October 17, 2004

Going for the Global Citizen’s Vote

By Doug McGill
The McGill Report

ROCHESTER, MN –John Kerry said at a rally here today that the first priority of his Presidency if he is elected would be to heal damaged relations between the United States and other countries around the world.

“Our troops are safer, and taxpayers pay less money, when there is a president who understands the importance of having real alliances” with other nations around the world, Kerry said in his speech at the Mayo Civic Center before a standing-room-only crowd of about 4,000 people.

This was the first point that Kerry made in his speech – it came before his points on the U.S. economy, health care policy, homeland security, and the war on Iraq. And it drew deafening applause, cheers, and whistles.

When was the last time we heard a presidential candidate use an appeal to greater global citizenship as an applause line, much less make it the cornerstone of his candidacy, as Kerry did in his speech today?

Global Partnership

The folks at the Gallup and the Pew Research Center polling organizations wouldn’t be surprised. Their recent polls have showed that most Americans now believe, for the first time since the Vietnam War, that foreign policy and national security issues are even more important than the economy.

A recent Pew survey found 41 percent of Americans believed that “war/foreign policy/terrorism” is the most important problem facing the nation, with 26 percent choosing the economy. The last time foreign policy issues topped the economy among Americans was in the election of 1972; from 1976 to 2000 the reverse was been true.

Even more noteworthy, the poll shows that a majority of Americans have in the last four years shifted from being basically isolationists (i.e., seeing a lone-wolf America in the world as good thing), to being internationalists (i.e., believing America should belong to a global partnership of nations).

Three fourths of Americans, the Pew poll showed, say the U.S. should share leadership in the world, as opposed to 11 percent who say that the U.S. should be the single world leader. And 66 percent say that the U.S. is less respected in the world than it was in the past, and this is a serious national security issue.

More Detail

Now that we know that the American populace is internationalist in outlook, there’s no time to waste. We need to press the presidential candidates to flesh out the details of their international visions. For example:

1. The biggest threat facing America today, Bush and Kerry agreed in their first debate, is that a terrorist group will get a nuclear weapon and set it off in an American city. Yet six days from the election there has yet to appear any serious follow-up on this rare and deadly serious point of agreement between the candidates. Citizens – let’s not call ourselves media consumers -- should demand it from the candidates.

2. The candidates should explain in more detail their plans for getting involved the U.S. more involved in international organizations, treaties, and projects such as the global fight against AIDS, the International Criminal Court, and the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. The war on terror is not the only global war, perhaps not even the most important one.

3. The candidates need to explain their policies towards South America, our neighbor to the south; towards China and India, the world’s two most populous countries which are changing our economy profoundly; and Africa, which this year is sending record levels of refugee immigrants to the U.S. And what do they have to say about the humanitarian catastrophe in Haiti right now, where some 300,000 people are homeless and starving following Hurricane Jeanne?

Security is Us

If we allow the war on terror and the war on Iraq to alone to define our worldview and priorities, we will continue to see the world in terms of “us vs. them.” Indeed, we will see the whole world in terms of war.

Yet most of us today say we need to see the world more as “us.” Not as a frill or luxury, we believe, but as a matter of national security. Kerry’s remarks at the Mayo Civic Center suggest he sees the world in terms of global citizenship, instead of in the exclusive frame of war.

Security is us. Which candidate believes that more, and will enact it more through his personal leadership and policies?

That’s the question that we need to be asking the candidates more frequently and forcefully, next Tuesday and every day.

Copyright @ 2004 The McGill Report