OPINION: A candidate for the world

Obama in orbit

Little that is certain can be said about the U.S. election a year from now, but one certainty is this: about 6.3 billion people will not be voting even if they will be affected by the outcome.

That’s the approximate world population outside the United States. If nothing else, President Bush has reminded them that it’s hard to get out of the way of U.S. power. The wielding of it, as in Iraq, has whirlwind effects. The withholding of it, as on the environment, has a huge impact.

No wonder the view is increasingly heard that everyone merits a ballot on Nov. 4, 2008.

That won’t happen, of course. Even the most open-armed multilateralist is not ready for hanging chads in Chad. But the broader point of the give-us-a-vote itch must be taken: the global community is ever more linked. American exceptionalism, as practiced by Bush, has created a longing for new American engagement.

Renewal is about policy; it’s also about symbolism. Which brings us to Barack Hussein Obama, the Democratic candidate with a Kenyan father, a Kansan mother, an Indonesian stepfather, a childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia and impressionable experience of the Muslim world.

If the globe can’t vote next November, it can find itself in Obama. Troubled by the violent chasm between the West and the Islamic world? Obama seems to bridge it. Disturbed by the gulf between rich and poor that globalization spurs? Obama, the African-American, gets it: the South Side of Chicago is the South Side of the world. [complete article]

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