Swinging the Swing States

Americans represent only 5 percent of the world’s population. Given America’s superpower status, the remaining 95 percent of humanity surely has preferences about whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney sits in the Oval Office.

This begs a question. Is it possible that the swing states that will decide the U.S. presidential election might not be Florida, Ohio, and Virginia, but rather Russia, China, and Israel?

Although foreign states don’t vote, their leaders are surely aware that the U.S. election will boil down to narrow electoral polls where even a 1 percent swing might determine the next leader of the free world. And there are hundreds of possible global events that might swing the U.S. electorate. For example, Russia could launch a test missile, China could let the yuan appreciate 5 percent, or Israel could attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. And almost any one of America’s major trading partners—Canada, India, Brazil, Mexico, or the Europeans—could tinker with the Sunshine State’s GDP by importing more (or fewer) Florida bananas, depending on which man they would prefer to see in the White House.

This introduces an interesting dynamic into the U.S. presidential election, where President Obama—despite being the most powerful man on earth—might have to persuade foreign swing states to refrain from actions that might impede his path to re-election. In March, for instance Obama was overheard asking Russian president Dmitry Medvedev for “more space […] particularly with missile defense”—until after the November ballot.

“After my election I have more flexibility,” said Obama, his hand touching Medvedev’s.

To which the outgoing Russian president replied, “I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”

Since then, notice how quiet the Russian Bear has been in recent months? Perhaps the Russians might prefer to avoid a Republican White House, especially after Romney labeled Russia as “our number one geopolitical foe” that “fight[s] every cause for the world’s worst actors.” Perhaps it is possible that the Russians are aware of how their actions might appear to American eyes. Perhaps the Russians don’t want to do anything that would risk making Obama’s “reset” strategy look naive and foolish.

And that’s just the Russian Bear. Now consider the Chinese Panda.

In a summer editorial subtitled “Swing elections states are among America’s top exporters,” the Wall Street Journal stated that Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan all make the list of top-15 state exporters to China. Given that swing state GDP is so heavily dependent on foreign trade, is it possible that China has the power to swing the U.S. election by asking a few Chinese companies to accelerate (or delay) some purchases of U.S. goods? Basically, China could give America a temporary multibillion-dollar trade boost (or bust), which is loose change compared to China’s $3 trillion of foreign exchange reserves. In return, China might get rewarded with a 1 percent swing in a purple state that ensures the election of its preferred president.

Is it possible that global events are less random than they seem? Is it possible that Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who knows that an Israel-Iran war would swing U.S. perceptions of Obama’s leadership abilities, might be thinking of possible concessions to wring from Uncle Sam? Like a red line on Iran’s nuclear program?

Come November, most Americans assume that the U.S. election will boil down to the choices of Florida retirees, Ohio soccer moms, or Virginian farmers. But given the globalized, interconnected world that we live in, is it truly reasonable to assume that American elections will be decided by Floridians, Ohioans, and Virginians alone—and nobody else on the planet?

Chris Seck is a 3L. His column runs on Wednesdays

The views in opinion editorials, columns, and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of The Record. 

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