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In a tight race, Ethiopians and Eritrean voters in Virginia could be the tie-breakers in choosing the state’s next governor

October 28, 2021

From left to right: Luel Bekele, Yerusalem Work, Tesfa Mekonnen, Ethiopian-American supporters of Terry McAuliffe’s bid to become Virginia’s governor on November 2.

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In 2017 White Supremacists who literally were calling for our community to be sent back to Africa marched in Charlottesville – Donald Trump said they were ‘good people on both sides’ Terry McAuliffe as Governor stood up against wide supremacist and for our community – Glenn Youngkin welcomes support from the very people who want to push us out of our own Country.

At our core we need to stand with those who welcome us – Now we do have other concerns that must be addressed.

With the gubernatorial race for governor of Virginia upon us, the 2021-2 electoral season is upon us. Both the NY Times and the Washington Post have given space to this election suggesting its national importance. According to a recent poll done by the Wason Center for Civic Leadership, the Democrat, Terry McAuliffe and his Republican challenger, businessman, Glenn Alan Youngkin, are in a dead heat, now a few days prior to the November 2 election.

The 2021 and 2022 regional elections are seen as litmus tests for the 2024 presidential contest.It should come as no surprise that major media outlets are watching the Virginia contest. In such circumstances where elections are close, swing voters could make a difference; such is the case with Virginia’s burgeoning Ethiopian and Eritrean Community (who tend to vote similarly). These two communities find themselves working in tandem both in the Horn of Africa and here in the USA. How they vote

The Ethiopian-Eritrean vote in these next few days could decide whether Glenn Youngkin, for all his attempts to appear moderate, nothing less than a Donald Trump surrogate, or Terry McAuliffe, a moderate Democrat with a record to prove it – becomes Virginia’s governor. No doubt, the results will resonate both in 2022 and beyond. Much depends on how these communities vote – historically they vote in large numbers – could determine not only the future of Virginia, but far beyond.

Until recently, as with many other immigrant voting blocks in the USA, Ethiopians and their Eritrean cousins have seen their interests aligned with the Democrats, especially on such issues important to them – immigration rights, eliminating the heritage of racism in America, strong public education and quality affordable healthcare. Whatever limitations Democratic Party politicans might have – and they do – on these core issues, there is no doubt that the Democratic Party has a stronger record than their Republican counterparts. This tendency has only become more pronounced.

In the age of Trump all of these issues have taken a beating.

It would be easy to conclude that given this that the two Horn of Africa immigrant communities would throw their lot decidedly with the Democratic Party camp. However, events in the Horn of Africa since November 3, 2020 have shaken Ethiopian confidence in the Biden Administration with Ethiopian-Americans bolting from the Democratic Party in droves all over the country in protest, including in Virginia.

Protesting what?

Rather than promoting stability and development in the Horn of Africa, Washington is engaged in an active effort to do the opposite: whip up ethnic tensions and undermine the growing regional cohesion in a region, frankly, tired of more than half a century of war. Ethiopian Americans are especially miffed by the Biden administration’s support for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) separatists in its efforts to overthrow Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed central government. The TPLF ruled Ethiopia for nearly thirty years with an iron hand that resulted in the growing impoverishment, repression and ethnic flair ups in most of the country.

The Biden Administration has perpetuated the illusion that the TPLF are the victims, rather than the instigators of chaos, disunity and separatism in Ethiopia. For nearly a year now, The administration has encouraged a broad-based misinformation media campaign against Ethiopia. It is part and parcel of an increasingly aggressive policy against the Abiy government of hybrid warfare to undermine the the Ethiopian government’s legitimacy not unlike those that preceded the U.S. military offensives in Iran and Libya, thus Ethiopian-American disillusionment with the current Democratic administration.

This continues unabated.

But Washington’s current hostility to Ethiopia is not simply a “Democratic Party” affair, far from it. It is, as are most foreign policy issues, bipartisan; responsibility for it can not be laid uniquely at the Biden Administration’s doorstep. In fact, the shift to a more aggressive policy began already – and in a pronounced fashion – during the Republican Administration of Donald Trump. This makes “bolting” from the Democrats to the Republicans as some Ethiopians have, both shortsighted and politically counterproductive, akin, as we say, to shooting yourself in the foot.

It should be recalled that in a startlingly brutal statement, Trump actually encouraged Egypt to bomb Ethiopia’s nearly completed Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and referred to Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al Sisi as his “favorite dictator”. Shortly thereafter, having failed to bully Ethiopia into accepting a lopsided agreement with Egypt over the future of the dam, in September 2020, Trump suspended $130 million in military aid to the Abiy government. Add to this Trump’s infamous, frankly racist comments two years prior, in 2018, referring to immigrants from Haiti and African countries as coming from “shit hole nations.” One of the targets of that remark was Ethiopia.

