By Robert A. Blecker*
Two maquiladoras in Tijuana, Mexico. The low percentage of Mexican value-added in Mexico’s exports is a key reason why the country has not gotten nearly as much employment growth as it hoped for when it joined NAFTA. / Anthony Albright / Flickr / Creative Commons
Officials in the Trump administration are proposing a new way of measuring the U.S.-Mexican trade deficit that, by making the deficit look larger than it currently appears, will likely be spun to support efforts to impose high tariffs or dismantle NAFTA. According to press reports, the President’s senior advisors, including the head of his new trade council, Peter Navarro, are proposing to include only “domestic exports” (exports of U.S.-produced goods) in calculating bilateral trade balances with Mexico and other countries. This would exclude “re-exports” – goods that are imported into the United States from other countries (such as Canada or China) and transshipped into Mexico – which are currently counted in total U.S. exports.
- In spite of its political motivation, the proposed new accounting would render a more accurate measure of U.S. exports. In fact, it would make the U.S. deficit with Mexico look closer to what Mexico reports as its surplus with the U.S. For 2016, the U.S. reports a deficit of $63.2 billion with Mexico, while Mexico reports almost twice as big a surplus of $123.1 billion with the U.S. If the U.S. excluded re-exports, its trade deficit with Mexico for 2016 would be $115.4 billion, which is much closer to the Mexican number.
Nonetheless, this recalculation fails to correct for another bias, which makes the U.S. deficit with Mexico look artificially large. Imports are measured by the total value of the goods when they enter the country, from the immediate country of origin. But in today’s global supply chains only part of the value-added in imported goods comes from any one country. A television, for example, can be assembled in Mexico with components imported from Korea and other East Asian nations. As a result, the reported U.S. imports from Mexico (especially of manufactured goods) greatly exaggerate the Mexican content of those goods. Although data limitations do not permit an exact calculation of the Mexican content of U.S. imports from Mexico, it is likely relatively low. (My own estimates suggest it is on the order of about 30-40 percent for manufactured goods). Indeed, the low percentage of Mexican value-added in Mexico’s exports is a key reason why the country has not gotten nearly as much employment growth as it hoped for when it joined NAFTA.
The Trump Administration’s aggressive rhetoric and action on other issues related to Mexico, including immigration and the wall, suggest a political motivation for the proposal to adopt a new measure of exports, regardless of its merits. But the real problem is not the “correct” number for the U.S.-Mexican trade deficit; it is why NAFTA has not lived up to its promise of supporting high-value added exports and high-wage job creation in both countries. This promise was based on the idea that the United States would export capital and intermediate goods to Mexico for assembly into consumer goods, which would then be exported back to the United States. But especially since China joined the WTO in 2001, Mexico has increasingly become a platform for assembling mostly Asian inputs into goods for export to the United States (and secondarily Canada). Even if “re-exports” are excluded, Mexico remains the second largest export market for the United States (after Canada) – and U.S. exports to Mexico are 65 percent greater than U.S. exports to China. Focusing too much on measuring the U.S.-Mexico trade imbalance only distracts attention from the need to reform NAFTA so as to encourage more of the “links” in global supply chains to be produced in North America generally. If the Trump administration is serious about making the U.S. more competitive vis-à-vis China, it should think about viewing Mexico as a partner instead of as an enemy. In the larger context of Trump’s many objectionable policies on migration and in other areas, a long-overdue correction of U.S. export statistics is not worth getting upset over. The real issue is whether Trump’s trade policies – with Mexico and beyond – will bring the promised gains to U.S. workers, or will further enrich corporate billionaires and Wall Street tycoons.
February 23, 2017
* Robert A. Blecker is a Professor of Economics at American University.
