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Home Editorial No member can “punk” our Belize P.M.

No member can “punk” our Belize P.M.

Mon. Oct. 18, 2021– It has been said that whenever “Uncle Sam” sneezes, Belize catches a cold, so influential is the mighty American dollar and influence in little Belize. But there is one area where the great Americans sometimes look weak and petty, despite their powerful army, and it is showing up in the working of their democracy, where their president, supposedly the most powerful man in America and the world, is on the verge of being “punked” by one selfish member of his own party, the Democrats. This could never happen in little Belize; and the Americans may wish to learn a thing or two from our poor Third World country. Democracy, it is said, is a work in progress; but what is currently playing out in supposedly the greatest democracy in the world, is an embarrassing spectacle. And it matters to us here in Belize, because when America stumbles, we also get hurt; when she falls down in efforts to stop global warming, we and many small island and coastal states may suffer the greatest consequences.

The American system of democracy functions best when all members of Congress (their House of Representatives and Senate) approach matters of state with the country in mind, with a determination to engage in a battle of ideas, and a willingness to compromise and form bi-partisan alliances at times, all with the greater good of the nation at heart. But it seems that what has occurred ever since the ascension of a black man, Barack Obama, to the U.S. presidency some years ago, is the development of a strong racist backlash that has turned the Republican Party into a monolithic barricade against anything the other side, the Democrats, proposes.

Now the big embarrassment and the big joke, that is anything but funny, is that the current president, Joe Biden, is facing unanimous opposition against his big $3.5 trillion spending plan that encompasses and highlights a major step forward for the USA in the battle against global warming, a battle that president Biden hopes to lead at the next world summit on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow from November 1 to 1 2. But if the American president can’t even pass his own “Green Plan” in America, how can he speak with a strong voice to his rivals China and Russia and the rest of the world about fighting global warming?

How could this be? It is democracy; and it is an exposed flaw in the American system, that our little Belize has already corrected for ourselves. In the Belize 1989 general elections, the margin of victory was so close, 15-13, that one member being induced to “cross the floor” could have resulted in a constitutional crisis: a 14-14 deadlock. In fact, a crossing of the floor did occur, but it was on the winning side, so the margin was increased to 16-12 in favor of the PUP. In subsequent elections, the total number of seats was increased to 29. And when in 1998 the PUP won a landslide, 26-3, victory, they promptly passed a law making it illegal for an elected member to “cross the floor;” he/she would have to relinquish the seat and there would be a by-election, and that was that. Thereafter, the Belize P.M. remains boss, as he can, seemingly on a whim, remove or replace any member of his side from Cabinet. His good will and benevolent character as well as forward-thinking political skills are what impel our Belize prime minister to try and achieve some consensus within his Cabinet before tabling a new bill in the House. But no one member can ever stop a bill put forward by the Belize prime minister. Unthinkable!

What is happening in America right now is troubling. Their democracy requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate to pass a bill. The current president’s party, the Democrats, has a clear majority in the House, so his ambitious $3.5 trillion package would pass without a problem. Where it gets interesting is in the Senate, where a rare situation exists, in which each party, Democrats and Republicans, has fifty (50) seats each. Theirs is a complicated system with majority and minority leaders in the Senate playing their parts in the process, which in normal times should favor the party of the president, and Biden should still get his bill passed. But these are not normal times. The Republicans have buckled down in the Senate, all 50 strong, to oppose Biden, who has a history of seeking and gaining bi-partisan support in the Senate, but this time could not budge a single one of the Republicans. And, lo and behold, a member of his own party, a Democrat, a guy named Joe Manchin, has decided to side with the Republicans, because the “green plan” in the bill is not popular with his campaign donors in his coal producing state. He eventually got another Democrat member, a woman Senator, Kyrsten Sinema, to join him in opposing his own president’s bill. In the streets they would say that Manchin is looking to “punk” President Biden.

The game of bi-partisanship is probably over in America; at least until a new crop of Republican statesmen/women rise to positions of power. There is an apparent flaw in the American democracy, and it has only now been exposed since the advent of “Trumpism,” a new fanatical breed of politics reminiscent of the Nazis in Germany during the last World War. For our own sakes here in little Belize and the rest of the small island and coastal states most vulnerable to global warming, we would wish that Americans quickly put their house in order, so that one member cannot so easily thwart the goals and wishes of their President, whom the majority of American citizens voted into office. In a real sense, West Virginia senator Joe Manchin has made himself bigger than American president Joe Biden, all in the name of American democracy. What a ting!

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