Tomorrow the world will watch as US voters go to the polls. The campaign process, which takes up a good two years of a four-year term of office, has once again driven Americans to distraction with the non-stop ads on TV, press and radio. Millions of dollars have been spent on this process – and I risk changing that verb from “spent” to “wasted” – without the cause of democracy being served. Then there is the time and energy the sitting president had to devote to getting re-elect rather than to surviving the country. What a wast of resources. Wouldn’t it be possible to limit the length of the campaigns?
In the end the Electoral College will vote for the President and the popular vote will be overridden by this vestige of an 18th century system developed to ensure that an agrarian and illiterate society would not make the wrong choices. In previous elections we have experienced just how unfair that can pan out. Yet there seems to be no movement towards changing or abolishing this outmoded system. Probably because it did manage to serve the guy who made it to the Oval Office without the benefit of winning the popular vote. But that is just one bugaboo I intend to address today.
The US is a global leader, whether it really likes it or not. Somehow I think it does relish this position although the leaders can find it to be a nuisance. However, the country is so big that many of its citizens barely register that the world beyond their shores exists, much less that it is greatly affected economically and politically by the policies pursued in Washington.
When visiting the US I am always struck by how little news seeps in about what is going on in the outside world. Yet Europe – and unfortunately I can only speak of my experience in Europe – watches the US carefully, waiting for what it will do next, hoping that the US economy won’t catch a cold or – horror! – come down with something even more grievous and contagious. For every policy implemented in Washington affects the entire global community.
And folks, here it comes, my solution to this untenable situation: voting rights for the US presidency and Congress should be extended to every man and woman across the globe. I can’t help but be reminded of the angry American Colonists in the 1770s when they were taxed by a British king and his Parliament without their having representation in that forum. If I’m not mistaken, it led to a war of independence. And now in the 21st century with globalization being the watchword, we are all dependent on what happens in Washington, without the right to influence it.
Thus, while the populations of the rest of the world watch the outcome of the US election with bated breath, many Americans stay away from the polls and relinquish their right and their duty to themselves and the rest of humanity. Rather than electing a president who is capable of leading the whole world and not just prepared to serve an elite constituency, the non-voters of America disenfranchise themselves.
So let’s hear it for universal global suffrage! I certainly know who the Germans would elect – hands down – if given the opportunity to vote. And it wouldn’t be the R & R ticket.