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Republican vs Democrat – how will the next US government affect you?

By October 11, 2016October 3rd,

Republican vs Democrat – how will the next US government affect you?

October 11, 2016

With less than a month to go before America votes for their new president, we’re undoubtedly heading into some rough waters. And this holds true even if you aren’t a US citizen.

The question most of us living outside American borders or those with foreign roots is undoubtedly how the US presidency will affect the rest of the world.

How the results of the US election will affect foreigners and immigrants

Although the respective policies are much more complex than we can cover in a mere blog, there are major differences in the two opposing parties’ policies. We’ll take a brief look at those major differences and how they could affect you.

Although most people may have clear views on the leaders currently standing for office – it’s less clear which of the two parties offers the policies and ideologies which align most closely with our individual beliefs, and it is therefore not our aim to sway our readers to any side, merely to reflect on their policies and possible implications.

Which American presidents were democrats, and which were republicans?

Of course, although the rest of the world may be acquainted with some of the past US leaders, it’s not necessarily clear which side of the fence these presidents operated.

Renowned Democratic Presidents:

  • Franklin Roosevelt
  • Bill Clinton
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • Jimmy Carter
  • Barack Obama.

Renowned Republican Presidents:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Ronald Raegan
  • Teddy Roosevelt
  • George Bush Snr.
  • George Bush Jnr.
  • Richard Nixon

Education and experience of the candidates

The presidential candidates of the two parties have varied experience, as highlighted below.

Democrats – Hillary Clinton

  • BA degree in political science
  • JD (Juris Doctor) law degree
  • Congressional legal counsellor
  • Co-founder of the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
  • First female chair – Legal Services Corporation
  • Firs female partner – Rose Law Firm
  • First Lady of Arkansas
  • Taskforce for Arkansas public school reform
  • First Lady of the United States of America
  • Founder of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program
  • First female Senator of New York
  • Former board member – Wal-Mart
  • S. Secretary of State
  • Presidential candidate 2016
  • Author

Republicans – Donald Trump

  • BS degree in economics
  • Founder and president of the Trump Organisation
  • Chairman of Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts
  • Owner – Miss Universe Organisation & WWE RAW
  • Joint partner – National Broadcasting Company (NBC)
  • Founder – Trump Model Management
  • Television host – The Apprentice & The Celebrity Apprentice
  • Founder – the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative
  • Author

Stance on finance and the economy

The Democrats and Republicans have different views on how the economy should be run. The Democratic view is that tax for middle and lower income citizens should be cut, while it needs to be raised for higher income citizens and businesses. The Republicans oppose this idea, feeling that taxes should be cut across the board.

Their ideas about labour and free trade also differ vastly. While the Republicans oppose minimum wage increases to mitigate costs, the Democrats’ view is that increasing the minimum wage would boost the economy. The Republicans favour free trade within US borders to boost the economy, while the Democrats seek trade restrictions which would provide job security.

The parties have contrasting views on the provision of social security – those benefits to pensioners as well as the unemployed and disabled. Whereas the Democrats view social security as a governmental responsibility, the Republicans strive for the privatisation of social security.

The general view is that the Republican Party is more “business friendly” as it opposes government regulation – this includes restrictions on business based on environmental concerns, labour unions, healthcare and retirement benefits. The Democratic view is that government regulation is necessary to protect the interests of the labour force. Republicans will therefore limit expenditure through limiting provisions for the labour force and environmental initiatives, while the Democrats will increase expenditure for labour, social and environmental welfare but foot the bill through higher taxation on businesses and high-income citizens.

Foreign policy

The US foreign policy is mostly applicable to its military involvement. Though most parties see it fit to intervene in foreign unrest, the Democrat view is that there should be limited involvement with regards to manpower and more targeted strikes. The Republican view is that the US should enter areas of unrest in full force to displace totalitarian regimes.

When it comes to foreign trade, both parties are opposed to free trade to a certain extent. Interestingly, though, Trump in the Republican camp doesn’t mirror the traditional Republican views which is in favour of free trade. Though neither candidate oppose free trade completely, both feel that the terms should be renegotiated. This has implications for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Agreements as well as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Both parties have hinted at “canning” the EU-US trade deals, but Clinton is a staunch supporter of AGOA.

