.

The Republicans appear to have a clear message. My hope is that, regardless of the results tonight, the Democratic Party would be able to rally together with a message that is not just anti-Trump but also bounded in something about which all Democrats can positively agree. While the Democrats should not be passive, it is clear that their anger toward Trump and their accusations against Trump only provide fuel to Trump’s base.

So far, Trump has been able to counter almost every move they make. Now more than ever, the Democrats need to solidify a powerful message that the president cannot counterattack, and the Democrats need a leader. At the moment, the Republicans have Trump. However, the Democrats do not have a clear leader who serves as the face of the Democratic Party. I believe that this election will possibly lead to new changes in the party and to potential Democratic presidential candidates in 2020.

What likely issues would determine the voting patterns?
As I mentioned, immigration is a clear issue in this election. Arguably, it is the most important issue. Republicans are claiming that Democrats are too “soft” on immigration and that only they as Republicans under a “tough” Trump administration can enforce law and order in the immigration system. Democrats, on the other hand, believe that President Trump’s current policies on and attitudes toward immigration are xenophobic and racist.

Consequently, they are arguing for more positive changes in the immigration system that do not involve staunch deportation policies and a border wall. They argue instead that the immigration system should be reformed in such a way that immigrants are more easily able to gain legal citizenship. As the system is right now, many immigrants struggle for many years to properly gain citizenship because of barriers that the system presents.

Other important issues involve healthcare, ownership of guns, and trade. The Trump administration wishes to completely redesign the healthcare system, prohibit restrictions on most forms of gun ownership, and encourage the “America first” agenda by continuing to boycott Chinese goods. Meanwhile, the Democrats want to build a more progressive healthcare system for all citizens, enforce more background checks and restrictions on assault weapons, and promote a more globalist agenda.

What were the expectations of the black, especially Africans?
President Trump’s administration is noticeably white-and male-dominated. As a result, Trump does not have someone in his cohort, who can in a sense “represent” the black population in the United States.

Curiously, in 2016, Trump seemed to focus more on the black population than he does now. In fact, he has been oddly silent about black—white relations. Instead, his focus is more on white—Latino or U.S. Citizen—“illegal alien” relations. For these reasons, I predict that more black people in this country – those who identify as African or African American – will vote more with the Democratic party.

In this article:
INECToyin Falola
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