‘Never has American politics sunk so low’: US viewed as a country in serious decline

‘Never has American politics sunk so low’: US viewed as a country in serious decline
President Donald J. Trump joins G7 Leaders Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte; European Council President Donald Tusk; Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and G7 Summit host French President Emmanuel Macron during a G7 Working Session on Global Economy, Foreign Policy and Security Affairs at the Centre de Congrés Bellevue Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019, in Biarritz, France. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Americans weren't the only ones who watched the United States' chaotic presidential debate on Tuesday night, September 29. President Donald Trump's ranting during the debate has been a topic of discussion all over the world, and a question that many of the United States' democratic allies — from France to Australia to Japan — have been asking is: what is happening to the U.S.?

The fact that the United States' image is suffering so badly during the Trump era is the theme of articles for the BBC and Financial Times. While the BBC's report examines the reaction that other democracies have had to the September 29 presidential debate, journalist Edward Luce's piece (which is headlined "America's Bleeding Democratic Image") warns that other countries fear the U.S. is facing a "constitutional crisis."

A long list of pundits at MSNBC and CNN have described Trump's debate performance as a total embarrassment, and the BBC reports that observers in Germany, Italy, the U.K. and other countries share that view. In France, the BBC notes, the debate was described as "chaotic, childish, grueling" by Libération and as a "terrible storm" by Le Monde. France's Le Figaro spoke highly of Trump's Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, saying that the former vice president was able to "put (Trump) on the defensive."

In the U.K., The Guardian said of the debate, "The rest of the world — and future historians — will presumably look at it and weep" and argued that Biden was the only one who looked "remotely presidential" on the debate stage. If Trump is reelected in November, according to The Guardian, "This dark, horrifying, unwatchable fever dream will surely be the first line of America's obituary."

Comments in major Italian publications were equally depressing. Il Corriere della Sera described Trump's refusal to condemn white nationalism during the debate as "a message for Black America"— and not a good one. And La Repubblica said of il dibattito, "Never had American politics sunk so low."

To hear Trump's supporters at Fox News tell it, the U.S. president is respected and revered all over the democratic world — which is absolute nonsense. Russian President and the Kremlin are hoping for a Trump victory in November, but in most of Europe, the U.S. is widely viewed as a country that is in serious decline.

In Financial Times, Luce (who is British but not lives in Washington, D.C.) explains, "Some of America's declining reputation can be measured. The Pew Research Center recently found that fewer than a third of French and Germans had a favorable view of America. At 41% favorable, Britain's view of the U.S. was a record low. Mr. Trump's impact is even more stark: just 16% of the world trusts America's president to do the right thing — even lower than the 19% who thought that about China's Xi Jinping. Germany's Angela Merkel got a 76% positive rating. The surveys were carried out well before this week's presidential debate."

Luce laments that "U.S. politics has degenerated into a macabre shadow of its former self," adding that the United States' "democratic brand is in freefall."

One of the main reasons why the United States' reputation has suffered so badly, Luce notes, is its response to the coronavirus pandemic — which has killed more than 1 million people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and more than 206,000 people in the U.S. Luce points out that the U.S. has a "28% higher death rate" than Europe during the pandemic.

The presidential debate, according to Luce, served as a grim reminder that the U.S. is at risk for a "constitutional crisis." Trump, Luce pointed out, refused to say that he will accept the election results if he loses to Biden.

"This week, the world witnessed a new low in America's political culture," Luce explains. "If the country is lucky, it will escape a constitutional crisis in November. Mr. Biden's poll lead has been sufficiently stable to explain why Mr. Trump was even more unpleasant than usual on Tuesday. His intemperate performance may even have cemented his defeat; post-debate polls suggest Mr. Trump's tactics backfired. But his worsening prospects make him even more dangerous."

Luce also laments that even if Biden wins, the U.S. is "likely to be consumed by divisions for the foreseeable future."

According to Luce, "Biden would be more predictable than Mr. Trump, while lacking the means to restore U.S. primacy. Mr. Biden could stop America's internal bleeding. That is ambitious enough. It would be a leap of faith to bet on more than that."


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