Byline: Tom Wolf
The considerable interest in the US presidential election around the world may partly reflect just its entertainment value.
But it is also true that however much of its "single superpower" status America has lost since the early 1990s (and this even before the current financial crisis that serves in part to confirm this), the outcomes of such elections have major global implications.
Indeed, some (such as Emmanuel Todd, in After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order) have argued that it is the very decline of the US' economic might, in large part a result of its energy dependence, rampant consumerism and the resultant burgeoning indebtedness, financed primarily by foreigners, that promotes ultimately futile military adventurism, designed more to show fire-power "hardware" than to rationally address threats to the US national security.
But whatever one's view of the evolving US position in the world, the importance of its national leadership to people outside its own borders is obvious, and has been, at least since World War II.
And with one of the two major candidates in this year's election having Kenyan roots, the heightened interest here and indeed in much of the rest of the world, even outside Africa, is to be expected.
Over such roots, however, it is misleading to describe Barack Obama as an African-American, as his wife Michelle for example, should be.
More accurate, perhaps would be "American-African", at least in terms of his origin, since being a "point 5" (in local parlance), he is at least genetically much more of a "mixture" than are African-Americans, as the term is generally used.
Yet especially given the fact that his father featured so briefly/distantly in his actual upbringing, he may be viewed, especially by many African-Americans, with some disdain as far more "white" than a 50-50 mixture.
In this sense, too, it is suggested that while certainly being the first major presidential candidate of colour, his rather unique mixed identity actually constitutes much less of a barrier to high office than to those in his wife's racial category, which is a sad commentary on American race relations, even after all the recent progress.
But the unusual, if not rather unique, aspects of this election go beyond Obama's DNA.
For each of the …