As Americans Vote, the World Holds Its Breath


| 10/31/2008 5:53:28 PM


Tags: Politics, Election 2008, U.S., International, global opinion, America's standing in the world, Timothy Garton Ash, New York Review of Books, Foreign Policy,

From my observation perch in Stanford, California, an English European turned 24/7-cablenews-Webcast junkie, I notice that many Americans still suffer from a touching delusion that this is their election. How curious. Don't they understand? This is our election. The world's election. Our future depends on it, and we live it as intensely as Americans do. All we lack is the vote.

That’s historian Timothy Garton Ash writing in a roundup of election eve observations from the New York Review of Books.

The sentiment is backed up in numbers with this interactive global poll at Foreign Policy, which shows Obama with a commanding lead in world opinion. 

Americans, meanwhile, are heading to the polls with visions of Great Depression II dancing in their heads. Domestic economic woes rule the polls as the top voter issue. And that might give fretters like Ash the feeling that Americans aren’t too worried about views beyond our shores.

Of course, the economic focus is good news for anyone pulling for Obama. But as another note of perhaps premature assurance, I’ll mention one thing that struck me during the presidential debates, though it didn’t register among the punditry at the time. The conventional wisdom is that the Republican ticket owns foreign policy, and if national security—not the economy—were Americans' top concern then people wouldn’t be selling their souls on Craigslist for tickets to Obama’s Grant Park would-be victory rally.

But every time Obama talked about restoring America’s standing in the world during those debates, that little CNN widget tracking independent voters’ sentiments spiked. It may not be the issue in the forefront of voters’ minds, but it’s one they do seem, at long last, to care about.