America is preparing for its famous battle between red and blue states during the presidential elections. If history is any guide, it will be close call in November. However if the whole world could vote, Barack Obama would win by a landslide. Why is that so? Why is Obama far more popular outside the United States than John McCain, despite the fact that McCain is much more of an international personality today than George Bush was eight years ago?
Europeans, Africans, Asians and Latin Americans recognize that there is something very unique in Obama’s candidacy–something much needed and unprecedented in U.S. presidential history.
Beyond global warming and the threat of terrorism, there is one issue that defines the challenges of our time: Globalization. Over the past 20 years, trade, travel and the Internet increasingly have erased borders. Our issues have become global issues. And in such circumstances the most powerful nation has to play a global role much more than in the world full of borders of the past. That’s exactly what the Bush administration has not done. George Bush has been blinded by narrowly defined American self-interests and he has isolated his country from the rest of the world–not a wise thing to do in the age of globalization.
The world needs a new American president who is a true global leader; a president who wants to listen to other perspectives and who is ready meet the other. And here comes Barack Obama, a man destined to build bridges. He is American, but he’s also African. He’s Christian, but he has a Muslim name. He is black and he is white. He was partially raised in Indonesia–not as an expat but among the locals. He’s had tea with his grandmother in a hut in third-world Kenya.
Obama doesn’t belong to any particular kin. And that’s his greatest strength. America never has had such a candidate. Barack Obama is much more than potentially the first black president of the United States. He is, by his personal experience, a citizen of the world. He needs to listen to the other to better understand himself. He is not afraid of the other, because the other is in him. If he wants to belong to the world, he has to reach out. That’s his gift to the world. And there is no better gift that America can present to global politics at this time.
As much as Obama knows that he needs to build bridges for himself, he knows that America needs to build bridges again to the rest of the world. In today’s world, America is not alone and cannot go alone. Obama knows that it is in America’s best self-interest to become part of the world again. Obama knows, the rest of the world knows. Do the red states know?
Jurriaan Kamp is the founder and editor of Ode Magazine, the magazine for intelligent optimists.