The US Election: the Two-Man Race and its Global Impact

March 28, 2012 • Blogs, The World at Yale • Views: 1091

By Sera Tolgay:

As the public debate surrounding the American Presidential election continues to gain momentum, the election’s global importance has correspondingly sparked conversation on campus. Organized by the International Student Organization Political Council, the “Internationals Speak Out” speaker series brought together ABC News Middle East correspondent Lara Setrakian and Yale Professor Thomas Pogge this Thursday evening.

Setrakian, named one of the most influential young voices in US foreign policy by the Diplomatic Courier, has also contributed to Bloomberg Television’s coverage of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution as she reported live from Tahrir Square when President Mubarak stepped down.

Thomas Pogge drifts off as Lara Setrakian helps him tag-team audience questions. (TYG/Sandberg).

Setrakian expressed the essential dilemma of the international perspective: “The US election has an impact on the world, but the world has no vote in the US election.” Given America’s global presence, Setrakian also emphasized that what the current presidential debates have been lacking is a more informed and sophisticated discussion about US foreign policy. “Foreign policy, unfortunately in this election, has been mostly rhetoric, bashing Russia, bashing Iran, bashing China. However, once the election becomes a two-man race—once there is a Republican candidate—foreign policy could take on a different direction, and there could be a clearer conversation.”

Setrakian identified five critical questions that the she wished the candidates would debate, including how to restart progress on the Israel-Palestine issue, promoting stable and prosperous Arab societies, how to form a unified theory of America’s relationship with China, the rise of India versus the decline of Pakistan, and the economic spring in effect in Africa.

Thomas Pogge, director of the Global Justice Program and professor of philosophy and international affairs at Yale, approached the conversation from a philosophical standpoint as he drew attention to the importance of supranational rulemaking regimes in global governance. “The mainstay of democracy is representation. However, as a marker of globalization, rules are shifting upward—they are increasingly made at the supranational level than at the national level.” Since few individual governments can influence these new regimes, a central issue Pogge raised was the democratization of rulemaking.

“The patron state model is now being unhinged,” Setrakian mentioned, and Pogge similarly commented on the fact that “America has fallen behind in growth rates,” given the emergence of new markets throughout the developing world. “America should think strategically, and should take part in reforming the architecture of these supranational regimes to adapt to a changing world.”

With regards to presidential candidates’ foreign policy stance, such as what ISO president Sikander Khan called Ron Paul’s “isolationism”, Setrakian responded that the typical American taxpayer is more concerned with their economic well-being than the troubles of the world. “Americans probably won’t vote as a result of foreign policy,” she said and underscored that “there is a lot of insecurity among voters.”

From her own experience in journalism, Setrakian had begun the discussion on an optimistic note with her own motto: “Rise and raise others with you.” But most importantly, she encouraged the audience—with a strangely-phrased slogan of sorts—to take every possible opportunity to add to the discourse: “Whatever fuels you, let it light you on fire and let it cross you over the line into the game. The game is changing the status quo.”

Sera Tolgay ’14 is in Branford College. Contact her at

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