November 1, 2004

I'm Mike Knell, and I approve this message.

When I opened up a window to type this, I looked in the "category" dropdown and found that I'd never used a "Politics" category before, so had to create it specially just for this article. Feel privileged yet?

The reason why I've never written about politics before is twofold. Firstly, this is just some obscure - and I know just how obscure, as I see my traffic stats - website run by some bloke who is far too short on delusions of grandeur to try tackling Mighty Big Issues. I promise to go back to writing about obscure bits of the London Underground and my attempts at running after this. Secondly, I'm not really very good at it. Lots of people on the web try and write about politics, but their efforts are usually along the lines of "Look at this article! Isn't it shocking! Aren't these people bad?", which doesn't really convey much useful information other than the righteous indignation of the writer. A bit like a Julie Burchill column, really.

But I wanted to write this, both to express the feelings I have on the matter and to help vent some of the suspense and frustration the world is feeling in the last days before - finally - we hopefully get the result of the US presidential election. All of a sudden, everyone I know in the States seems to have become an activist. People from the WELL are flying off to swing states (California is, well, not a Bush target state) to act as election observers and spending their evenings phoning around likely Democrat voters and undecideds encouraging them to vote on Tuesday.

There have been queues around the block for early voting. People have been willing to wait hours to cast their votes when polling day isn't even until tomorrow. It's reminding me of the first post-apartheid elections in South Africa. More people then ever before are aware of the value of their vote and their legal rights when voting (aren't certain? get the guide for your state from and young people, old people, rich people and poor people seem, for once, equally revved up about the coming act of participatory democracy. Tomorrow, those who haven't done so already will be heading in their millions to the polling places in order to stand up and be counted.

Over here on the other side of the Atlantic, we don't get to vote. This is, of course, only fair as we get to vote in our own elections which, in turn, Americans don't get to vote in. But given the magnitude of some of the issues at stake tomorrow, Europeans and Asians and Australians and Africans are more interested in the outcome of the US election than they've ever been before. All we can do is obsessively follow opinion polls, cheer or wail when the theoretical electoral college at changes hands, and if it all gets too much take comfort in election trivia and Eminem's latest very angry video.

So while we can't decide the outcome ourselves - and any non-American who thinks they should be entitled to has one hell of a sense of entitlement - many people outside the USA are as involved with and concerned about this election - if not more so - as many Americans. The decision to be made, however, is that of the American people alone.

In an act of outright stupidity, the British newspaper The Guardian decided a while ago that they were going to encourage their readers to write to voters in Clark County, Ohio and encourage them to vote (for Kerry, was the implied message). The people of Clark County were unsurprisingly and completely validly offended at the idea that this bunch of foreigners felt entitled to write them patronising letters telling them how to vote. How, I thought, would we feel here in the UK if we started getting letters from random Americans telling us who to vote for?

Given that, I wouldn't dream of telling anyone how to vote. The right to choose the candidate for whom you vote yourself, and to cast that vote in secret, is one of the most fundamental rights of living in a democracy. So please vote for whoever you like, but I feel strongly enough about these issues to make my own recommendation.

And that's why - in probably the most important announcement to hit the mass media in the last year - chooses to endorse John Kerry for President of the United States and John Edwards for Vice-President. Now come on, Americans - make the rest of the world proud of you tomorrow by showing that you're a country of people who care. Get out there and vote - despite the above, I don't really mind who for - and get out there and get others to vote too. It's time to make a difference and make the majority - whichever way it goes - big enough that the lawyers will be left empty-handed and the result won't have to be decided by the Supreme Court but by the will of the people. Good luck - we're all watching you.

Posted by mpk at November 1, 2004 2:46 PM | TrackBack

Well said.

May I remind you of the wise words of John Kenneth Galbraith?

"The job description for the post of President of the United States is internally contradictory and impossible to fulfil.
That is why only mediocrities apply."

The weaknesses of the US Constitution affect us all. America needs a group of Refounding Fathers to rewrite the constitution, preferably after close study and intense discussion of the works of John Locke and other writers in the tradition of the English Enlightenment.

Posted by: Alan Knell at November 1, 2004 4:25 PM
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