Outside America

Mark Hertsgaard (who has written, among other things, an intensely interesting book called The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World, which I highly recommend) has a column in Salon today that addresses the distinction most non-Americans make between America the People and America the Government. He also asks:

But what if Americans give Mr. Bush a second term as president on Nov. 2? Will foreigners still say it's the man in the White House who is the problem, not the voters who put him there?

As Hertsgaard suggests, were this election open to the entire planet, Bush would be voted out by a resounding majority. However, it’s not – and so the rest of the world anxiously turns their eyes toward us to see who we will elect as our next president. They have as much interest in who leads America as we do, because American policies reverberate globally.

Today, people the world over say they like Americans despite our government. But will they still love us tomorrow, if we return that government to power on Nov. 2?
From conversations with friends in Europe, I know that we’ve been a pass of sorts, because Al Gore won the popular vote. They know that a greater number of us really wanted the other guy, but if Bush wins the popular vote this time around, I don’t know if the generosity toward America the People will remain. They don’t understand how, with everything this administration has done, the election could be so close. I have no explanation – I have no idea, either.

Hertsgaard suggests:

If Americans give Bush another four years as president, the popular global backlash could be intense, including not just rhetorical denunciations of American stupidity but perhaps boycotts of American products and worse. And for the first time, overseas anger may come not only from fanatical militants but ordinary citizens, and it may be directed not only at George W. Bush but also toward the ordinary Americans who put him back in office for another four years.

In that unhappy event, we Americans will have no one to blame but ourselves.
And, in truth, in that unhappy event, we on the Left may be faced with a daunting realization—that we are truly outnumbered, and this country isn’t at all the place we imagined it was.

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