Posted by clalsstaff on February 23, 2017
By Max Paul Friedman*
Uncle Sam stakes his claim in the Western Hemisphere in a political cartoon outlining the basic tenants of the Monroe Doctrine (1912). / Wikimedia / Creative Commons
A vigorous resuscitation of the Monroe Doctrine may well be at hand under U.S. President Donald Trump, even though history shows us that it will contradict another favored policy – “America First” – which signals a desire to return to the most notorious isolationist organization in U.S. history. The Monroe Doctrine, first articulated in 1823 as a means of blocking external interference in the Western Hemisphere, was the central pillar of U.S. policy toward Latin America until Barack Obama’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, told a roomful of Latin American diplomats in 2013 that “the era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.” The statement was part of an effort to rehabilitate the U.S. image in a region long accustomed to seeing the United States as seeking to control it through persuasion when possible, and force when necessary. In a policy paper published last December, Craig Deare, a dean at the U.S. National Defense University and now Trump’s top Latin America advisor on the National Security Council staff, denounced Kerry’s statement “as a clear invitation to those extra-regional actors looking for opportunities to increase their influence.” He specifically mentioned China.
A revitalized Monroe Doctrine, however, contradicts the Administration’s other strong impulse, present in its statements far beyond Latin America, toward isolationism. Trump is promising to build a literal wall between Latin America and the United States, but the Monroe Doctrine was decisively unilateral and interventionist. It stated that the United States would not intervene in European affairs if European powers did not intervene in the Americas, but Monroe carefully did not state that the United States would not intervene in the region. Indeed, Presidents James Monroe (1817-1825) and John Quincy Adams (1825-1829) and other U.S. leaders desired and expected the future annexation of parts of what was then Spanish or Latin American territory in Cuba, northern Mexico (later Texas), and beyond. Later, even in the “isolationist” early decades of the 20th century, the United States was vigorously engaged in military intervention and outright occupation of several countries in Latin America. The Marines were in Nicaragua (1912-33), Haiti (1915-34), and the Dominican Republic (1916-24).
- Latin American resistance prompted Franklin Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor Policy,” which supplanted the Monroe Doctrine’s unilateralism with respect for national sovereignty, but during World War II, FDR threatened Latin American governments with economic embargoes and other measures if they didn’t round up and intern thousands of Germans, Italians, and Japanese. After the tide in the war turned in 1943, the Latin American deportation and internment program was continued by U.S. officials seeking to turn the program to economic advantage by crushing commercial rivals.
Even Obama had difficulty reversing the United States’ longstanding desire to guide political and economic developments in Latin America – continuing, for example, Washington’s “democracy promotion” efforts in Cuba and elsewhere – but steps toward normalization of relations with Cuba and other initiatives made important strides toward assuaging Latin American irritation with U.S. imperiousness. Obama went further than any president since FDR in restoring good relations, and ended the Cold War in Latin America. Donald Trump’s competing impulses – the interventionism of Monroe and the isolationism of “America First” – will keep U.S.-Latin America relations on edge. His unilateralist style has already hit its first victim, Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto, and is likely to claim more soon. If Trump revives the Monroe Doctrine’s unilateralism more broadly in response to a perceived threat from China throughout the region, he is likely to succeed only in making Latin America irate again.
February 2, 2017
* Max Paul Friedman is a Professor in the History Department at American University and author of Rethinking Anti-Americanism: The History of an Exceptional Concept in American Foreign Relations.
Posted by clalsstaff on February 2, 2017
By Malcolm Fairbrother*
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and the flag of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). / Flickr and Wikimedia / Creative Commons / Modified
Despite his campaign rhetoric repeatedly attacking the North American Free Trade Agreement, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump probably won’t touch it, except in superficial ways. He has called NAFTA the “worst trade deal ever,” and promised to pull the U.S. out unless Mexico and Canada agree to renegotiate it. Last week, he suggested renegotiation of NAFTA will include provisions for Mexico to repay the U.S. government for the wall he wants to build along the border.
Dismantling or even significantly rewriting the accord is unlikely for a couple reasons:
- First, the billionaires, chief executives, and friends he is choosing for his cabinet are hardly people inclined to dismantle an agreement whose contents largely reflect what American business wanted from the U.S.-Mexico relationship when NAFTA was being negotiated in the early 1990s. Corporate preferences weighed heavily against any big deviation from the status quo after the last political transition in Washington, in 2008. Barack Obama too said that “NAFTA was a mistake,” though his criticisms were a little different. He railed against lobbyists’ disproportionate influence over trade policy, and promised big changes to international trade agreements, including better protections for workers and the environment. Even so, he didn’t touch NAFTA, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) he negotiated included – like NAFTA – shady provisions for investor-state dispute settlement.
