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How the US elections look from Brazil

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As a future great power emerging right in the USA's backyard, Brazil takes a special interest in the presidential race.

Arthur Ituassu
24 October 2012

The US 2012 presidential election is a crucial moment for the future of the United States and of international relations, and this is due, in my view, to two complementary groups of facts, context and options.

Context

There is no doubt today that the American people can no longer sustain a hierarchic perception of the global structure, with the US alone on the top. The economic crisis, and particularly the problems related to public debt, comes from the 1970s and the unilateral break of the Bretton Woods agreements – this will not be solved in the short term. This erratic economic situation damages the relative position of the country, in addition to the global economy as a whole. This particular context gets more critical as we remember the gigantism of American military forces, which are, in fact, the greatest threat for global stability today. After the end of the Cold War, it became clear that the United States would not have sufficient economic grounds for the kind of role they wanted to play in this new historical moment, after Ronald Reagan claimed victory over the "big red dog". Within this background, using the American military structure, consciously or unconsciously, in Iran, China or elsewhere, to maintain the country's relative position would be a catastrophic decision, for Washington and for the world. Its use would increase the economic crisis in the US and abroad, by generating more public expenses for the Americans to finance. Employed like this, it would also favor serious international instability, not to mention the risk of destroying the global institutional gains and hopes conquered (with the help of the US) during the second half of the twentieth century.

Options

In this major context, one must face the second groups of facts, i.e. the current options to choose from. It is true that campaigning is different from governing. Most of the time, a candidate can speak more freely than a president, who carries the responsibility of leading the country. In this sense, Mitt Romney and the Republicans can have a more aggressive rhetoric in the campaign, and this does not necessarily indicate that a conservative victory would lead to a hawkish foreign policy. However, if one compares the foreign policy record and rhetoric of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party since the end of the Cold War, it is clear that the latter, in this specific major context, is a better option not only for the world, but for Americans also. After all, democrats have been more respectful of international institutions, have used a less aggressive rhetoric and Barack Obama particularly has been extremely aware of the new, more multilateral international configuration.

Thinking about Brazil-US relations, it does not make much of a difference who wins. In fact, historically, whether the White House was occupied by a Republican or a by Democrat has never influenced our bilateral relation – just a few variations here and there. The Brazil-US relationship could only change course, and evolve more positively, with a complete transformation of the American thinking about the "Hemisphere", according to which the United States are the sole hegemon on the continent - but this is a fundamental axiom of the country's foreign policy. However, as an emergent nation, Brazil favors, of course, stability and international institutions. Hence, I think Obama's victory would be much better for the country than Mitt Romney's. 

Furthermore, the Republican Party's conservative proposals for the American economy seem completely out of touch with reality. If it is true that public debt is currently the major problem of the US economy, pure orthodoxy would only deepen the recession even more. Within this matter, Romney's choice of the vice-presidential candidate is very telling. One must not forget that the last Republican president left the United States embroiled in two stupid wars and a major financial crisis. 

Finally, it would be a shame if Barack Obama's political project was shattered to pieces in this election. In a generalized context of political apathy, low participation and distrust of political institutions and politicians in most western democratic regimes, the mobilization generated in the wake of Obama's political platform, represented by the incredible number of small donations – less than $200 – to his campaign, must be praised. It is noteworthy that the number of small donors to the Democratic Party in 2012 is even bigger than it was in 2008, and the amount Obama collected from small donations is almost five times higher than what Romney could get from the same group. Hence, there is no doubt that a lot is at stake in this presidential election, and I am not afraid to say, at least for now, that I do favor the Democratic candidate, for the better sake of the United States and the world.

This article is part of the 'How it looks from here' openDemocracy feature on the 2012 US elections. For more worldwide perspectives on the presidential race, click here.

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