One of the most unique concepts in the presidential race is undoubtedly that of “American exceptionalism”. This concept puts forth that American is a unique and superior country and that the country is a model which should be emulated by the rest of the world. The concept therefore compels this unique superpower to act in moral accordance and maintain the democracies and power balances of the world – it obliges global intervention. The Republican view is that American exceptionalism is real and that America should act in its own interest as well as defending democracy throughout the world. The Democrats believe that America is not a hegemony and that American exceptionalism is not something they support.


Luckily for all our saffa expats out there, both the Democrats and Republicans favour legal immigration, but it should be noted that Trump has always held the opinion that legal immigration should not be easy. In his own words; “Legal immigrants do not and should not enter easily. It’s a long, costly, draining, and often frustrating experience – by design.”

Trump is particularly opposed to Islam, dubbed the “Muslim problem”, which he aims to address by stopping immigration from any nations compromised by terrorism. His blanked Muslim ban which he suggested in December 2015 has been relaxed, but it’s still unclear how he will formulate immigration policies should he be elected. As part of his 10-point plan to put America first, his first project would be the erection of a giant wall around the country’s southern border for which he says Mexico will pay. Step six of his plan includes the suspension of visas from regions where screening is not deemed adequate by US standards. He also aims to cease the “marketing pull” of America as immigration destination by “turning off the jobs and benefits magnet” – offering jobs and benefits to native citizens first.

The immigration controversy, however, is mostly focused on the treatment of illegal immigrants, and whether they should be allowed to stay or be deported. The Democrats believe there should be a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens, while the Republicans vehemently oppose this idea. There are, however, concerns that a Republican president may tighten the criteria and requirements for immigration, as Trump has promised supporters authoritarian leadership which does not favour globalisation and immigration.

Clinton, on the other hand, believes that America has a responsibility to the world’s refugees and as part of her term she aims to offer asylum to over 600 000 refugees. She also aims to give amnesty and benefits to qualifying illegal immigrants and to boost low-skilled immigration.

Equality and human rights

It’s no surprise that the two parties don’t see eye to eye on issues of equality. The Republican view upholds Christianity, heterosexuality and stricter policing of minorities while the Democrats uphold freedom of religion, LGBTQI rights and the promotion and protection of women and minorities – in particular a legal requirement to hire women and minorities.

These views could clearly influence the immigration policies imposed after the election – and we could see stricter vetting of immigrants based on their religious stances, sexual orientation, gender and race.

It should be noted, however, that Trump’s opinion on issues of equality has changed over time and he has, to a certain extent, become more liberal in his views around LGBTQI rights and religious freedom.

Energy and Climate

A topic which may not have such great bearing on us expats, but rather our views from a global perspective is that of energy and climate change. With scientists worldwide, including NASA, having confirmed the reality of climate change, and 97% of climate scientists confirming that it’s due to human activities, it’s undoubtedly something which affects all humans – irrespective of your location on the global map.

The Republican view is that climate change is not real and that countries should continue drilling, mining and only using fuel alternatives if they make financial sense.

Implications for South Africa and South African emigrants

There are opposing views on the implications for South Africa should Clinton or Trump be elected. Most analysts believe that a Democratic presidential candidate won’t have such great bearing on South Africa’s economy and that a Democratic presidency would favour immigration. It is widely believed that a Republican presidency will thwart immigration and South Africans may find it harder to enter US borders or get citizenship if they are already in the country.

Of great importance to South Africa is the fact that banking exposure data indicated that of all countries in the EEMEA (Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa) region, the US credit as a share of GDP is the highest in South Africa, at 43%.

Economically, it seems possible that Trump would rethink or at least renegotiate the terms of AGOA. Although many South Africans only became aware of AGOA after the imports of chicken from the US earlier this year, the Act was ratified in 2000 and greatly benefits African countries like South Africa. Should the terms be altered or the Act be revoked, it could spell disaster for South African exports to the US.

With regards to investment, analysts believe it could go either way for South Africa under US-Trump-leadership. On the one hand, Republican rule could see investors move their money outside US borders, which could be favourable for emerging economies. On the other hand, investors might opt for safer and more stable shores – which could see them withdraw from South Africa.

Only time will tell what the future holds, but it would be wise to keep our eyes on the US elections.

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