Is the whole world really watching our electoral theater? Certainly many are -- and many have more urgent things to do. A few stances I've run across:
Dire horror: Popular economic writers frequently trot out the dictum "when the U.S. sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold." Well maybe -- in some respects the health of the U.S. economy is so important to the world economy that this saying captures a truth. The journalist Helena Cobban reports a conversation with a Lebanese blogger which applies this perspective to U.S. elections.
Certainly in many places, the amount of misery U.S. meddling and intrusion causes would justifies folks feeling they ought to get a crack at deciding who occupies the seat of power in Washington.
Frustration. Tonight I attended a meeting of peace activists during which we chewed over, again, the gap between the strong desire of a majority of the U.S. people to end the Iraq adventure and the minuscule effect of that wish on our elected representatives. A South Asian woman finally exclaimed something like "I don't get it. People in the smallest villages in India understand it is about oil and empire -- what's wrong with these people?" When it's "your empire," it is harder to see.
The dean of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy offers a variant of this:
Mystification. Listening to the BBC coverage of the U.S. primary season is often downright humorous. Brits interviewing Iowa farmers and South Carolina African Americans are often culturally out of their depths. Their slightly off-base coverage is a great reminder of just how large and diverse this country is.
And after all, the primary process is irrational. Why does Nevada use caucuses and not a primary vote? Because the state government would have to pay for an election process, while the state political parties pick up the tab for caucuses. Nevada's legislature chooses not pay for the expensive brand. Try explaining that to an audience outside the U.S.
And then there is the truly wacky. Some enterprising geeks put up a site called Who would the world elect? Voters name their country and are allowed one vote per computer. Unfortunately the Ron Paul nuts, unable to do anything to elect their hero, did send an awful lot of traffic to this one, producing such oddities as 441 votes for Paul from Poland. A U.S. election -- even the nuts get to play.