Simon Anholt, Founder of the Good Country
As many people are aware, Hillary Clinton won the U.S. Presidential Election by a small landslide, with an overwhelming 52% of the total vote. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, came second with 19%; Donald Trump came third; and Gary Johnson came almost nowhere: he may well have spoiled his chances by letting slip that he’d never heard of Aleppo.
These results came as no surprise, following on as they did just a few months after the Brexit referendum, when a massive 86% of people voted for the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union.
At this point, you may well be wondering which parallel universe I live in: actually, I live in the world, and this was how the world voted.
More than 150,000 people from 130 countries have taken part in the first ten elections covered by the Global Vote since I launched the platform in June 2016. The Global Vote is a mechanism that allows people worldwide who are affected by elections and referenda to cast their vote, even if they are excluded by age or by nationality from voting formally. At the very least, it’s a way of acknowledging how deeply interconnected we all are; at the most, it could be the beginning of the globalisation of democracy.
When you take part in a Global Vote, you’re not thinking about what each candidate might do for their own population – those are matters purely for the citizens of that country – you’re simply looking at their answers to the two key questions I always ask them:
1. If you are elected, what will you do for the rest of us, around the world?
2. What is your vision for your country’s role in the world?
By asking each candidate about their international intentions, election after election, my hope is that those questions will eventually become accepted as part of the normal election process. No candidate will be able to stand without a clear policy for their country’s role in the world and a vision of how they will co-operate and collaborate with other leaders and other populations.
For now the Global Vote is symbolic but as soon as we have more people outside any given country voting in its election as there are inside the country, it becomes impossible to ignore. And leaders the world over might start thinking not merely about being good neighbours, but also being good ancestors. They might start to understand that when you are elected to run a country, you also join the team that runs the planet.
I believe that all leaders today (and that includes the leaders of nations, cities, regions, towns, schools, universities, companies and other organisations) have a dual mandate. They are primarily responsible for their own people and their own slice of territory: but they also share responsibility for every man, woman, child and animal on the planet; for every square mile of the planet’s surface and the atmosphere above it.
It’s very tempting, in an age of constant crisis and terrifying global challenges, to retreat into selfishness, tribalism, fear, and hostility towards the rest of our own species. And in times like these, we are never short of politicians who win support by echoing that fear and hostility: but since our problems are global and our challenges are shared, they’re heading the wrong way.
We need leaders with minds that telescope, not minds that microscope: a lot more collaboration and co-operation between countries, and a little less competition, is the only way forward.
The Global Vote aims to ensure that this critical attribute is never forgotten when we choose our leaders. Right-wing or left-wing, conservative or progressive, the politics are secondary to the main question: are you with humanity or against it? Do you offer the false comfort of looking backwards and inwards, or do you offer hope in looking forwards and outwards?
One day soon, I hope, all these pernicious forms of tribalism, nationalism and localism will come to seem as outdated, as irrelevant, and as taboo as sexism and racism appear to us today.