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Maverick Citizen Editorial

Letter to American voters: Vote for all our rights

Letter to American voters: Vote for all our rights
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport on September 25, 2020 in Newport News, Virginia. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

These days, in the age of global pandemics, global climate change, global financial systems, global migration and global inequality, we are all global citizens. 

Unfortunately, though, we do not yet have global voting rights. Although our governments sit in global bodies like the United Nations (UN), they rarely consult us on the resolutions they adopt. This leaves us powerless to shape some of the political processes that have the greatest impact on our lives.

But there are also countries whose politics affect the whole world. One of these is the United States, whose election on 3 November 2020 is of global importance.

Americans have already started voting. But the election is not only about the lives of American people. It is about the lives of all 7.8 billion people on the planet – and especially the human rights of the world’s poorest and most marginalised people.

US President Donald Trump and his gangrenous appendix, the Republican Party, affect our lives for many reasons. For example:

  • The attempted sabotage of the 2015 Paris Agreement to combat climate change and America’s unilateral defiance of global efforts to try to mitigate the climate crisis is not an issue of US domestic politics. As the world’s leading scientists have explained, high carbon emissions in countries like the USA have downstream effects on countries unable to manage the effects of global heating. This is the argument Greta Thunberg and others made in their complaint a year ago to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
  • Donald Trump’s public contempt for democracy and human rights at home encourages copy-cat behaviour by authoritarian regimes in other countries, such as Brazil, India, Poland, Hungary and Russia, to name but a few. Despite the pretence of disagreements with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping, they are birds of a feather, each propping up the other. Thus, as pointed out in a recent article by Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz, at this moment “America’s democracy hangs in the balance. If it falls, democracy’s enemies around the world will win.”
  • In the past the USA has played a leading role in trying to facilitate a global response to health crises like the HIV epidemic. Even Republican presidents such as George Bush introduced lifesaving programmes like the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Trump gave that up, first undoing decades of progress on sexual and reproductive health rights with the so-called global gag rule. But now, at a time when we face an unprecedented crisis brought on by Covid-19, Trump not only eschews that leadership role, but, by cutting funding and baseless insinuations over Covid-19, he seeks to fatally weaken crucial institutions like the World Health Organisation, which are more necessary than ever for global leadership and coordination.

Tragically, the US government has often covertly undermined the rule of law, human rights and democracy across the world for many decades. But now Donald Trump has brought the methods of political thuggery into your own backyard, using it against your own people and thereby provoking the deepening constitutional crisis you face in the USA.

It would be easy for those of us who live in countries like South Africa to think that you got your comeuppance and sit back and laugh at the feast of farce that is served up daily by Trump, as if it were just another episode of South Park. But thanks to whistle-blowers like Edward Snowden, we know much that has been done by the American state was not sanctioned or even known about by the American people.

These are the reasons – at this crucial moment – our appeal to you is not only that you vote for your own best interests as citizens of the USA, but also for our best interests as citizens of the world.

From American dream to American allusion

Watching TV news on networks such as CNN or Al Jazeera allows us to witness the anger of movements like #BlackLivesMatter. But these networks rarely acknowledge or unpack for their viewers around the world the social crisis and inequality that fuels this anger. If they did, we would realise that when it comes to inequality and levels of poverty, the USA, for all its wealth and power, has the distorted demographic of a developing country like South Africa.

For example, in late 2017, Philip Alston, then the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, made an official visit to the USA on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council, another body which in 2018 the United States pulled out of. Alston’s report is a shocking indictment of your government’s neglect of fundamental human rights at home. It points out, for example, that in the USA:

  • “About 40 million live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million live in Third World conditions of absolute poverty.”
  • “In 2016, 18% of children (13.3 million) were living in poverty, and children comprised 32.6% of all people in poverty. About 20% of children live in relative income poverty, compared with the OECD average of 13%. Contrary to stereotypical assumptions, 31% of poor children are white, 24% are black, 36% are Hispanic and 1% are indigenous.”
  • “The United States has the highest maternal mortality ratio among wealthy countries, and black women are three to four times more likely to die than white women. In one city, the rate for black people was 12 times higher than that for white people.”

Despite the fact that poverty is connected primarily to class and not exclusively to race, Trump has tried to polarise American society by fomenting division on the grounds of race, and now actively encourages race hate.

To help counter this, it is important to build unity and solidarity across races because, as Philip Alston points out, “The face of poverty in America is not only black or Hispanic, but also white, Asian and many other backgrounds.” According to his report, “There are 8-million more poor white people than there are poor black people.” However, because of pervasive discrimination:

“Black people are 2.5 times more likely than white people to be living in poverty; their infant mortality rate is 2.3 times that of white people; their unemployment rate is more than double that for white people; they typically earn only 82.5 cents for every dollar earned by a white counterpart; their household earnings are on average well under two-thirds of those of their white equivalents, and their incarceration rates are 6.4 times higher than those of white people.”

Racism is an age-old tactic of divide and rule. In South Africa, we still struggle with the legacy of centuries of racist governments that used the same tactic. South Africa’s leaders fought and overcame it by advancing the principle of non-racialism, universal human rights and protections against majoritarianism in our 1996 Constitution.

We think activists in the USA should do the same.

Today, the United States is reaching its Rubicon moment. Covid-19 is running rampant, killing over 210,000 people so far – because inequality is rampant. The 3 November election will take place with the epidemic still on fire and while “second waves” lash cities like New York. Ironically, the author of the Covid crisis will try to use the same crisis to undermine the will of the people.