The point here for Ethiopian-Americans to consider is that while their outrage and disappointment with the Biden Administration’s hybrid warfare against Ethiopia is legitimate, leaving the Democratic Party in response is a political dead end. The Republican Party “alternative” is no port in the storm for Ethiopian-Americans.

Let us remember that while for most Ethiopians living in the USA, their hearts may still be in Addis Ababa – and will remain so – but their feet are in Colorado, Minnesota, Washington State and Virginia (among other places). Such is the case for other immigrant communities in the USA, a country, that is often forgotten, that other than Native Americans, is entirely made of immigrants who have had to find their way in this country economically, socially and politically.

In fact, the Republican Party is, for all African immigrants, “a road to nowhere.” With Donald Trump leading the party, Republicans continue to lurch to the right politically so much so that they have fallen over the cliff in a paroxism of jingoism, xenophobia, and military adventurism. The moderate face mask that Glen Alan Youngkin sports is little more than a sugar-coated political cyanide pill.

Those who understand this should vote accordingly in Virginia’s upcoming gubernatorial race.

Terry McAuliffe with Ethiopian-American supporters in Virginia

Rob Prince is a retired Senior Lecturer at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies where he helped build the Undergraduate Major in International Studies into one of the best International Studies programs in the country over the 23 years he taught there. Prince is a former Peace Corps Volunteer and staff member in Tunis, Originally from a large Jewish family in New York City, Prince has lived in Colorado for the most part since 1969. His wife, Nancy Fey, is a retired nurse. He has two daughters Molly and Abigail Prince and a grandson Theodore “Teddy” Prince Pile. He has written extensively on North Africa and the geopolitics of the Middle East and Africa. His interest in Africa has centered around the post-Colonial political economy of Cameroon, Congo and the history of Ethiopia in the 20th – 21st Century.

Over the past eleven years he has been a political commentator on KGNU’s Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues produced by Jim Nelson along with his long time dear friend Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni. Prince is also producing a series “Colorado and the Horn of Africa” for KGNU

19 Comments leave one →
  1. Dan A permalink
    October 29, 2021 1:52 pm

    This article demonstrates lack of understanding of Ethiopian and Eritrean community. You’re better served not expressing an ignorant statement as this. We’re primarily focused on our country’s well being, not local issues. Democrats are in power and they’re the ones pushing anti ethiopia agenda. Don’t try to scare this community by saying Trump and racists a hundred times over. This is why Mcauliffe is failing miserably. You’re not speaking to our issues. You’re assuming we care about immigration and other big government topics only, sadly mistaken. You think we can’t tell the difference between democrats and republicans and trump doctrine. Please keep your ignorant scare tactics to yourself. Having said that you seem to know more than others but you’re in the end just as misinformed and misguided as to what we really want. You’re the one shooting yourself in the foot with this kind of I know more than thou attitude. You will hear our voice loud and clear next week.

    • Natenael Semmineh permalink
      November 3, 2021 1:07 am

      Thank you Brother ! Congrats Job well Done! Hell Ya We Republicans Now !

    • Ras Mitat permalink
      November 3, 2021 5:23 am

      VA done. Next up GA, CO and NV.

      Biden admin passed Ethiopia sanctions morning of VA elections…They’re clueless!

  2. Mela Yared permalink
    October 29, 2021 5:11 pm

    Interesting article. I wish you had raised other issues as well. Such as:

    1. It’s time the Democrats understood there are domestic implications to their careless foreign policies. 2. If Ethiopians & Eritreans tip the Virginia elections, perhaps it should be perceived as a warning by the Democrats. Unless they correct their foreign policy in the Horn of Africa, Democrats will continue to lose in states with large numbers of Ethiopians & Eritreans. 3. There is still time before the Senate elections in Georgia where so much is at stake for Democrats. If they fix their failures in the Horn of Africa, they may win the Ethiopian & Eritrean votes. If they don’t, they ascertain their loss – tantamount to “shooting themselves in the foot”.

  3. Alemu permalink
    October 29, 2021 5:22 pm

    Well, Donald Trump is now one term president due to his actions while in power. It’s time to send message to Democratic Party (currently in power) to listen to voters and change bad policies. Ethiopian current conflict is between a terrorist enterprise (TPLF) and democratically elected legitimate government.

  4. AAa permalink
    October 30, 2021 5:05 am

    This is totally misleading. Go back refer the Democrat party presidents did to Ethiopian starting from the resent carter administration until Biden.
    Don’t give unbinding information for your own Benefits. I am assuming this article was written by someone in the Terry campaign Ethiopian or Eritrean supporters.

  5. Bob permalink
    October 30, 2021 11:15 am

    The Democratic Party needs to keep 90%+ of the black vote hostage by fear mongering. The Ethiopian Eritrean exit from the Democratic Party is a needed development in US politics. Perhaps democrats will learn not to take the black vote for granted!

