I am sure the fact the we had midterm elections here in the U.S. last week has escaped the notice of very few people. I am always amazed at the level of American political knowledge I find around the world, particularly when so few Americans express the same interest.
The elections lived up to their colossal hype and we indeed did have a partial change in legislative leadership. The Republicans retook control of the House of Representatives with the largest conservative majority since 1948. Although the Democrats kept control of the Senate, their majority narrowed and we are dangerously close to the power sharing arrangement of the early 2000s.
Wait, don’t leave, I promise this isn’t your standard political post.
While people can, and do, wax philosophic about these changes and the impending ramifications on American society, I want to take a brief look at what these changes will mean for those of use who like to travel.
Undoubtedly, the 300 pound gorilla in this conversation is Cuba. Earlier this year the Obama administration came close to allowing for limited, although NOT tourist, travel to the long embargoed nation. Even though that didn’t happen, its only impact would have been on individuals traveling to visit family or for religious reasons. (not quite sure what religious reasons would warrant a trip to Cuba though)
What everyone wants – American tourism in Cuba – can only happen through Congressional action. With the newly divided government, including several decidedly pro-embargo Representatives, this change is extremely unlikely to happen in the next two years.
This of course means that Americans will continue to travel to Canada for their Cuban cigars. Thanks Canada!
Safety and Security
While it is true that the President sets the foreign policy of the United States, Congress absolutely has a role in this process. What concerns me most are hawkish or, even worse, isolationist leaders that may influence public discourse on sensitive international political issues.
This will be seen in policies affecting almost every corner of the world including economic policies with China, the Israel/Palestinian stalemate, EU regulatory and trade issues, etc. While the average person probably won’t keep up with all of this developments, you better believe that the effects of these policies will be felt by the average traveler.
Depending on what statements are made and positions taken, one’s safety and security is most certainly at risk. For example, if the U.S. is seen as being even more anti-Palestinian, then my recent stay in the middle of Palestinian East Jerusalem may not be advisable for future tourists.
In most cases though the only real result will probably be just more snide remarks about American politics.
Divided government isn’t all bad though. Just as certain pro-travel issues don’t stand a chance in the 112th Congress, neither do ones that are decidedly anti-travel. As I mentioned when discussing safety and security issues though, the real danger is the political rhetoric which is bound to spew and its impact on national and international discourse. But, if you’re worried about new policies that would mean a reduction in leisure travel to the United States, rest easy – not much will actually be accomplished by the new Republican/Democrat Congress.
Upon rereading this post, I realize that it may seem a little too negative. I’m really not a partisan person; I am one of the many so-called independents in America. However, having worked in the Washington political world for more than a decade, I have seen all of these things before. Our position towards Cuba will NOT change, Congress will NOT do much in the next two years and frankly most of the world does NOT like the American ultra-conservative movement. These are facts, take them as you will.