Sunday, November 02, 2008

Global opinions on the US Election

As readers of this blog know, this is my first election as a new US citizen! The NY Times yesterday had an astonishing story of new US citizens who traveled across the world from India to vote in this election in person because their postal votes didn't arrive in enough time for them to be safely returned. Of course, US democracy isn't actually "one person, one vote" -- electoral votes are apportioned to each state according to the number of senators and representatives so that the smallest states get three electoral votes. For seats in the House of Representatives, votes are apportioned according to the number of state residents, many of whom (children, non-residents etc) do not have the right to vote. So in NYC, ten votes represents 15 people. Then there is the Electoral College. The Electoral College consists of the same number of people as there are members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, which means that a tiny state with a few hundred thousand people has the minimum three electors, New York and Texas have 31 and 34, and California has 55.

I might also argue that each US voter (and the turn-out promises to be higher this year) represents the wishes and hopes of opinions around the world. Take yesterday's editorial in the Guardian (UK):

Though we lack the vote, this is our election too. Such statements outrage many Americans and inspire others. But the rest of the world has not just lived this election. Our life chances and societies will also be shaped by what happens next Tuesday. The world has an interest in the outcome because, in spite of everything, America remains the world's pre-eminent military, political, financial and cultural power. America's standing in the world has been damaged during the Bush years. He has inflicted massive direct harm to many parts of the world through his military actions, has set back the quality of life on our planet by his indifference to climate change, international cooperation and the rule of law. He has been anti-Americanism's best recruiting sergeant and al-Qaida's too.

The world may not have the vote on Tuesday. But it certainly has a candidate. That candidate is Senator Barack Obama. If the world could vote on November 4, Mr Obama would win by a landslide. Polling shows him preferred in Egypt by two to one, in Poland by three to one, in Canada by five to one, in Brazil by six to one, in Britain by seven to one, in France by 11 to one and in Kenya by more than 17 to one.

He is not just the preferred choice of liberal Europeans. He is also the choice of the rest of the world, of all races and creeds - and of young people in particular. No buses crammed with lawyers would be needed to validate the accuracy of these votes. He commands this support, not only because he is not George Bush but because he personifies so much of what the world still admires about America. Americans ought to think about that. The world longs, perhaps unrealistically but palpably nevertheless, for a new America. Only Mr Obama can provide that.

AllAfrica.com has a special on the US Election, Who is Better for Africa?

The Guardian also printed a piece by Dr Judith Maltby endorsing Obama from a religious persepctive:

If Barack Obama takes possession of the Oval Office in January it will not be through a string of unlikely disasters but through the testing, in a grinding campaign, of a candidate who has fired the middle and progressive ground in American politics as no one has in decades. That is clear from listening to people, both town and gown, in the heartland of the midwest. He will also be the most theologically literate Christian in that office since Jimmy Carter. At such a transformational moment, perhaps Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Methodists, even the much-maligned (in certain Church of England circles) Episcopalians, can wrestle the word Christian back from the Christian right.

The Times of India "Sashi on Sunday" warns about 4 things to watch for as the US votes including the Bradley effect, the Electoral College, a last-minute surprise, and national fault-lines. But the article concludes:

If there is no last-minute surprise, I'm betting on Obama. He has done everything right in his campaign - coming across as calm, intelligent and presidential, whereas McCain has been erratic, impulsive and (in his choice of the woefully undercooked Sarah Palin as his running mate) irresponsible. If Obama were white, this would not even be a close contest. If he loses despite having run the most impressive presidential campaign in recent Democratic memory, it will only mean that the candidate of change has been defeated by the one thing he cannot change - the colour of his skin.

2 comments:

Rev Dr Mom said...

I know the electoral college is supposed to benefit small states, but I really think we'd better off without it.

The world really does seem to be counting on Obama...what a burden for him to bear. And what a hope he represents. I think we should all be praying hard for him.

Caminante said...

Oh wow, when did you become a US-er? Blessings on your first vote! Anne is coming up tomorrow so we can listen to the radio and keep packing me up for my move in two weeks to Trinity, Rutland (25 miles from Plymouth instead of the current 65). Anyway, have fun voting.