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Category Archives: Politics

Largely, this election cycle has brimmed with historic possibilities. The first plausible female president lost the Democratic Primary to the first plausible African-American. Now, Obama faces off against McCain, who, if elected, would become the oldest first-term president. It kind of makes one dizzy to think about it, but there’s more. McCain also has the possibility of becoming the first president to have been born on foreign soil.

McCain hails from what some would call “A Third Culture.” That is, as a child of a member of the Armed Services, he was born in the Panama Canal Zone. Technically, that’s not foreign soil, even though the United States gave the Panama Canal back to Panama. Any military or diplomatic piece of property, a consul, an embassy, or an military installation, qualifies as “American Soil,” as host-nation laws do not apply there and the host-nation’s police force has no jurisdiction there. Technically, the canal zone, when the stars and stripes flew over it, had a different legal/territorial distinction, but going further on that would be splitting hairs. The point is largely thus: McCain spent parts of his childhood in places other than the continental United States or Hawaii.

So, for the first time in my life, I can actually say I have something culturally in common with both presidential candidates. I too am a “third culture kid,” having been born on an air force base in Germany and had an international upbringing. And so, that brings me to Barack Obama.

Technically, Obama doesn’t fit the classic definition of “overseas brat,” but he too knows what it’s like to grow up in the margins between other people’s cultures. His father was a Kenyan and his mother hailed from Kansas, placing him in an awkward racial in-between. Even further, he also spent parts of his childhood, overseas in Indonesia. Basically, in my book, that qualifies Obama as a “third culture kid.”

And so, therein is the interesting wrinkle to this historic election, one that’s riddled with new precedents, either way. In one respect, in 2009, Americans will have voted the first “Third Culture President” into the Oval Office.


Really.  He was born in the Panama Canal Zone, a bit of Central American real estate controlled by the US until President Carter gave it back to Panama.    This is by no means and advocacy for McCain, as there’s no way I’d ever, ever vote for him.  However, his candidacy highlights something overseas and military brats, as far as I remember, have often argued about:  are Americans born on foreign soil eligible to run for the presidency?  The answer is yes, because with McCain, the answer is thus:  “natural born citizen” refers to parentage, not location of one’s birth.  The Washington Post’s Ken Rudin explains it thus, in a post  that dates back 10 years:

Some might define the term “natural-born citizen” as one who was born on United States soil. But the First Congress, on March 26, 1790, approved an act that declared, “The children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond sea, or outside the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural-born citizens of the United States.” That would seem to include McCain, whose parents were both citizens and whose father was a Navy officer stationed at the U.S. naval base in Panama at the time of John’s birth in 1936.

Currently, the Progressive Labor Party holds power in Bermuda.  The UBP is the opposition.  A quick look at their website turns up the following info:

1964 (Aug. 21) – United Bermuda Party founded.
1968 – UBP wins General Election with 30 of 40 seats (Henry Tucker, Party Leader).
1971 (Dec. 29) – Edward Richards succeeds Henry Tucker as Party Leader.
1972 (May) – UBP wins General Election with 30 of 40 seats (Edward Richards, Party Leader and Premier).
1976 – John Sharpe elected Party Leader (and Premier).
1976 – UBP wins General Election with 26 of 40 seats (John Sharpe, Party Leader and Premier).
1977 – Under 40 Caucus, the Party’s first youth wing was established (Michael Winfield, President).
1977 (Aug.) – John Sharpe resigns as Party Leader (and Premier).
1977 (Aug 26.) – David Gibbons elected as Party Leader (and Premier).
1980 (Dec) – UBP wins General Election with 22 of 40 seats (David Gibbons, Party Leader and Premier)
1982 (Jan. 15) – John Swan elected as Party Leader (and Premier)
1983 (Feb.) – UBP wins General Election with 26 of 40 seats (John Swan, Party Leader and Premier).
1985 (Oct.) – UBP wins General Election with 31 of 40 seats (John Swan, Party Leader and Premier).
1989 (Feb) – UBP wins General Election with 23 of 40 seats (John Swan, Party Leader and Premier)
1993 (Oct) – UBP wins General Election with 22 of 40 seats (Sir John Swan, Party Leader and Premier)
1995 (Aug) – Sir John Swan resigns as Premier after an unsuccessful campaign for Bermuda’s Independence
1995 (Aug) – Dr. David Saul succeeds Sir John Swan as Party Leader (and Premier)
1997 (Mar. 27) – Pamela Gordon succeeds Dr. David Saul as Party Leader (and Premier) and becomes Bermuda’s first female Premier, the youngest person ever to hold that office.
1998 (Nov. 9) – UBP defeated at a General Election for the first time 26-14.
2001 (Oct. 2001 – Jan. 2006) – Dr. Grant Gibbons succeeds Pamela Gordon as Party Leader (and Leader of the Opposition).
2006 (Jan – March 31, 2007) the Hon. Wayne L. Furbert succeeds Dr. Grant Gibbons as Party Leader (and Leader of the Opposition).
2007 (April 2nd – Present) the Hon. Michael Dunkley succeeds the Hon. Wayne L. Furbert as Party Leader (and Leader of the Opposition).

