Friday, November 9, 2012

The world on U.S. election

A piece on the world's reaction to Obama's reelection in Buzzfeed didn't sound too promising. I expected a dry article quoting newspaper articles from around the world.

What I actually got was a snapshot — many of them — of the articles in those newspapers. Many of the articles were featured on the papers' front page. For one who has a healthy skepticism of the United States' oft-mentioned exceptionalism, this was a jolting reminder that whether or not the U.S. is exceptional in the way that American exceptionalists would like to believe, the U.S. unquestionably is a big enough factor in world affairs to be worth people's attention worldwide.

One thing that caught my eye was the electoral maps accompanying a few of the articles. Can you imagine a general-readership U.S. paper, even the New York Times, breaking down the national vote of Russia, or Switzerland, or even Canada along administrative boundaries?

I can't help wondering, does the color scheme on the map of the U.S. — the red-and-blue familiar to U.S. readers, denoting the disposition of each state's electoral votes — mean anything to Singaporeans? Do Malaysians understand why the Electoral College vote totals they quote (not to mention the donkey and elephant symbols next to each number) are significant? Is the U.S. election so big a deal to Kiwis that the electoral map and the breakdown by party of the Senate, House of Representatives and state governorships should all be displayed prominently on the front page of The Press (New Zealand)?

It's incredibly humbling to suspect that yes, these things are meaningful to at least some of these papers' readers. (I can't claim an equivalent familiarity even with Canada, and geopolitically they don't get any easier to know than the English-speaking country next door.)

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