    • October 30, 2021 11:23 am

      I agree that the Dems take the Black vote – Ethiopian/Etritrean or otherwise – for granted and for this it appears they are paying a price. I wonder if they even notice

  6. October 30, 2021 2:58 pm

    The thing is: your message will not do anything. As Governor, Youngkin cannot do anything regarding US foreign policy. So what is the message you want to send? It is basically: “We will vote in the people who hate us even MORE, and put them in power.” I get that you are angry. But this is quite literally cutting off your nose, to spite your faces. You will just end up hurting yourselves more in the end.

    • October 30, 2021 3:30 pm

      First… Know that I respect your views, and your anger, disappointment with the Democrats is justified. My point is different – neither the Dems or the Republicans have done justice to Ethiopia as in foreign policy issues the approach is bipartisan. This is particularly true concerning Ethiopia. I just see jumping from the Dems to the Republicans as, as I wrote, a dead end. The Republican Party is moving the country – and the world – into dangerous waters. Another option, criticize, work for change in the Democratic Party’s position on Ethiopia from within. More important than that – is, through the activism and vision of the Ethiopian and Eritrean Communities in the United States to develp their own independent political movement for a changed U.S. policy towards the Horn of Africa one that reduces conflict and works towards better regional cooperation. Anyhow, thank you for your comments, even if they are critical. …

      • Dan permalink
        October 30, 2021 7:40 pm

        Once again you miss the point of a protest vote. Who’s in power now?? Republicans? Biden driven by Susan Rice is the problem and democrats are following like ignorant sheep they are. The whole idea of protest vote is exercise of power to demonstrate we’re organized and can no longer be taken for granted. It’s not to endorse republicans. Getting Youngkin elected sends same message fo BOTH parties. Don’t mess with us. We know what we want and you ain’t doing it so we’ll do whatever it takes to get you fired, Democrat or republican. Right now, nobody’s worse than democrats for Ethiopia and Eritrea. What do we do about that, work from within the same party that is literally siding with terrorists and ignoring all of our protests for the last year. You think we’ll sit by and watch while these ignorant democrats tear apart our country? Boy you’re so far gone on this one, it’s best you stay out of it. Just watch and learn how we do it. Have a nice day. Try and talk to few people in the future before you wrote semi informed article.

        • October 30, 2021 7:59 pm

          It is a protest vote that strenghtens the extreme right of the American political spectrum… misdirected energy..

      • Mike permalink
        November 3, 2021 3:46 am

        Disagree . We need to grab their attention

    • Mihretu permalink
      October 31, 2021 12:20 am

      I profoundly disagree with your view. This is a protest vote to indicate what will happen in Mid-term elections or presidential elections. Biden administration is cozying with TPLF terrorist group who have apartheid mentality & willing to harm our family back home in Ethiopia with sanctions and other punitive measures.

  7. October 30, 2021 3:11 pm

    😡😡😡😡😡 I am voting Republican. Sorry McAuliffe. Silence and pretending is not an answer now. Ethiopia is in danger now @ Real time. Biden must understand we exist and our voice matter. Our people, our family at abroad are tied within us. We are holding at stance our local self interest now. Now, Ethiopian matters, Ethiopia matters. Biden must know. VA is the beginning and is a warning. We are not sleeping. We are awake all night every day. And Biden admin.’s support to these terrorists, genocidal insurrectionists war mongers mobs, by proxy war supported by UN is clearly angering the Ethiopian American diaspora. The only way to make the Dem. Ti listen to us is by taking away our votes. I always know to find the truth…Follow the money.

  8. Natenael Semmineh permalink
    November 3, 2021 1:17 am

    @Rob you are trying to convince people about their values and moral campus, the same people going thru the prospect of losing their original country ! we are not under any illusion at this point all is out in the clear TPLF is a spoiled child of misguided Dems ! there should be a better way the USA could keep foreign interest than proxy agents despised by the entire Ethiopian and Eritrean population !

  9. Mike permalink
    November 3, 2021 3:40 am

    Well he paid the price and we will do it again in other states

  10. Girum permalink
    November 3, 2021 8:18 am

    will never vote for DEM as long as they are pushing policies that support terrorist TPLF and destroy the stability of the country.

  11. Abiy Tamrat permalink
    November 3, 2021 9:07 am

    When I went to the polls to cast my ballot yesterday in Virginia, I felt a weird and sick feeling knowing that I will be voting Republican for the first time in around 20 years. Having voted for Democrats all this years was not in vain. Among other social issues, I voted mainly to raise my voice to those black kids whose life was cut short by racist white police all over the US. Now this time I used my vote to vote for Republican governor Younkin, not because I believed in his messages, this time, I voted to show how sick I have been with Biden’s and democrats foreign policy which favored the Terrorist-TPLF group which is causing havoc and immeasurable human suffering and atrocities in a wide span of Amhara and Afar regions in Ethiopia. This time I am voting with other Ethiopians and Eritrean Americans to show that our voices matter and can swing the pendulum.

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