When you’re a foreigner in another country, it’s hard to keep up with politics.  Part of it is a language thing, and in a military community, one’s life is actually impacted more by who is the base commander.    That’s what it seems, at least.   In Holland, however, most people speak English, and learning the language is a lot easier than, say, German or French.  Not that I ever attained fluency, and whatever facility I had with the language has long since languished.  At any rate, Ruud Lubbers held the position of Prime Minister when I lived in Holland, and he’s one of the longest serving PM’s in Dutch history.  According to

Dutch politician, prime minister (1982, 1986, 1986–9, 1994), and businessman, born in Rotterdam, W Netherlands. He studied at Rotterdam School of Economics, and joined the family engineering business of Lubbers Hollandia. From 1963 he was in business management as a committee member of the NCW (Netherlands Christian Employers Union), a member of the presidium of FME (Metal and Electrotechnology Federation), and on the Rijnmondraad (Rhine Estuary Council). He was involved in the radical movement within the KVP (Katholieke Volkspartij) resulting in the foundation of the PPR (Political Party of Radicals), but remained with the KVP himself. In 1973–7 he was minister of economic affairs, and gained respect and poularity for his calm reaction to the oil crisis. From 1977 he was an MP for the CDA (Christen-Democratisch Appèl) and party leader from 1977. He was prime minister of CDA/VVD (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie) coalitions (1982, 1986, 1986–9) and again in 1989 after the VVD left, this time with the PvdA (Partij van de Arbeid).

Since leaving office, Lubbers has taught at Tilburg University, and he worked for the United Nations.

On a separate note, Wikipedia has a detailed list of all the Dutch Prime Ministers.

The Progressive Labor Party is one of the dominant political organizations in Bermuda. Currently, it’s the party of Ewart Brown, who currently sits as prime minister.  According to their website:

When the PLP was formed, Bermuda was still suffering from centuries of race-oriented policies and an oligarchal Government. It was a veritable feudal system, with only land-owners having the right to vote (they retained an extra or “plus” vote until the late 1960s, even after the right to vote at the age of twenty-five years was achieved). Additionally, racial discrimination was widely practised in the churches and the school system and the employment sector.

The Progressive Labour Party contested its first General Election just three months after its formation, in February 1963. The Party contested nine of the then thirty-six Parliamentary seats. The PLP’s first successful Members of Colonial Parliament (MCPs) were: Mr. Arnold A. Francis (Party Leader), Mr. Walter N. H. Robinson (Deputy Leader), Mrs. Lois Browne-Evans (Bermuda’s first black elected woman Member of Parliament) Mr. Russell Dismont, Mr. Cecil Clarke and Mrs. Dorothy Thompson.

Apparently, they tried hard to change fundamental goverence:

Pressure for political reform led to the Bermuda Constitutional Conference in 1966, held in London, and to which the PLP sent a delegation of its three Parliamentarians and two observers. The Progressive Labour Party with the able assistance of their legal advisor, the late Mr. Geoffrey Bing, Q.C. fought valiantly around the conference table and gained a measure of success with the abolition of the “plus” vote and more seats for Pembroke. But the PLP delegates refused to sign the majority report which enshrined many basic iniquities in the Bermuda Constitution: like the foreign resident, non-Bermudian vote, and restrictive terms of reference for drawing electoral constituency boundaries; which had been introduced in the 1960s to frustrate the popular will of the indigenous Bermudian people.

The PLP delegation were unsuccessful in their campaign for an electoral system of “one man – one vote.” Bermuda’s first Constitution restructured the voting districts into dual seat constituencies and increased the number of seats in Parliament to forty to offset the gains of four seats in Pembroke Parish. While this new constitution also lowered the voting age to 21-years (prior to this it was 25) and removed the landowners “plus” vote; it retained the foreign vote and allowed the gerrymandering of districts.

This is, of course, only a slight sampling of their history and policies.