Domestic Politics and the World

A friend from abroad once shared an observation that has stuck with me: That most Americans do not realize how our elections have ramifications for the rest of the world. (Which is why so many nations are invested in them, one way or another.)

The U.S. is still the most powerful country in the world by most measures, and the only one (for now) whose people have some say in its policies or actions. Our president can start de facto wars and launch nukes with little or no oversight; entire nations, if not the world, are potentially at the mercy of whoever occupies the Oval Office. Laws passed in Congress can directly inspire other countries or affect the global economy, by virtue of how large a role we play in this interconnected world. Our economic, diplomatic, and even cultural influence gives us considerable sway over the biggest problems facing humanity, from climate change to the next pandemic. For better or worse, we still set the trend on many global responses, largely by virtue of our vast resources; even our consumer habits can disproportionately impact environments a world away. Many U.S. companies and individuals are richer and more powerful than entire nations; how or whether we choose to reign them in has consequences, too.

The U.S. is not the superpower it once was, and not every global issue comes down to our leadership; many other countries have roles to play, too. But few things are in isolation any more; how our society or presumed leaders do things still has effects across the world that many of us do not even think about. It is an odd thing to imagine something as parochial as elections having anything to do with the rest of the world, but like it or not, they do.

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