- It would be near-impossible, or least massively expensive, to get what Trump seems to want most: a big drop in imports from Mexico. In his eyes this would make NAFTA a better deal for America, though of course serious economists disagree. Realistically, reopening the agreement would be very messy, and if he tried to throw up massive new trade barriers business leaders would strongly object. NAFTA could include some additional measures to make it easier for goods and/or people to get around among the NAFTA countries, but that’s not what Trump has promised.
His economic nationalism makes the Republican Party establishment squirm, but it’s clear it also helped Trump win several Midwestern states, tipping the electoral college in his favor. Insofar as agreements like NAFTA entrench rules friendly to business, and generate market efficiencies and economies whose benefits accumulate in the hands of the few, voter hostility is no mystery. But economics is only part of the reason. The bigger issue is what the backlash against globalization – embodied also by Brexit and the rise of neo-nationalist parties in Europe – means more broadly. The average Democratic voter has a lower income than the average Republican voter, but Democrats are more supportive of trade agreements because they are more internationalist, more open to other cultures, younger, more educated, and more urban. Throughout his presidency, Trump will therefore be squeezed between his working class rhetoric – appealing to the distrustful – and his business class milieu. He is an extreme case of the politicians’ mercantilist thinking on trade, wherein exports are good and imports are bad, and “trade deals” like NAFTA are somehow like deals in the business world, where it’s possible to out-negotiate someone. The reality is that this thinking – which flies in the face of basic economics – doesn’t point to any clear course of action. This is why Trump won’t actually do much about NAFTA.
January 10, 2017
* Malcolm Fairbrother is social science researcher and teacher/mentor in the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol (UK). This article is adapted from a recent blog post for the American Sociological Association.
Posted by clalsstaff on January 10, 2017
By Eric Hershberg and Fulton Armstrong
Brazilian President Michel Temer surrounded by members of his party in mid-2016. His government will continue to face questions of legitimacy in 2017. / Valter Campanato / Agência Brasil / Wikimedia / Creative Commons
The year 2016 laid down a series of challenges for Latin America in the new year – not the least of which will be adapting to a radically different administration in Washington. Last year saw some important achievements, including an elusive peace agreement in Colombia ending the region’s oldest insurgency. Several countries shifted politically, eroding the “pink tide” that affected much of the region over the past decade or so, but the durability and legitimacy of the ensuing administrations will hinge on their capacity to achieve policy successes that improve the well-being of the citizenry. The legitimacy of Brazil’s change of government remains highly contested. Except in Venezuela, where President Maduro clung to power by an ever-fraying thread, the left-leaning ALBA countries remained largely stable, but the hollowing out of democratic institutions in those settings is a cause for legitimate concern. Across Latin America and the Caribbean, internal challenges, uncertainties in the world economy, and potentially large shifts in U.S. policy make straight-line predictions for 2017 risky.
- Latin America’s two largest countries are in a tailspin. The full impact of Brazil’s political and economic crises has yet to be fully felt in and outside the country. President Dilma’s impeachment and continuing revelations of corruption among the new ruling party and its allies have left the continent’s biggest country badly damaged, with profound implications that extend well beyond its borders. Mexican President Peña Nieto saw his authority steadily diminish throughout the course of the past year, unable to deal with (and by some accounts complicit in) the most fundamental issues of violence, such as the disappearance of 43 students in 2014. The reform agenda he promised has fizzled, and looking ahead he faces a long period as a lame duck – elections are not scheduled until mid-2018.
