“It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America”.
With a campaign aiming to change the present situation in the United States, Senator Barack Obama won his way to the Oval Office. This young owner of the White House now has to lead his country out of the ruins caused by the financial crisis that is sweeping the globe.
It must be tempting for the American administration to adopt measures – that some would call protectionist – to help the people who put President Obama into office, his voters. For example, President Obama proposed ending tax breaks for companies that outsource their production. That would be good for American workers, no doubt, but only at the expense of non-Americans employed by these companies.
The problem with all this is that America is such a dominant force in the world economy that any decision made by Obama affects not only his own electorate but affects people everywhere in the world who are linked to the global economy. His actions affect people who cannot vote for him (or against him).
At the same time, as the most powerful, and possibly most recognizable, person in the world, he is, in effect (and for lack of any alternative), the leader of the world. The Obama phenomenon has struck everywhere. To most people in the world, he represents change. Blacks everywhere are proud of his victory. Europeans squealed with delight when he visited their cities. Presidents all over the world congratulated him on his success and showed their support. Babies born in numerous places were named Obama by hopeful parents. A city named Obama in Japan even held a huge celebration party for him.
Seeing how much influence he has got, wouldn’t it make some sense if everyone had the opportunity to choose the President of the United States, so that the decisions he or she made would benefit all walks of life?
Of course the president of the USA being elected by everyone on Earth is clearly unworkable. Nevertheless, President Obama is in the unique position of being considered beholden to the needs of people outside his jurisdiction. So for whom is he speaking, his own citizens or voters of various nationalities? There is where the dilemma arises. Is his first duty to see to the needs of his countrymen, or is it to the wider world, for, after all, America cannot exist in isolation?
And if we did elect a world leader by democratic means, brief reflection would lead us to the conclusion that the position would rotate in a bilateral deal between India and China, with allies of both receiving rewards for loyalty. That is not a workable situation either. So we are back where we started, in a highly unsatisfactory situation where the leader of one country can make decisions with devastating consequences to ordinary people in another (just ask the Iraqis), people who have no say in the decisions that may steal away their peace and prosperity. We’d better hope President Obama understands the consequences of the decisions he makes in the next few weeks and months. We’d better hope he is serious when he says change is coming to America.