With the same division in Congress and a second Obama Administration to be formed, at least the opportunity for continuity and maximum cooperation exits on the U.S. side in addressing the challenges presented by another possibly controversial and high-risk election in Kenya.
I’m overdue to write more about President Obama’s “new development policy”, following my participation in a “bloggers’ roundtable” on the subject at the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
There are lots of people with much more knowledge and experience writing well about this, including especially at the Center for Global Development on my blogroll. “Value added” from me here might be to emphasize that the President has embraced notions of aid effectiveness, prioritization and bi-lateral relationships, as well as focus on private sector growth as THE way to reduce poverty, as reflected in the operating model of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. In other words, Obama has taken an experimental innovation from the G.W. Bush administration and sought to apply this as a policy framework across the broader scope of foreign aid in general.
This leads us to an interesting insight from a piece in The Root last week, “How Barack Obama became a Republican”: Obama can best be understood as an old fashioned establishment Republican–a “Mastodon” if you will–with policies largely what one would have seen from a Gerald Ford confronted with similar circumstances. This is a more conservative era, and Obama’s new development approach is more narrowly market focused presumably than what you would expect from a Nixon or Ford, but I think in broad terms this observation makes sense. Granted that the President doesn’t LOOK that much like Gerald Ford, but policy-wise I do think this is a better template than the Dinesh D’Souza “Luo tribesman”.
Of course, many in the right within the GOP have always hated moderate or liberal Republicans with a special passion–and post-midterms many in the “Tea Party” are itching to carry on the fight after eclipsing dealmaking “Reagan Republicans” like Trent Lott and other more center-right figures. I am not sure why we should assume that these are not people who are fully serious about “ending not mending” foreign assistance.
The conventional discourse has been about how, not whether to address poverty. Perhaps this is now a question that is no longer a given. At some level, poverty is just an extreme case of inequality. Perhaps we now embrace inequality as reflected in Nicholas Kristof’s latest: “Our Banana Republic”. Are there “Reagan Republicans” left who will deal with the Democrats and Obama for a more “conservative” or “right looking” foreign assistance program, or will they be cowed by the fear of primary challenges to come?
Kenyans deserve much better from their “friends” in the U.S. The least they deserve is to be left alone if we as Americans can’t behave in a more responsible manner.
Obama deserves criticism here for twice now extending the term of an Ambassador who has demonstrated that he is “constitutionally” incapable of neutrality and transparency on any issue of importance. The sad fact is that both the Democrats and the Republicans seem to be at least in part factually correct in their criticisms regarding funding going into both the “No” and “Yes” campaigns.
As I have written before, I think the criticisms from the U.S. Right of the draft constitution on the Khadi’s courts and abortion issue are grossly overblown and misleading and reflect a lack of understanding of the unique and specific situation in Kenya. Nonetheless, these are real issues that Kenyans need to weigh and balance and decide on for themselves. And it also should be recognized that there are two (and really more) sides playing “global culture war”–there are in fact a variety of groups from outside Kenya that conduct seminars and other programs that do seem to promote various cultural agendas involving issues that are well outside the mainstream of existing social norms in the United States and in some cases even in Europe, much less Kenya–so when Kenyan clergy hook up with rightwing activists in the U.S. there can be some grain of truth to the notion that they are playing on the same terms.
From my perspective, having recently lived in Kenya for a year and worked directly with a whole range of Kenyan politicians as well as Ranneberger, I do not believe that the controversial social or religious issues are at all the primary drivers for the “yes” versus “no” campaigns.