- The “Northern Triangle” of Central America lurches from crisis to crisis. As violence and crime tears his country apart, Honduran President Hernández has devoted his energies to legalizing his efforts to gain a second term as president. Guatemala’s successful experiment channeling international expertise into strengthening its judicial system’s ability to investigate and prosecute corrupt officials is threatened by a weakening of political resolve to make it work, as elites push back while civil society has lost the momentum that enabled it to bring down the government of President Pérez Molina in 2015. El Salvador, which has witnessed modest strides forward in dealing with its profound corruption problems, remains wracked with violence, plagued by economic stagnation, and bereft of decisive leadership.
- Venezuela stands alone in the depth of its regime-threatening crisis, from which the path back to stability and prosperity is neither apparent nor likely. The election of right-leaning governments in Argentina (in late 2015) and Peru (in mid-2016) – with Presidents Macri and Kuczynski – has given rise to expectations of reforms and prosperity, but it’s unclear whether their policies will deliver the sort of change people sought. Bolivian President Morales, Ecuadoran President Correa, and Nicaraguan President Ortega have satisfied some important popular needs, but they have arrayed the levers of power to thwart opposition challenges and weakened democratic institutional mechanisms.
- As Cuban President Raúl Castro begins his final year in office next month, the credibility of his government and his successors – who still remain largely in the shadows – will depend in part on whether the party’s hesitant, partial economic reforms manage to overcome persistent stagnation and dissuade the country’s most promising professionals from leaving the island. Haiti’s President-elect Jovenel Moise will take office on February 7 after winning a convincing 55 percent of the vote, but there’s no indication he will be any different from his ineffective predecessors.
However voluble the region’s internal challenges – and how uncertain external demand for Latin American commodities and the interest rates applied to Latin American debt – the policies of incoming U.S. President Donald Trump introduce the greatest unknown variables into any scenarios for 2017. In the last couple years, President Obama began fulfilling his promise at the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago to “be there as a friend and partner” and seek “engagement … that is based on mutual respect and equality.” His opening to Cuba was an eloquent expression of the U.S. disposition to update its policies toward the whole region, even while it was not always reflected in its approach to political dynamics in specific Latin American countries.
Trump’s rhetoric, in contrast, has already undermined efforts to rebuild the image of the United States and convince Latin Americans of the sincerity of Washington’s desire for partnership. His rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership – more categorical than losing candidate Hillary Clinton’s cautious words of skepticism about the accord – has already closed one possible path toward deepened ties with some of the region’s leading, market-oriented economies. His threat to deport millions of undocumented migrants back to Mexico and Central America, where there is undoubtedly no capacity to handle a large number of returnees, has struck fear in the hearts of vulnerable communities and governments. The region has survived previous periods of U.S. neglect and aggression in the past, and its strengthened ties with Asia and Europe will help cushion any impacts of shifts in U.S. engagement. But the now-threatened vision of cooperation has arguably helped drive change of benefit to all. Insofar as Washington changes gears and Latin Americans throw up their hands in dismay, the region will be thrust into the dilemma of trying to adjust yet again or to set off on its own course as ALBA and others have long espoused.
January 4, 2017
Posted by clalsstaff on January 4, 2017
By Fulton Armstrong
Photo credit: Day Donaldson / Flickr / Creative Commons
Cubans are already calibrating their expectations for relations with the United States under President Trump – hoping the normalization process does not unravel but preparing for a return to a sanctions-based policy from Washington. Conversations in Havana reveal deep concern that the President-elect’s tweets and statements about Cuba, Mexico, and Latinos in the United States will translate into efforts to slow, stop, or reverse normalization. The past two years of dialogue have focused on mutual interests, without ignoring remaining differences between capitals but not allowing them to blot out hopes of mutually beneficial cooperation. Cuba will interpret a return to bombastic rhetoric, exaggerated conditions to reach a “deal,” and the pressure tactics of the pre-Obama era as a sign of U.S. willingness to put bullying a small neighbor eager for improved ties ahead of its own national interests.
Cubans present the stiff upper lip in conversations and, not surprisingly, defiantly note that they’ve already survived decades of U.S. pressure, but their disappointment is palpable.
- Most concerned are entrepreneurs in Cuba’s small but growing private sector, who depend on investment from U.S.-based relatives and friends. More than 100 Cuban private businessmen wrote a letter to Trump last week urging restraint.
