On this eve of the US elections, I think it is proper to take stock of its implications and lessons on Filipinos and the country. For one, whoever wins the US presidency, he will be facing problems the likes of which few of his predecessors face in their own times. He will be starting a term faced with a US and global economic recession and financial crisis, a divided America scared for itself and of its future, a world of diminished American prestige and leadership and full of competing global and major powers, and an endangered nature’s threat of a major payback in the form of global warming.
Here in the Philippines, US elections or its results will not lead to any fundamental change of US Philippine policy. This policy–anchored in the historically close ties as allies, bipartisan party consensus, and a lower radar profile in US foreign affairs concerns–is relatively stable. However, changing global power relations, US national interests in Asia, Philippines’ own interests, scarce resource competition (oil, etc.), and the globalized world we live in inevitably require readjustments in this policy from time to time.
What is important is the change in the nuances of the policy. Under an Obama and Democratic Party regime, the US Philippine policy may spring some surprises in the form of out-of-the-box thinking in such fields as in strengthening Philippine democracy, dealing with China, solving internal insurgencies, and regional and ASEAN issues. It is expected to be more realistic in recognition of the limits to American power or its exercise, and to have more reliance on its allies for common initiatives.
A McCain and Republican regime–while departing from the Bush cowboy diplomacy–will still be well within the traditional conservative and unipolar–one superpower– worldview of its predecessor.
The US elections may have an immediate interest for Filipinos concerned with the fate of jobs of their OFW relatives in the US, Filipino world war veterans, exporters who have a US markets, Filipino investors in the US, businessmen who have American partners or are local dummies or representatives, and the like. For election reform advocates, the US elections present an opportunity to assess the automation of elections–something which is being undertaken now in time for the 2010 Philippine elections.
For most Filipinos, it is not of much concern.The links to their lives are too tenuous to maintain their attention beyond the news reports. However, this is not say that the US elections are not important to Filipinos. It’s just that the changes in US foreign and Philippine policy that the changing of the guard in the White House brings may not be immediately or directly felt. Like the distant rainclouds up in the mountains, you will not feel it until the flashfloods arrive.