Monday, September 17, 2012

Universal Suffrage: Why Everyone in the World Should Vote in America's Election.

I am a Canadian citizen. And, I am an American citizen. In the interests of full disclosure, I became an American citizen in order to vote for Al Gore. Not that it helped.

This past week I received my ballot for the November 6 presidential, state, and local elections. I’m always tempted to vote straight ticket, but if I can find a moderate Republican or two, I’ll vote for them. I do it for the sake of political conservation. I would hate to see that species go totally extinct.

In any case, now that I’ve received my ballot, and have begun considering my options, I have had an amazing insight. The problem with the American election is that only Americans get to vote.

That’s wrong! The consequences of American policy are so great, for so many people all around the world, that I think these people ought also have a say in how America exercises its power. American consumption of natural resources, contributions to global warming, farm subsidies, military interventions and foreign (usually military) aid—the list goes on and on—are all matters of grave concern to the world’s billions who won’t get to vote. In fact, there is hardly any American policy that doesn’t impact the rest of the world. Our policies are taxing most of our neighbors round the world, in spite of their not being able to vote about who will legislate these policies. Taxation without representation!

Worse, American politicians are quite clear that when America acts in the world, it must do so in the American interest. Not in Canada’s or Sudan’s or China’s. When it comes to American politics, Samaritans are not good neighbors. Only other Americans are good neighbors. So while it is inevitable that some American policies will also be good for at least some none-Americans, this is merely trickle-down largesse. American policy, whether foreign or domestic, is about putting us, ourselves and our fellow citizens first.

This sort of America-first thinking runs contrary to a key Christian conviction. You see, before we are Americans or Canadians or Kenyans, we must identify ourselves as Christian. The Apostle Peter says, for example, says that Christians are “strangers and aliens” to the world, and instead, “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” National distinctions must give way to our transnational—some would say “kingdom,” identity in Christ.

Among the earliest Christians, overcoming racial and national prejudice was a big deal. Jews and gentiles had to find their identity in Jesus—as did men and women, slaves and free. The early church was about creating a new identity that transcended all those divides. Paul adds that Christians are “ambassadors of reconciliation.” The image is that of a divine political institution sending Christians into the world to remake it in Jesus’ image. For Christians the question can never be “am I better off now than four years ago.” Rather, it must be, “are my neighbors better off now than four years ago?”

So among Christians, there ought to be a groundswell of support for letting other Christians, our international neighbors, vote. And since it isn’t only Christians—but Jews and Muslims and Baha’i and Hindus who all teach love of neighbor, we ought to throw the American election open to all people.

And yes, of course, this is written tongue in cheek. But voting in America is a very serious matter. So what will you vote this time around? Your pocket book? Or your brothers and sisters all around the world?

What do you think? Leave a response!


  1. This is exactly what the church should be telling the congregation how to vote.
    Instead, we have to find guidance from John's blog. God knows what we need!
    Instead of just "praying" for the poor and needy, we should do something to help our neighbors and those in need. Sending money to the church doesn't always do justice, so how...

  2. Thanks Merling. I think you're right!

  3. Wow John, pretty much everything else in your blog really resonates with me, but not this. I guess you are kidding about the world voting for the US president. But the concept is in my opinion as a US citizen, ludicrous. Each country has a right to self-determination, and democracy is perhaps the principle means for that to happen. The US is not the world's government; neither is are the world's governments open to all. The world does not pay income tax in the USA. I live overseas, and as an ex-patriot in the country in which I live, I am very cautious not to even form too much partisan political sentiment here, since I am prohibited by law from voting or being politically active here. Am I affected by the politics here? Sure! But it's not my role as a foreigner to be politically active in a process that is not mine to determine. And your argument based on the USA's role in the world? I would hazard to say that OPEC or the UN or multinational corporations should be open to world's vote before the USA.

  4. Stephen--the column says that it's all tongue-in-cheek. The idea is not to seriously argue for this so much as to seriously argue that when we vote this fall, we vote first with our neighbors in mind, wherever they live, and not just our pocketbook.


What do you think?