A lone vote on the fate of the world

I think too cynically to believe that the fate of the world could be decided by tonight’s election, but under scrutiny the statement is not that far fetched. Not a single person in November of 2000 — outside of the Republican administration — would have been able to believe the U.S. government’s decisions could affect the world so greatly. And I can’t begin to fathom what kind of damage would be caused with four more years of the same. But what’s more frightening is that all of this may be decided by one state!

Whoever wins Ohio, which has 20 electoral votes, will probably be our next president. Not a single Republican candidate has ever been elected president without winning Ohio. And only twice since 1892 has a Democrat won the presidency without Ohio. Ohio? Home of the Toledo Mudhens?

Maybe that’s too much pressure for one state. After all, we can’t hold Ohio responsible for the world’s fate. No, this election will be decided by more than just Ohio. In the end, the deciding factor could very well be the oft overlooked “minority vote”: Hispanics, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, all of whom seem overwhelmingly opposed to Bush.

What tonight’s election could change, depending on the victor and where those votes come from, is what it means to be “American.” If Kerry wins due to the aforementioned contingents then the way that domestic policy is talked about and managed could shift. I don’t imagine large, sweeping changes, but it would not be at all surprising to see a shift in the rhetoric of “what America stands for.”

For the rest of the world it seems pretty clear what the U.S. stands for and what is at stake tonight. A recent BBC program sampled world opinions:

Netherlands: “I find it quite amazing that $3.9 billion can be spent on elections alone, in a country which doesn’t even have a public healthcare system.”

Germany: “We want to understand why so many people are still on Bush’s side; it’s a kind of mystery to us.”

New Zealand: “It is frightening for the rest of the world to look on and feel absolutely powerless while a bunch of people are coerced and fooled into making a decision that may return a man to power who could devastatingly affect the rest of the world and further unhinge global relations and security.”

France’s Le Nouvel Observateur didn’t hesitate to declare, “The future of the Western world hangs on this election.” Even Le Monde, another French newspaper, is publicly endorsing a U.S. president (Kerry), something French newspapers never do.

These countries aren’t alone. Charles Bremner reported on a survey of 35 countries which “showed Mr. Bush leading in only three: Nigeria, Poland and the Philippines . . .” And according to The Washington Times, “If it were left to the voters of the world, John Kerry would stroll into the White House . . .”

Of course, this is our “democracy” and only people in the United States should be able to decide their own fate. But if U.S. administrations are going to continue this storied tradition of tramping around the globe invading other countries and ignoring international laws, then maybe we should have global elections. After all, when the fate of the world is at stake, why should only 4.5 percent of the world’s population get to make that decision?

What is clear is that people in the United States have an obligation — whether we like our choices or not — to vote in this election, no matter who we vote for. And if Bush wins, and does it fair, then I will ungratefully — gulp — accept that this is what the majority of the voters believe is best, no matter how wrong they are. But I expect Kerry will win. And I expect it to be a great presidency. Kerry could sail around the world in a dinghy and it would look like a Carnival Cruise compared to the Titanic mistakes made by the Bush administration.

I have voted already, and I voted for the dinghy. I hope you do, too.

A.J. Jackson can be reached at [email protected]