10/15/08

about that "if the world could vote" and minority head of state

As most surveys have shown so far, if the world could vote, Obama would win over McCain in a landslide. As a consequence, my friends and relatives overseas often say that they cannot understand why the US voters have not clearly made their choice yet when the rest of the world is in agreement on which candidate is the better choice.

Well, here is my advice to my friends, relatives and myself wondering about the judgment of the American voters:

let's all get off our collective high horses and ask ourselves whether it would really be a slam dunk if the same situation were to present itself back home. In other words, would a relatively young candidate from a minority group with a new approach fare that well against an experienced politician labeled as a war hero in your own country ?

A few things to consider:
Firstly, the data show that the rest of the world would like Obama to be the next US president, not their own president. It might also be the case but we don't know that.

Secondly, those polls are mostly based on online surveys or surveys of people with an interest in international news. Therefore, the polling group is not really representative of the entire world population but more of an informed knowledgeable group. The same demographic groups in the US are also leaning heavily towards Obama. As a matter of fact, on the map above, 80% of voters in the US are also leaning towards Obama.

Now, in the history of presidential elections worldwide, how many times did a younger, ethnic minority candidate win in a landslide ?

I do not have the exact answer but as far as I know, only two countries have had an elected ethnic minority national leader at some point in history: Peru (Fujimori) and Fiji (Chaudhry)**. India (Singh) and Bolivia (Morales) could be considered but I am not sure if either count as a true elected ethnic minority leader, Singh was not elected and is more part of a religious minority. Morales is part of the indigenous population but technically, indigenous groups are the majority even though they are very rarely in power. (If I am wrong or if you can think of other countries, please weigh in).


(Fujimori photo via msnnbc.com)

Closer to home, I don't consider Ravalomanana (a merina) a true minority either because the ethnic definitions of malagasy people is too complicated ( a total cop-out but hey, the truth is, there is no ethnic majority in Madagascar). Now a chinese-malagasy, european-malagasy or indian-malagasy president would be considered a true minority. Yet, unfortunately, we are still decades away from that to even be a possibility. That said, the same can be said for the rest of the world today.

Clearly, Fujimori and Chaudhry were the exceptions. Instead of chastising US voters for not making a clear choice for Obama already, we should laud them for making the likelihood of Obama being in charge very plausible now.

Additionally, international observers are also not subjected to fearmongering rallies, emails and dvds or deliberate lies so it is easier to see through the mud-slinging like this:


(photo of Virginia Republican flier h/t Andrew Sullivan)

By no means am I suggesting that this is a done deal (I am quite a superstitious cat and have witnessed the power of "jinxing"way too often) nor that race will not play a big part. New talking points spring every hour so who knows...

Let me try one last analogy: let's say you throw a party that will include your folks, their friends and your friends and you have a choice between Phil Collins and the Roots. You may think it's a no-brainer but in reality, it really isn't that clear-cut.

Kudos to you US voter for seeing through the BS, now go on, call your friends, vote early and close the deal.

**Update: Kristoff on the NYT provided a few more elected minorities: white prime minister in Jamaica and a French-born prime minister in Mauritius ( should have known that one)


6 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:06 AM

    Great post as usual Lova. It is not over yet. Have you seen this http://www.obamabucks.net/

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  2. Thanks anon.

    the apology from that the creator of that nonsense Diane Fedele is even more pathetic that the cartoon itself. I cannot believe people are still using the "I-supported-a-black candidate-before-therefore-I-am-not- prejudiced" line. If you cannot apologize properly, then the second best option is just STFU, IMHO.

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  3. Great post, Lova. I think most people in the US can see that 8 years of republican policies have led to economic and foriegn policy disasters.

    In India's case every PM so far is from an ethnic minority. Manmohan is the first from a religious minority (Sikhs are about 3% of India's population). However, people who voted for Manmohan's party were not sure who would be prime minister. Sonia Gandhi, the leader of this party, belongs to an ethnic and religious minority group (of European descent, Christian) and is a naturalised citizen to boot. People voted for the party knowing full well that she could be PM. They didn't win in a landslide though.

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  4. Thank you for the clarification, Mosi.
    I thought that Sonia was indeed the story but did not know the details of it. Was her being of European descent a major topic of discussion of was it just a side story ?

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  5. I think american president election may get the same fate of the previous one because we do not have any idea about the voters who are not interested that much in technologies and the asian issue can cause serious thinking on those voters.

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  6. "we are still decades away from that to even be a possibility" tsss tsss

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