- Nationalism has precluded Cubans from saying that normalization would be a major driver of their long-promised economic reforms, but few deny that improving ties with the United States would eventually present Havana important opportunities. U.S. retrenchment will remove important incentives for the government to move ahead with its reform strategy.
- Rumors about tensions between Cuban proponents of normalization and conservative opponents may have some merit, but Cubans across the spectrum will close ranks if Trump gets aggressive.
Cuba’s reactions to Trump’s election, including President Raúl Castro’s congratulatory message to him, so far suggest that it will hold its tongue and resist being provoked. A U.S. return to full-bore Cold War tactics would not pose an existential threat to Cuba, even considering the country’s difficulties dealing with unrelated problems such as the crisis in Venezuela. Popular reactions to the passing of Fidel Castro last month are being construed as evidence of residual political legitimacy for the government and support for it to deliver on promised improvements. Moreover, Cuba’s progress in normalization; its effective contribution to the Colombia peace accord; its new political dialogue and cooperation agreement with the European Union; and the recent Havana visit of Japanese Prime Minister Abe have boosted the country’s international image – and blame for collapse of normalization will surely fall solely upon the United States. However difficult it will be for the proud people of Cuba to resist rising to whatever bait the Trump Administration throws its way, showing forbearance in the bilateral relationship and moving “without hurry but without pause,” as Raúl Castro said, with its national reform plan would protect the investment that Cuba has already made in normalization.
December 19, 2016
Posted by clalsstaff on December 19, 2016
By Fulton Armstrong and Eric Hershberg
President Barack Obama and President Pedro Pablo Kuczynsky at the APEC 2016 summit / Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores – Peru / Flickr / Creative Commons
The Obama administration’s failure to win U.S. approval for the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a disappointment for Latin American countries on the Pacific Rim – and such a big opportunity for China to expand its influence that President-elect Donald Trump, despite his theatrical pledge to withdraw from it, might eventually consider rescuing the accord. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Lima last weekend was the last chance for Latin American leaders to say goodbye in person to President Obama and to mourn the passing – for at least the short term – of his TPP-centered vision for trans-Pacific trade. In a meeting with leaders of the 11 other TPP countries, Obama tried hard to convince them of “the United States’ continued strong support for trade” despite growing evidence to the contrary. Both U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, who was Obama’s Secretary of State for four years, firmly and repeatedly stated opposition to TPP. The White House continued efforts all the way up to election day (November 8) to persuade the U.S. Senate to approve the deal in a lame-duck session, but the Republican leaders – like Clinton champions of free trade until it became a 2016 campaign issue — slammed the door on it.
With the collapse of TPP, several Asian countries have already signaled a willingness to sign on with China’s own free trade initiative, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – which Latin America is not yet part of. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, angry with the United States over trade and other issues, threw his lot with China during a visit to Beijing last month. (The Philippines, which has also moved aggressively to ally itself with China in recent months, is not in TPP.) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Trump last week and said his country “could have great confidence” in the President-elect, but he has nonetheless warned his parliament that RCEP will prevail.
- Latin Americans are also slowly but surely gravitating toward China as trans-Pacific leader in trade. Just days before the Lima summit, Peruvian Foreign Minister Eduardo Ferreyros announced that, while Lima still hoped TPP would become reality, his government has begun talks with China over accession to RCEP. His Chilean counterpart, Heraldo Muñoz, last Friday also expressed preference for TPP but told the Wall Street Journal that his country was leaning toward joining RCEP. Chinese President Xi Jinping, in Lima for the summit, was also making stops in Ecuador and Chile. (He’s visited Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela on previous trips.) In an op-ed in Peru’s El Comercio just before the summit, Xi said, “United by the same dream, there isn’t a more timely moment for the deepening of our multidimensional cooperation.”
