Sme: Trump’s combination of imcompetence, unpredictability foment’s US decline

January 19, 2018

If you are reading this, congratulations, you have survived one full year with Donald Trump as president of the United States. The country’s reputation, however, has not. Whether you tend to like Americans or America this has pretty major implications for the way the world will function in the future.

A recent poll of 134 countries by the Gallup organization found that just 30 percent of people approve of the role the United States plays in the world with 43 percent clearly disapproving.These are the worst scores ever and an 18 percentage point drop since Trump took office. Both Germany and China have higher positive, and lower negative, perceptions as global leaders than the United States.

The decline in opinions of the United States were worst in the countries that know it best. In Canada, those with a positive opinion of the United States dropped 40 percentage points, in Mexico it fell by 28 points. The American reputation has also been severely harmed in Europe. Across the continent, just 25 percent of people approve of the US’s leadership role. This is the same rating as China, but the United States has much stronger disapproval numbers (56 percent versus 48 percent). Among EU member states, opinions of the United States declined in all but two — Poland (which makes some sense) and Slovakia (which does not).

While more Slovaks still disapprove of the US role in the world (44 percent as compared to 37 percent who approve), positive impressions have actually increased by 7 percentage points. It is hard to comprehend why, but the numbers raises genuine concerns about what kind of expectations certain sections of the Slovak population have for world leaders.

As of this writing, the U.S. government is set to run out of money because Congress is unable to agree on a basic budget to finance operations. After passing three short term bills to fund state activities, a fourth looks set to fail, and the money runs out today (Jan. 19). This means a bunch of government services will close down, and government employees will stop getting paid. If you have plans to visit Yosemite national park, or the Statue of Liberty, as a tourist anytime soon you might want to reconsider. They will close.

Trump is not fully to blame for this looming government shutdown, but his behavior is so disruptive that even his own party, the Republicans, were unable to predict what kind of budget agreement might be okay with the president. This made negotiating with the Democratic opposition impossible. Trump’s combination incompetence and unpredictability spreads into foreign relations, and is a big reason why the United States has seen its reputation collapse.

Some reading this might find this decline in America’s reputation slightly comical, and it is normal that electing Trump as president has consequences, but as people look elsewhere for leadership — to Germany or China, for example — pause to think about how that world might look.