It’s strange for a lot of us insular Americans to realize, let alone accept, that our fates are determined by politicians, voters, and institutions beyond our borders. (Hell, we barely have enough influence over our own political and economic circumstances, but that’s a different story.)
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an obvious example: Now the specter of nuclear war haunts the world again, to say nothing of the impact on everything from gas to food prices (more so in other countries than in the U.S.). COVID-19 is another dramatic example, and it also reflects the equally difficult issue of being at the mercy of natural forces we often barely think about, let alone prepare for.
A lesser known but consequential example is Brazil, whose 210 million people influence (in the broadest terms) the fate of the Amazon rainforest—which is not only innately valuable for its unique nature but is one of the key ecological regions whose collapse could accelerate climate change and be calamitous for the rest of humanity.
Tomorrow, Brazilian voters will head to the polls to cast ballots in the first round of the country’s highly anticipated presidential election. (In Brazil, federal elections are held the first Sunday of October to maximize accessibility, and a presidential candidate must receive more than half the popular vote to win; otherwise, the top two recipients of votes go on to a second round on the last Sunday of October.)
The two frontrunners are left-wing former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, whose administration was clouded by allegations of corruption, and right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, who has threatened to reject the outcome of the election if it does not go his way. Not unlike the United States, Brazil is a big, diverse, complex, and federalized republic that ranks as one of the world’s largest democracies, with over 156 million registered voters.
Likewise, Brazilians are increasingly polarized and yearn for a leader who will put the country on the right path—with many remaining cynical about whether either candidate has the vision, discipline, or even political influence to get that done.
Of course, Brazil is far from the only example: There’s a good reason why the rest of the world takes such an interest in our domestic politics, compared to the other way around. Who we elect, what policies we support, how we manage our massively influential economy, etc., have tremendous implications for the rest of humanity (not least because we can literally invade or nuke another nation). We may not like it, but the world is too big and complicated for even one powerful country to make a difference, and there’s a lot that’s beyond our control.