The APEC forum may have been trying to counter Trump and others’ criticism of the lopsided impact of global trade by issuing a statement – titled “Quality Growth and Human Development” – emphasizing the benefit of global trade to all citizens in all countries. It was certainly in this spirit that the host of summit, Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, warned that proponents of trade barriers would do well to revisit the history of the 1930s, singling out for unusually sharp criticism the stance taken by the U.S. President-elect. On its face, Trump’s campaign rhetoric suggests TPP is totally dead; he’s many times called it a “disaster” being “pushed by special interests who want to rape our country.” Free-traders found a glimmer of hope in an organizational chart reportedly leaked by the Trump transition team last week that listed a former lobbyist from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has strongly supported TPP, as head of his “trade reform” team. Yet if the new U.S. Administration is going to reengage on TPP, the primary reason would probably be to undercut China’s RCEP initiative. Much of the U.S. foreign policy establishment of both parties believes fervently that the impact of U.S. disengagement with the Pacific Rim would be harmful to U.S. global and hemispheric leadership. Should those concerns sway the incoming President, he could opt to set aside his caustic rhetoric on TPP, negotiate face-saving adjustments to the accord, and instead focus his tough talk on China. TPP’s flaws may ultimately appear minor and manageable compared to the competing scenario of Latin American governments seeking commercial prosperity through a Chinese-led Pacific economic bloc. That is certainly the hope of most Pacific Rim governments across Latin America, whose alarm at developments in the U.S. already has them eying alternatives across the pond.
November 22, 2016
Posted by clalsstaff on November 22, 2016
By Catie Prechtel and Carlos Díaz Barriga*
An effigy of Donald Trump in Mexico City. / Sequence News Media / Daniel Becerril / Wikimedia / Creative Commons
Most Latin American leaders publicly reacted with caution to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s victory in last week’s U.S. elections, but reactions will sharpen quickly if Trump tries to make his campaign rhetoric about the region and Latino immigrants into policy. Mexico and Central America showed clear anxiety over the implications for their economies and regional migration pressures. Some South American presidents expressed mild enthusiasm and voiced hope for a positive relationship with the new administration, although Trump’s avowed opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord – under discussion at the APEC summit in Lima this week – has fueled concerns about the future of free trade. Fear that the new U.S. President, who takes office on January 20, will deport millions of undocumented migrants from Mexico and Central America and force U.S. firms to shut factories in those countries has seized the media there.
- Mexican newspapers headlines screamed “Be afraid!” and warned of a “Global shakedown.” Reports recited the many promises Trump had made against Mexico, including his proposal to build a border wall (and make Mexico pay for it); revising NAFTA and raising taxes on Mexican imports, putting conditions on remittances, and charging more for visas. The peso suffered three consecutive days of losses before recovering slightly following interviews by Trump and his team suggesting a softer stand on the wall and free trade. President Peña Nieto phoned Trump with congratulations and agreed to meet soon to discuss bilateral issues, including presumably the wall.
- Guatemala’s Prensa Libre reported businessmen are worried Trump’s rejection of free trade could have a direct impact on the economy and described the possible mass deportations as a “social bomb” for the country. In Nicaragua, newspapers speculated that Trump’s victory will give a boost to U.S. legislation, the Nicaragua Investment Conditionality Act (NICA), which calls for economic sanctions if President Daniel Ortega doesn’t take “effective steps” to hold free and fair elections. In El Salvador, the main concern is the deep economic stresses of mass deportations of Salvadorans in the United States. Honduras shares those concerns but apparently was more wrapped up in President Juan Orlando Hernández’s announcement confirming his intention to make a controversial bid for reelection.
- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, often given to bombastic rhetoric, has focused on working with Washington in the closing months of the Obama Administration. In a phone conversation with Secretary of State John Kerry, he stressed the need to establish an agenda with the next administration that favors bilateral relationships, but he specifically called on Obama to “leave office with a message of peace for Venezuela” and rescind a determination that Venezuela is a “threat to the United States.” Obama himself last April said the designation was exaggerated.
- Media in Colombia speculated that Trump will be less committed to aid and support for finalizing and implementing a peace accord with the FARC. Argentina, Brazil, and Chile offered calm reactions to the news. For Buenos Aires and Santiago, the biggest concern was potentially strained commercial relationships and free trade agreements with the United States, according to press reports. Brazil offered little reaction to the news, but Trump’s win brought four consecutive days of losses for the real – weakening 7.6 percent since the election.
