universal suffrage

So at a potluck here last night (which was great fun – plenty of friends had come in part to see me off), we got to talking about the state of the world, and as might be expected, this soon led to discussing the looming US election. Thomas mentioned a Guardian article by a reporter who tried to interview someone in the campaign office of a presidential candidate. When the staffer found out where the journalist was from, they refused the interview, saying, “sorry, we don’t have any voters in Liverpool”. The fact that this is almost certainly not the case is well beside the point. A few US residents of Liverpool may send in overseas ballots, but given the disproportionate influence the US government tends to have throughout the world, one could easily make the case that far more people there should have the opportunity to cast a ballot in November. If they want to run so much of the world, shouldn’t we in the rest of world get a say in this? Clearly people in Afghanistan or Iraq would do better voting for a US president than by participating in the empty and limited elections of their own countries. We’re in a better position here in Canada, but still heavily influenced by the vastly larger economy to our south; in a fair world we’d get a say too. In fact, we agreed over bioregional wine and grilled tofu, everybody should vote! All six billion of us.

It’s long struck me as bizarre that our globe’s sole superpower is ruled by men who win elections, and therefore set foreign policy, based on largely domestic interests. How much autonomy will Iraq gain over the next year? How many refugees will gain asylum from their homelands this fall? Will a son-of-Star Wars missile defence system be constructed in the Canadian north? Find out how it plays in Peoria and you’ll know! Little wonder the international media publishes every scrap of news on this campaign it can, despairing for some glimmer of sanity amongst the rampant electoral fraud, campaigns in which mudslinging passes as reasoned discourse, and political speeches best described as an army of pompous phrases moving across the landscape in search of an idea (to steal a phrase).

Let’s build on an early feminist idea and call for truly universal suffrage. People should have the right to vote in the elections of other nation’s governments in proportion to the degree to which those governments in practice hold sovereignty over them and have the power to influence their lives. What could be more democratic than that?