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  • Guam
  • Michael Lujan Bevacqua (bio) and Elizabeth Ua Ceallaigh Bowman (bio)

The year 2016–2017 was filled with great uncertainty, both internal to the Guam community and external, as the United Nations–designated non-self-governing island territory continued to evaluate its relationship to the rest of the world, and, in particular, to its administering power, the United States of America.

On the eve of the 2016 US presidential election, Guam, being a day ahead of North America, held its "straw poll" for president. Residents of Guam, an unincorporated US territory, are not allowed to participate in the election of the US president and vice president; they have no Electoral College votes or voting representation in Congress. However, the straw poll has been an interesting piece of political trivia for decades, as Guam voters tend to "predict" the winner of the next day's contest (Los Angeles Times, 8 Nov 2016).

In November 2016, Hillary R Clinton won handily with nearly 72 percent of the 32,071 votes cast in Guam, yet, as the election unfolded in the United States, the predictions of most pundits as well as Guam voters proved to be incorrect (pdn, 8 Nov 2016). In a major upset, Donald J Trump, despite losing the US popular vote count by several million, won in the Electoral College to become the forty-fifth US president. [End Page 136]

Guam's local elections for senators in the island's 15-seat legislature, I Liheslaturan Guåhan, represented a similar coup d'état of received opinion, as 7 of the 15 veteran politicians were voted out by wide margins, making way for a new generation of leaders not drawn from the usual elite class of the island's civil servants (kuam, 9 Nov 2016). Long-serving incumbents from both parties, including the powerful Speaker of the Legislature, Judith Won Pat, a daughter of the local political legend Antonio Won Pat, were unseated (Marianas Variety, 14 Nov 2016). Guam Democrats retained control of the legislature with a nine-to-six majority—one less than required for a "supermajority," which would allow their party to overcome a veto by Republican Governor Eddie Baza Calvo (Pacific Islands Report, 9 Nov 2016).

One significant issue that played a role in the desire for change among Guam's voters was that of the governor's pay-raise scandal. After the 2014 election, in which Governor Calvo was elected to a second term, his office submitted a bill to the Guam Legislature in special session to provide raises of up to $40,000 each for elected leaders, political appointees, and classified personnel—including the governor himself. The raises were approved at the time, but a public outcry immediately arose, and the legislature and governor scrambled to defend or amend their actions. On 22 May 2017, the controversial raises were at last repealed, with the Guam Legislature voting 10 to 5 to override the governor's veto (pdn, 23 March 2017).

The inauguration of President Trump in January 2017 brought with it a wave of anxiety for the local government and community over the new president's ideological threat to a network of social programs that benefit residents of Guam, such as food stamps, welfare, and housing assistance (pdn, 24 May 2017). Overall, the US federal government is estimated to provide $500 million to $600 million in assistance to Guam each year (pdn, 4 July 2016).

With the release of budget proposals from the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled US Congress, the negative impact on Guam was confirmed for many local officials, some of whom spoke out about the dramatic effect they might have. As a US territory, Guam does not have full representation in the US Congress or government but nonetheless is subject to all federal laws and decisions. At the time of this writing, Trump's budget is still a work in progress, but it paints a bleak picture for Guam in terms of federal contributions. Funding for the arts, education, food stamps, and insular affairs would all be dramatically reduced (gdp, 25 May 2017).

Although exact figures are not known at the time of this writing, Guam and other territories are also threatened...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9464
Print ISSN
1043-898X
Pages
pp. 136-144
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-12
Open Access
No
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