The political leaders’ cautious reactions conceal a broad and deep rejection for President-elect Trump’s values and intentions as he stated them during the campaign. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox once again tweeted his disapproval for Trump, while José Mujica, former President of Uruguay, expressed dismay on Twitter, summing up the situation in one word: “Help!” Press reports and anecdotal information indicate, moreover, that large segments of Latin American society have shown a widespread distaste for Trump’s win. Their general wait-and-see attitude will end when and if Trump proves himself the unpredictable and reactionary he seemed on the campaign trail. Latin American leaders have a lot of work ahead as they navigate a new relationship with the United States.
November 15, 2016
* Catie Prechtel and Carlos Díaz Barriga are CLALS Graduate Assistants.
Posted by clalsstaff on November 15, 2016
By Eric Hershberg
Presidential candidate preference, by race or ethnicity / Pew Research Center
In unprecedented numbers, Latino voters flexed their muscles in the bitter and destructive U.S. presidential campaign, but that wasn’t enough to elect a competent but mistrusted centrist and block an erratic TV showman espousing policies anathema to their interests. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lost in the electoral college, which in the American system is what actually matters, but she won the popular vote by a slim margin – little consolation to Latinos. Donald Trump and the forces that will accompany him into the Executive branch have pledged to begin efforts to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, build walls to keep Latin Americans out of the country, and reverse decades of policies meant to strengthen ties among the Americas. The election highlighted deep cleavages in U.S. democracy:
- An inclusive coalition of the well-educated, urban dwellers, youth, and racial and ethnic minorities lost to a bloc of angry white working-class, rural, and small-town voters rallied by a man whose behavior and rhetoric were called repugnant by leaders of even his own party. The outcome testifies to the degree to which vast segments of the American population feel ignored and denigrated by political and cultural elites and alienated by profound social changes that accelerated during the Obama administration, including shifts regarding such issues as gender and sexual identity and, particularly, racial diversity and empowerment.
- The Trump-led “whitelash” has been largely rhetorical up to this point, but it will soon be manifested in public policies with life-changing consequences for immigrants, minority populations, and impoverished citizens. There’s a possibility that, once charged with running the country, the Trump faction will moderate on some issues, but it’s frightening to recall that no fewer than 37 percent of German voters mobilized behind an analogous cocktail of racial resentment and violent impulses in 1932. In 2016, nearly half of the American electorate did just that, with profound implications for civil discourse, tolerance, and respect for sometimes marginalized sectors of the country’s population. If Trump’s exclusionary rhetoric becomes translated into concrete policies that diminish the country’s diversity, the U.S. will lose its status as among the most dynamic and creative places in the world.
The Latino vote was expected to be among the decisive factors that would sweep Clinton into the White House and swing the Senate back to Democratic control, albeit by the slimmest of margins. But while it was influential, diminishing Trump’s margin of victory in reliable Republican strongholds such as Arizona and Texas, and enabling the Democrats to eke out victories in states such as Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado, the Latino vote was insufficient to rescue Clinton’s fortunes in the pivotal states of Florida and North Carolina. Whereas in 2012 Obama had an estimated 71-27 percent advantage among Latinos against his opponent, Clinton failed to match that total – exit polls indicate roughly a 65-29 percent split – even against a candidate explicitly targeting Latino interests. Trump called for mass deportations of the country’s 10 million undocumented Latino residents and a rollback of the Obama administration’s efforts to provide safe haven and legal status for at least half of this vulnerable segment of American communities. Whatever the reasons for their low participation, these communities now confront existential threats.
- If Trump follows through on his promises, the impact will be manifested in numerous domains beyond immigration and related human rights that have profound implications for the welfare of U.S. Latinos, including the composition of the Supreme Court and its commitment to voting rights; protection against discrimination in employment, housing, and financial services; access to health care for 20 million people who for the first time gained coverage through the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”); opportunities for pre-school and tertiary education; and environmental regulations needed to protect public safety and health.
