America's First Global Presidential Campaign

07/31/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

America's sports have gone global -- and so has this year's presidential campaign. For the third time in the 21st Century, major league baseball opened its season in Japan. The New York Giants and Miami Dolphins played an NFL game in London's Wembley Stadium last year. Last season's NBA rosters had 76 players from overseas -- including stars like China's Yao Ming and Germany's Dirk Nowitzki. Hollywood movies are more dependent on international revenues in theaters and DVDs more than ever before. But the 2008 presidential campaign represents a new level of America's international interaction -- 2008 is the first truly global presidential campaign.

In previous campaigns, strategists did not want their candidates traveling outside of swing states, let alone the country. But for the first time, candidates are venturing outside the United States on the campaign trail. John McCain just returned from Latin America, emphasizing the importance of free trade; Barack Obama is headed off to the Middle East and Europe to demonstrate he can handle Iraq and go head to head with key world leaders. These travels abroad during the heat of a campaign signify the urgency and impact of international issues on the United States and how American politics no longer stops at the waters' edge.

This means that this election will not just be about the economy -- but rather the global economy. And both campaigns must now have a global plan. Both McCain and Obama recognize how inextricably linked our country's fortunes are to the rest of the world. But John McCain is stuck on President Bush's failed freedom agenda that has neither promoted democracy nor kept America safe. Much of this election's outcome will hang on whether Obama uses this global debate to forge a new American foreign policy which follows our sporting events and goes global. That means a policy that promotes the economic futures of other countries over Bush's freedom agenda. Only then can American ensure our own safety and economic success.

That means the next president must promote a global prosperity agenda. The new axis of evil is the common global threats that all nations face -- global warming, rising energy prices, poverty, global terrorist networks, and the spread of nuclear weapons. A prosperity agenda means putting a focus on getting back to the basics that impact people's lives around the world -- and that the security and prosperity of Americans is linked now more than ever before to the security and prosperity of others around the world.

Prosperity means different things to different people, but every human dreams of decent clothes, rewarding work, a good education, a nice and warm home, access to better technology (or any at all), and more time with his or her loved ones. Most of the obstacles to those goals in the world's most troubled areas are things the United States is comparatively well-equipped to handle: war, disease, economic decline, corruption, global warming, and a lack of start-up resources.

In today's dangerous world, the United States must again become the world's great persuader, not only its enforcer. To do so, America must act in a way that regains the world's trust -- using the full range of its considerable powers. The good news is that if it does so, America can quickly regain the political support it has lost around the world.

When America does the right thing, the world notices. For instance, favorable opinions of America in southeast Asia reached record lows during the first year after the United States started the Iraq War. Yet, that image began to rebound when America used its military and economic power to help the victims of the 2004 tsunami, which set off tidal waves that wiped out communities across the coastal areas of Asia and parts of Africa. America took the lead in providing military and logistical support, including $350 million in immediate humanitarian relief assistance. (For comparison, the United States spends twice that much money every day in Iraq.) The tide of anti-Americanism started to reverse overnight.

There are no quick fixes to repair the damage that was done over the last seven years. But if we stick to the basics of promoting prosperity, the world will once again begin to trust America. Only then will they be prepared to work with us to counter threats to our own prosperity. The presidential candidate that promotes a prosperity agenda will have the best chance to win the great American game of politics -- and keep America safe and secure once in office.

Nancy Soderberg is a former Ambassador to the United Nations and currently a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the University of North Florida. Brian Katulis is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and has worked in nearly two dozen countries on projects that examine the impact of global changes.