Election 2008 The World is Watching

Editor's Note

What the World Is Saying About the U.S. Election

A round up of sites we like and a question about gender politics

BY FRONTLINE/World EditorsSeptember 4, 2008

Not only is much of the world watching the U.S. election, a sizeable share appears to be writing about it on the web. As always, there is way more chaff than wheat, but good, thoughtful reporting and commentary is out there if you look for it. Here are links to a few sites that we think worth visiting, with more to follow...

Watching America is an excellent one-stop compendium of global news and opinion on the United States in general, and the election in particular, gathered from 100-plus newspapers around the world and translated as necessary into English. The site is independent and non-partisan and as best we can tell, has no political ax to grind. A great global reading room, with everything from Belarus Today to the Shanghai Daily.

Justin Webb is the BBC's main correspondent in America, widely admired back in the UK for his lively reporting and commentary on the U.S. scene. His blog, Justin Webb's America, is full of trenchant coverage of the election. Highly recommended.

For a view from the Mideast, take a look at U.S. Election Beat, Al Jazeera's daily English language report on the campaign. Extremely influential in the Arab world and beyond, Al Jazeera has committed substantial resources to its American coverage, and offers a helpful counterpoint to Western reporting.

The Atlantic Review is an independent web digest, European-based, that in the words of its editors, "strives to be the center for news analysis and thoughtful online discussions on contemporary transatlantic relations issues, ranging from defense to economics and culture." Not surprisingly, the focus is currently on the election. There are many thoughtful contributors here.

Finally, for a reverse look, from the U.S. looking out, we recommend the Carnegie Endowment's online series of briefings on Foreign Policy for the Next President.

And to stir more thoughts among you, we have a new question we'd like to throw out there for discussion, and a little quiz:

First, the quiz:

Can you name the odd one out in the following list?

Israel, Germany, UK, India, Pakistan, Chile, U.S., Switzerland, Liberia

Answer: The odd one out is the U.S.-- the only country on the list that has never had a female head of state. So, with gender suddenly looming large on the election landscape, our question for the week is:

Why is it taking the United States longer than so many other nations to shatter the glass ceiling?

Post your comments below.

share your reactions

The truth is that the US embraces a strongly patriarchal society which has been further entrenched in the last eight years. Suppression and blatant abuse of power in the White House has received tacit media support. The loss of objectivity by the media has produced a hunger in viewers for the Maury Povich- type of prurient, slanderous and vicious fodder that the average uncurious mind finds so soothing in a distracting sort of way. This, in turn, becomes a self- perpetuating cycle--devolving content and making it very difficult to elect someone intelligent, insightful, strong, and especially, female. Please US citizens, Vote for Obama. He's our only chance right now for sanity.

S Qarni - Baltimore, MD, USA
I do not think that the electorate is against a female executive. I believe the majority of Americans had gotten over this issue some time ago.
It just so happens that we have not yet produced a woman that was able to rise to the top given all of the variables and circumstances a candidate might find him or herself in. The watershed candidacy of Hillary Clinton, and the somewhat dissapointing one of Sarah Palin serve as proof that what voters want is substance, a sense of direction, and a leader that gives them hope. And it does not matter what gender or race that leader may happen to be.Voters are looking for much more than simply gender. I can not speak to leaders such as Golda Meir or Margaret Thatcher, but one must acknowldge that in the case of Benazir Bhutto and Indira Ghandi the most important factor in their popularity was the memories the electorate had of their fathers.Both women were well educated and well qualified, but neither would have seen the light of day in their societies had they not utilised the legacies of their fathers.So it is somewhat disingenuous to imply that somehow the United States is hypocritical and South Asian culture is more 'advanced' with regards to its attitude towards women by simply citing female prime ministers.A much more accurate indicator would be to compare the treatment and freedom of average or middle class women in American versus these other societies.

N Khan - Karachi, Pakistan
It's the US that does't act on what it dictates to others.Why should the US elect a person belonging to the weaker gender? The women, the most repected gender, have many gender-specific problems that can hamper the work a president is supposed to do. They know it well and that's why they don't elect her president.

Izmir, Turkey
I really don't believe anyone cares if a woman is president or not. Its pretty much rests nowadays on whether or not the "media" approves. I see a big difference in the way the media dealt with Senator Clinton and Barack Obama. Now I see the huge difference in the way the media treats a Democratic woman and a Republican woman. I never heard of Hillary's computer getting hacked. It's all a bit High School-ish.

Muriel Fahrion - Medicine Park, Oklahoma
United States is much more diverse than almost any other country which is exhilarating to some but frightening to others. Those others feel that by holding fast on to the status quo (tradition) they can hold things in check. They are fooling themselves if they believe they can keep things from changing. However they are able to slow down the change.

Jeremy Pickett - Boise, ID
The Democrats had their chance to clench this election quite handedly with Hilary Clinton on the ticket. She could have easily been our nation's first female president. However, now that the Republicans are running with a female on the ticket, she is being viciously attacked because of her sex, and often belittled as "pretty," by those who normally champion equal rights. It's unbelievably sexist. I have little faith our country has progressed.

L M - New Orleans, LA
If, in electing a woman, the U.S. has to pander to the Republican Party's 'pick a woman -- any woman' cynicism, then the U.S. should just say no, and wait for the best PERSON for the job.

Simple...The US is a male dominated and I do mean DOMINATED society. It will be a long time changing that belief. Sad as that is. Biden's effort to FINALLY make it a law that male abusers get locked up, and his work toward education of the women who allow the abuse can be a huge first step at reducing that dominance. Go Hillary. Go Joe!

I guess american people are bit conservative...they do hold some traditional ideology somewhere in their minds at latent or sub-conscious levels maybe or maybe somewhat at conscious levels too...

Mary Halstein - Bolder, Co
I think the US is frightened of electing a woman as leader. We talk a progressive game, but it's still a very patriarchal society, where strong women are more likely to be shot down by the media and the establishment for showing strength than their male counterparts. We're also a nation that prides itself on having the strongest military in the world. Would a woman make the best commander in chief? You can be sure of one thing, there would be more avenues of diplomacy and less aggression if she did, which is a display of strength in itself.

Patrick Carver - Clarksville, TN
The answer needs to use "head of government", not "head of state".
Israel and Germany have or have had female heads of government, but no female head of state.

David Roberts - Manistee, Michigan
I think it's taking us longer because a lot of Americans were raised to believe that men ought to be our leaders in the home as well as the workplace. This, I think, leads to the same belief that men should be our political leaders. Especially when it involves the most important roles/positions.