by Dana Zartner,
Chair, International Studies Department
The first thing I do every morning is scan a handful of newspapers from around the world to get a sense of the headlines beyond the borders of the United States. This morning, the headlines were similar:
As the polls opened this morning after a nearly two-year long campaign, the U.S. election is global news and its impacts will be felt in countries large and small. Since FDR ended the period of isolationism and the United States emerged from World War II as a global superpower, the impacts of the most national of events has had a broader reverberation – for the good and the bad – for the global community at large.
Globalization, the internet, and increasingly widespread use of social media have all made information about happenings in far-flung places readily available. But, there is something particular about a U.S. presidential election that is front page news around the world. What happens in the U.S. has an impact around the world, and it is our responsibility as engaged global citizens to consider these impacts as we cast our votes today.
Issues of concern in this election which have a global impact and have been points of discussion (and disagreement) between the candidates include climate change, migration, and trade and financial policy. The approach of the U.S. President, as Commander-in-Chief, towards use of force and alliances has a direct impact on the peace and stability of the world. The appointment by the President of an Ambassador to the United Nations is an indicator of the support the U.S. is willing to provide to multilateral efforts, and the President is the negotiator-in-chief for international treaties and agreements. Moreover, the overall cultural competency and global understanding of the leader of the United States has the potential to shape the trajectory of peaceful relations and prosperity.
There are other issues, too, that are less obvious which are shaped by the U.S. Presidential election, and, in turn, impact the global community. For example, the next U.S. President will appoint at least one U.S. Supreme Court justice. While U.S. court decisions only apply within the United States, the law and judiciaries around the world have responded to globalization in the same manner as other issues and institutions. Many courts around the world reference the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court in their own decisions, and therefore the make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court has the potential to influence beyond our borders.
So, for better or for worse, as we cast out ballots today, we are doing so not just for ourselves, but for our global community. What do we want that community to be? The United States loves to hold itself out as an example for others, and has ever since John Winthrop gave his ‘City on a Hill’ speech to Massachusetts Bay colonists in 1630. And whether we like it or not, the United States is still a global power and the decisions of this country affect everyone. It is therefore incumbent upon those of us with the privilege of voting in this U.S. election to make these decisions with the understanding of their impacts, not just on ourselves but on our fellow human beings around the world. Moreover, we need to be the example we hold ourselves out to be. What is at stake in this election is more than the issues and their impacts. What is at stake is the representation of what democracy can and should be. What is at stake is how we recognize and support the idea of true equality for all. What is at stake is the knowledge for all peoples that respect, kindness, and dignity will be more effective than hatred and lies. What is at stake is the direction of the United States, but the world, for the next four years and into the future.
We in the International Studies Department encourage you to take this responsibility seriously. Work to understand the concerns and points-of-view of others. Engage in reasoned political discourse. And, above all, vote!