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The Crisis of American Power

While America's crisis of democracy has been clear to see in recent months, equally consequential is its crisis of power on the world stage, as demonstrated by declining confidence in US leadership among Europeans. If the US' staunchest allies can no longer count on it, who else will?

BERLIN – The United States is suffering from a double crisis. Headlines in recent months have focused mainly on America’s crisis of democracy, but its crisis of global power may turn out to be more consequential in the long run.

America’s crisis of democracy has been personified in the figure of Donald Trump, the defeated “divider-in-chief” who still commands leadership of the Republican Party. His successor, Joe Biden, has embarked on a political project to reunite the country, and has already revived many of the institutions that Trump attacked while in office. But reversing America’s deepening polarization and spiraling inequalities will not be easy in a political environment driven by demographic change, media fragmentation, and electoral gerrymandering.

As difficult as it will be to repair America’s democratic institutions, it will be harder still to refurbish America’s global image. Following the Cold War, the US enjoyed a power premium. Because friends and foes alike routinely overestimated American interests, the US enjoyed outsize influence in countries and regions around the world.

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