But that’s not surprising. In the face of these extremes, Trump and the Republican Party have no option but to do all they can to subvert the democratic process. According to Stiglitz:

“The [Republican] Party cannot simultaneously pursue its unpopular agenda and also endorse honest, transparent, democratic governance. That is why it is now openly waging war on American democracy, doubling down on efforts to disenfranchise voters, politicise the judiciary and the federal bureaucracy, and lock in minority rule permanently through tactics like partisan gerrymandering.”

Trump must not be allowed to succeed. The outcome of the USA’s elections will affect every one of us. America is not Trump. America is not white. America is a melting pot of people of the world. America’s strength is its diversity. It is Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Bernie Sanders, Beyoncé, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bob Dylan, Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, the Dead Kennedys and the millions of people who have fought – and still fight – for democracy and human rights.

Even at this low moment, we believe that with its wealth, democratic traditions and history, it can once more be a force for global good and leadership. Ideas like the Green New Deal being pioneered by a part of the Democratic Party are ideas for the world – not just the USA.

That is why we appeal to the overwhelming majority of good and rights-loving people in the USA to use the last month before the election to campaign and to vote to advance the best interests of all the people in the USA and the world.

Overcome the obstacles that are being created to prevent fellow Americans from voting.

Persuade fellow Americans, especially the millions of young people who are deeply and understandably alienated from the political system, to cast their vote and then continue to organise for deep change.

Use your vote to remove Donald Trump as president of the USA and the Republican Party as the majority party in the Senate.

If Donald Trump attempts to seize power from the people of the USA in the face of an electoral defeat, defend democracy by all peaceful means possible.

At this moment, you vote for the world. DM/MC

Mark Heywood is the Editor of Maverick Citizen.

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  • Kirsty Hämmerle says:

    Given the incompetent, immoral government currently in power in this country, democratically elected by South African citizens, I would say we’re not particularly good at deciding who is fit to govern. We put our cross on the ballot and then take to the streets to riot against the same officials we put in power. Thankfully we can’t decide for other countries who should lead them and we shouldn’t be so arrogant to assume to advise them who to vote for.

    • Coen Gous says:

      Well Kirsty, the world “We” in not really applicable, unless you refer to yourself. Almost 40% of South African votes did not vote for the ANC in 2018, and more that half the popular vote in the US in 2016 was for Hilary Clinton, and not Trump

      • Kirsty Hämmerle says:

        Alas, Coen, I refer to the collective, democratic ‘we’ where the majority gets to decide. The minority tags along for the ride.
        The vagaries of the US electoral college is part of their constitution – the people do not vote directly for the president. Citing the ‘popular vote’ numbers is much ado about nothing.
        If the Democrats had fielded a decent candidate this time round, we wouldn’t have to plead with Americans not to make the same mistake twice. The first time the buffoon Trump got in was by no small measure an anti-Hilary vote. No-one had to beg Americans to vote for Obama. This piece speaks volumes about how weak Biden is as a candidate- the Dems have shot themselves in the foot – again.

        • Coen Gous says:

          I agree Kirsty. But I guess it was difficult to come up with someone like Obama, who I admire. However, to me it is not about Reps. vs. Dems., it is about getting rid of a dangerous cult leader called Donald J. Trump

  • Coen Gous says:

    Mark, what amazes me, is the support Trump gets for people all over the world. Virtually all White people in South Africa supports him. This despite his views, including the following;
    1. Global warming is a hoax
    2. Withdraw funding from WHO
    3. His views on the pandemic, including non-protectiveness
    4. Three-quarters of the world’s countries are “shit hole” countries
    5. Racism, fascism, as well as “white supremacy”
    6. Disregard for paying income tax
    7. Calling dead American soldiers losers and suckers
    With these views, how can anyone in the world support him.

    • Glyn Morgan says:

      Coen, for once you are sprouting rubbish. “Virtually all White people in South Africa supports him.” This is way out of court, where do you get that from?

      • Coen Gous says:

        Glyn, If you are right, and I am wrong, I will be most pleased. However, this is information I gleaned from people I talk to, as well as comments from 2 relative large youtube channels, Loving Life, and one run by a South African named Roman, who runs Morning Shot. YouTube these channels, and see for yourself

    • Annalene Sadie says:

      Coen Gous. I do not know how you could deduce that “virtually all white people in South Africa” supports him. I am white and do not support him. Neither does any other white person that I know. I think that he is an even bigger scourge than Zuma and the ANC, since his decisions has an impact on the rest of the world. At least our own politicians have little influence outside the boundaries of South Africa.

      • Gregory Scott says:

        Go Trump, ignore the wailing from the liberal left

      • Coen Gous says:

        Annalene, see my comment to Glyn. If you are right, and I am wrong, I will be most pleased. However, this is information I gleaned from people I talk to, as well as comments from 2 relative large youtube channels, Loving Life, and one run by a South African named Roman, who runs Morning Shot. YouTube these channels, and see for yourself. Also, see comment from Gregory Scott below

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    Trump’s one time spokesperson, Anthony Scaramuchi called it correctly recently, when he called him a ‘white supremacist’ ! Call it for what it is … and yet there are a small, tiny minority of ‘blacks’ in the US who actually support/vote for him ! Remember how the only black Republican senator (who praised himself for rising from being the son of a cotton farmer, to becoming a US senator – as if that was ‘remarkable’ achievement !) recently defended Trump’s blatant false utterances as ‘mis-speak’ ? Slavery to a white ‘master’ apparently has no bounds !

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