Today’s Guardian has two ideas, one good and one not so good, on how you might influence the outcome of the upcoming US election if you’re not a US citizen. Love it or hate it (and after two years here, I’ve learned to do both), the US is the 800 pound gorilla of international politics, and what happens here affects all the world. So is it reasonable to expect the rest of the world to sit meekly by and hope we get it right? In one sense, it certainly is — this is our country, after all. (Note the pronouns; I’ll be a citizen in two years, and I consider myself an American now. There’s more to love than to hate, despite ShrubCo’s best efforts.) That’s why I think the Guardian idea of getting their readers to write personal letters to strangers in swing counties is a mostly bad idea, more likely to generate resentment than anything. Their other idea, though, is much better: foreign donations to campaigns or explicitly partisan organisations are illegal, but there are other places to send money which will influence the outcome. In particular, if you want to send Smirky McKillemall back to the arse-end of Texas where he belongs, donate to the NAACP. Says Nathaniel Persily, a Pennsylvania university expert on election law: “It’s quite clear that if there was 100% African American turnout in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, John Kerry would win this election running away.” The links go to NAACP offices in those states; other local offices can be found here. Black Americans are disproportionately affected by poverty, which tends to reduce voter turnout, and by felony disenfranchisement. Blacks have also been the target of deliberate malfeasance, because they are an easily identified group which votes largely Democrat. The NAACP runs a voter empowerment program which aims to “register, educate and get (African American) voters to the polls on Election Day”.
The Guardian story concludes:
…much of the law banning foreign contributions has never been tested in court and, argues Michael Dorf at Columbia, may even be unconstitutional on grounds of free speech. “If a group calling itself Europeans for Truth wants to run ads giving their view of the truth,” Dorf says, “it’s hard to draw a principled distinction between that and a British newspaper available at a US newsstand that has an editorial calling Bush and Blair liars.”
I’m not sure how I feel about that. I don’t think I want you damn forriners meddling in my country’s affairs that much.