Does Foreign Opinion Matter in Presidential Elections?
There has been a lot of talk about how our allies and enemies would respond to each presidential candidate. That’s about their policies when they get to the White House. But does their opinion matter now?
The BBC says no:
Invoking global opinion in the context of US elections is a fool’s errand. Perfectly understandably, voters in Paris, Pennsylvania, really don’t give a damn what voters in Paris, France, think about their political choices. And why should they?
This is America’s choice, not anyone else’s. How would British voters feel if Texans weighed in on Brexit? This time, however, the international reaction to Donald Trump is so forceful and so unanimous in its condemnation that it is worth drawing attention to. I do so well aware that recent history is replete with examples where the world’s opinion of a US presidential candidate backfired against those same critics.
Back in 2004, Europeans assumed that their own well-publicised opposition to President Bush’s Iraq war would make it harder for him to get re-elected. In fact, anti-Americanism had the opposite effect. It drove people to the president. “If those squishy Europeans hate him so much,” the thinking seemed to go, “then he must be doing something right.”
Specifically, Donald Trump IS the topic of nearly all political discussion, here and abroad. The Times of Israel says the world is watching with dread and confusion:
“The Trump candidacy has opened the door to madness: for the unthinkable to happen, a bad joke to become reality,” German business daily Handelsblatt wrote. . .”
There was also glee from some Russian commentators at how American politics is being turned topsy-turvy in 2016. And in Latin America, Ecuador’s president predicted a Trump win could boomerang and become a blessing to the continent’s left. . .
Eytan Gilboa, an expert on US-Israeli relations at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, said the best word to describe Israeli feelings about Trump is “confusion.” There are certain parts of him that Israelis can relate to, such as his aversion to political correctness, his tough stance on Islamic terrorism and his call for a wall with Mexico to provide security, Gilboa said.
But others have been particularly jarring to Israelis, such as comments about Jews that many consider insensitive and his derision of US Sen. John McCain’s captivity in Vietnam. . .
Thuraya Ebrahim al Arrayed, a member of Saudi Arabia’s top advisory body, the Shura Council, said a Trump presidency would be “catastrophic” and set the world back “not just generations, but centuries.”
Writing in the Financial Times of London, Martin Wolf summed up the mood of a good share of Europe’s business and economic elite, arguing that [he] would be a “global disaster”. . . A Japanese online commentator used much the same language, and likened the Republican front-runner to the evil nemesis of wizard Harry Potter. . .
In the Mexican newspaper Reforma, columnist Sergio Aguayo compared anti-Mexican sentiments unleashed by Trump to the anti-communist Red Scares of the 20th century, and accused Trump of igniting a “brown panic.”
There have been articles about how Americans react negatively to foreign meddling. In fact, in 2004, the British Guardian newspaper focused a letter-writing campaign to one, swing county in Ohio, hoping to help defeat President Bush. But it backfired, and the county went Republican. “Don’t tell me what to do!!”
However, MicroCap Magazine says things may be different this year:
What really matters is whether the 6-10% of voters in the middle of the American political spectrum, the people who actually decide elections here, are swayed by global opinion. And they may be, for two reasons.
America rallies round the flag when its men and women are serving in combat in foreign countries. In a time of war [as in 2004], US voters didn’t like their leader being criticized by foreigners. . . [But] Although America still feels under siege from Islamic extremism, American troops are not being killed in large numbers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Supporting Bush was in some ways a proxy for supporting those soldiers.
What’s more, that small percentage of American voters who sway elections tend to be more moderate. They often classify themselves as independents. So they may look at the way foreign allies view Donald Trump and feel it would damage America’s standing in the world if he were president.
So, there you have it. The world LOVED Barack Obama, but that didn’t seem to help us much. Will it really matter if they hate this year’s choice?