I was in Mexico City last night and I watched the Democratic debate (and part Trump’s re-election rally in Milwaukee) with Mexican friends, some of whom peppered me with questions.
Like millions of people around the world, a lot of Mexicans feel they have a stake in the outcome of the U.S. electoral process and are watching closely as it unfolds. Worldwide, people are alarmed by the ugly rhetoric, racist policies, support for authoritarian rule, and the erratic military actions of the current U.S. administration. This is particularly true in Mexico, a neighboring country that has been in the crosshairs of Trump’s hostility since the day, back in 2015, when he first announced his plan to run for office.
Personally, I did not learn a lot from tonight’s debate. We only saw the six candidates who had met the Democratic Party’s escalating participation standards and, with just three weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses, the candidates pretty much stuck to their well known talking points. Climate change, health care, Iran, impeachment and NAFTA 2.0 all came up, while the media focused more on the dust-up between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. At issue: Did Sanders cast shade on the idea that a woman can beat Trump in a private meeting he had with Warren last year?
The questions from my Mexican friends, however, kept me busy. Most were about the intricacies of our arcane electoral system like the vagaries of the primary process and why we still use the anti-democratic, slave-era anachronism called the Electoral College. But the question that made me think hardest is one we should all consider: Does it really make any difference whether we elect a Republican or a Democrat? My interlocutor insisted (over my feeble objections) that from the point of view of Mexico it really didn’t. Policies that have deeply injured Mexico — like NAFTA and the drug war — are eminently bi-partisan. Equally, support for corrupt leaders in Mexico has a bi-partisan history, as does U.S political and military intervention in the Western Hemisphere and around the world.
Food for thought indeed, and for me, yet another reminder of the urgency of our mobilization for thoroughgoing change.
We must transform our politics. As they say in Spanish, “no hay paso atrás”. There is no road back to some imaginary past where everything worked. We must forge a new and untrodden path that leads to genuine international cooperation and humble leadership on tackling the many urgent global issues and existential choices facing humanity.
Thanks for all you do to help build that path. There is so much to do in 2020. ¡Si se puede!