On the Harvard admissions website, prospective applicants are told that, “Our Admissions Office chooses carefully from a broad range of applicants who seem to us to offer the most promise for future contributions to society.” It’s a nice, fluffy bit of advice (show some promise!), but the seemingly benign platitude carries more sinister implications. Judging us by our future returns makes us seem suspiciously like investments rather than individuals.
Since 1998, when Hugo Chavez was elected in Venezuela, democratic processes have brought leftist parties to power over as much as two-thirds of Latin America’s population. This would be remarkable in any region, but it’s especially so in one whose political history is riddled with oligarchical tendencies and right-wing military dictatorships. As recently as the 1980s, with Pinochet and other anti-Communist strongmen firmly in power, a leftist Latin America was unthinkable. For all intents and purposes, the region was Washington’s sandbox. Not anymore.
The Cuban Revolution has had a lasting influence on Latin America. The Cuban regime in the present day has very little. From the triumph of the revolution to the present day, and especially since the end of the Cold War, the ability of the Cuban regime to influence events in the rest of the region has waned dramatically. Yet, illogically, United States policy towards the island has barely changed. By continuing to impose an economic embargo in an attempt to isolate Cuba, the United States does nothing to further its long-term goals and causes only harm.
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the president of Argentina, is a remarkable individual by any measure. The first woman to be elected president of her country, her tenure has seen the enactment of the first same-sex marriage law on the continent and the establishment of a Ministry of Science, Technology, and Productive Innovation. She’s been a forceful leader, unafraid to make controversial decisions in the face of strong opposition.
The specifics of Romney’s blunder do not matter greatly, however. What does matter are Romney’s continued attempts to criticize President Barack Obama because he allegedly “doesn’t have the same feelings about American exceptionalism that we do.” Perhaps even more important are the ways Americans view and define themselves at a time when international concerns should take center stage on the national consciousness.