Global Voting

If, like Sarah Palin, you're a regular reader of The Economist, you may have already taken part in the global election to choose the next U.S. president.

“What if the whole world could vote?” the magazine's website asks.

Indeed.

Judging from results as of Oct. 11, the race is heavily one-sided. Of the nearly 30,000 ballots counted so far from all around the world, Obama leads by a 4-to-1 margin.

Of “electoral votes,” of which each country is assigned a certain number according to population, just 23 votes are currently going to McCain out of a total of 8,758.

The Republican candidate gets “leaning” or “strong” support only from Andorra, Georgia, Macedonia and Moldova. Some countries haven't registered enough votes yet to be counted, but it seems unlikely that the tally will change much.

Remember that this isn't The Progressive, The Guardian or L'Humanité that we're talking about.

This is the magazine (“newspaper,” as it prefers to be called) that endorsed Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. True, it also supported Bill Clinton for reelection and, earlier, Harold Wilson, but that's only proof that, as a former Economist editor wrote over 50 years ago, “The extreme centre is the paper's historical position.”

So why are readers of this centrist, free-market, business-oriented magazine so overwhelmingly in favor of Obama, who at one time or another has garnered a “100-percent liberal” rating from both right- and left-wing organizations?

Well, perhaps it's because John McCain has been honest enough to admit general ignorance of and, presumably, dislike for economics. That may be like telling a subscriber of Field and Stream that you think bass fishing is yucky.

All the same, when it came time to choose a favorite in this year's Republican primaries, John McCain was The Economist's preference, just as he was in the 2000 primaries. The magazine hasn't yet endorsed anyone for this November's contest.

Responses to the online global “election” have ranged from caustic to enthusiastic.

“Since the World doesn't Elect the U.S. President, who cares what they think?” wrote one person (presumably a capitalist, at least when it comes to punctuation).

But a lot of readers really like the idea of letting the world's citizenry “vote” to choose the one who, at least until a couple of weeks ago, was known as the most powerful person on the planet. With the help of the Internet, they're starting to act as if they actually have a say.

Few sentiments are hokier than “We are the world” or “It takes a village,” and few ideas are scarier than a one-world government. Still, people everywhere feel that they're stakeholders in this election, even if they don't get to vote.

For my part, I've been overtly lobbied by at least one foreign national. Just before the 2004 presidential election, which preceded a U.K. parliamentary election by six months, a British friend wrote, “If you'll vote for Kerry, I'll go for Blair.” There may well be a law against this kind of thing; at any rate, I couldn't comply, even if my conscience had permitted.

Interestingly, American participants in The Economist's avowedly unscientific poll have, like their fellow Earthlings, come out for Obama in lopsided fashion: 81 percent vs. 19 percent for McCain. How could that be?

Maybe one California Republican's remark after the first House of Representatives bailout vote on Sept. 29 is revealing. Rep. Mary Bono Mack admitted voting for the bailout despite “getting calls running 100 to 1 against it.”

"I recognize people are probably angry at me,” Rep. Mack said, “but at the end of the day I have to make decisions that are good for the rest of the country.”

Are some Americans voting globally? Shouldn't they?