Political scientists and informed citizens must now revisit their assumptions about the impact that a growing Latino population may have on the outcome of presidential elections. The gap separating the two parties in terms of Latino preferences is vast and increasingly consolidated, suggesting an enormous and enduring disadvantage for the Republicans. But whether the Latino vote can become a decisive, rather than merely influential, component of the electorate is much less certain. The anger among white voters – at least this time around – carried the day. This “whitelash” may or may not be a transitory phenomenon, but the prospects for efforts to make the United States a force for good in the world, and to make government an agent for social and economic justice for all, will depend in large part on the future mobilization of the Latino community. Arguably, the future of the United States – and by extension the world’s – hinges on the capacity of Latino voters to make America great again.
November 10, 2016
Posted by clalsstaff on November 10, 2016
By Fulton Armstrong and Eric Hershberg
The U.S. general election on November 8 could give Latino voters their biggest chance yet to flex their political muscles. The Pew Research Center has released new projections showing that a record 27.3 million Latino voters – 4 million more than in 2012 and 12 percent of the U.S. total – are eligible to vote this year. Millennials (born since 1981) now make up 44 percent of Latino eligible voters, and Pew Research says that first-time voters represent one-fifth of those who say they are “absolutely certain” to vote. (Only 9 percent of those over 36 are “absolutely certain.”) Pew is agnostic, however, on whether their turnout in November will set a record. Latino non-participation rates are generally high: their turnout rate was only 48 percent in 2012. Indeed, analysts at the New York Times cautioned last month that comparisons between Clinton’s support among Latinos now and Obama’s in 2012 – which are similar – indicate that she can’t take them for granted.
Latinos’ political preferences – traditionally Democratic except in the Cuban-American community, which itself is trending towards the Democrats – appear poised for an unprecedented surge in favor of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton next month. The “Vote Predict” model of Latino Decisions shows Clinton stands to win 82 percent of the Latino vote, and her Republican counterpart, Donald Trump, 15 percent, with a 5.5 percent margin of error. This 67-point gap breaks the previous record of a 51 percent split between President Bill Clinton and Senator Bob Dole in 1991, and the 71-to-27 difference between President Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012. Press reports indicate that, despite unhappiness with aspects of the Obama Administration’s immigration policies which Clinton supported as Secretary of State, Latinos judge that Donald Trump’s policies of walls and expulsions call for active opposition. Pew’s polls confirm that two-thirds of Millennial Latinos say their support for Clinton is more a vote against Donald Trump than for her. The Republican Party’s own “autopsy” of its resounding 2012 electoral defeat underscored the importance of attracting Latino voters, who were dismayed by anti-immigrant and xenophobic stances they associated with the GOP. In nominating Trump, the party fulfilled its strategists’ worst fears.
An overwhelming Latino majority for Clinton seems almost certain. Political scientists increasingly predict that their rejection of the Republican brand may endure for generations to come, with profound implications for the viability of the Republican Party beyond the Congressional district and state levels. Latinos may not get credit as the crucial swing vote in the presidential race, but they could be crucial in other contests. The Latino vote could prove critical to the outcome of key Senate races in states such as Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona. While the absolute number of Latino voters appears likely to rise, turnout in this unusual – even unsightly – presidential contest is one of the most unpredictable variables confounding polling experts, who see signs that many Americans’ faith in democracy and its processes is dropping, at least temporarily. A survey reported in the Washington Post, for example, showed that fully 40 percent of 3,000 registered voters say they “have lost faith in American democracy,” while just 52 percent say they have not. An astounding 28 percent said they probably would not accept the legitimacy of the outcome if their candidate loses. These trends, along with Trump’s allegations that the election may be rigged, make the timing of the coming-of-age of Latino Millennials truly ironic in this extraordinary election year. Many Latinos, or their parents or grandparents, left polarized, imperfect democracies and, after earning U.S. citizenship and the right to vote, find themselves in a polarized, imperfect democracy with deep historical roots but an uncertain near-term future.
October 20, 2016
Posted by clalsstaff on October 20, 2016