Throughout American history, the President of the United States has been recognized as the leader of the free world. Amazingly, in less than a year, President Trump’s “America first” policy has destroyed America’s leadership position among the nations of the world. A recent Gallup survey of 134 nations showed an approval of America’s role in the world dropped from 48% under President Obama to 30% after one year of President Trump. Trump’s world approval rating is at the lowest level Gallup has ever recorded since beginning its global leadership poll.
Germany has now replaced the United States as the top-rated global power. The U.S. has fallen below China in worldwide approval ratings. Trump’s refusal to complete the Trans-Pacific partnership (TPP), the rejection of the Paris Climate Accords, the renegotiation of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the moving of the American embassy to Jerusalem has American allies and trading partners in shock and disbelief. He has renounced the World Trade Organization (WTO) and is rejecting 70 years of the world’s historical agreements on trade. In addition, he has refused to renew America’s historical commitment to the cause of human rights as the north star of American foreign policy.
Trump’s recent insult to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations by calling them “shithole nations” has further alienated world leaders. Many of these leaders were furious that an American president referred to members of the world community in such a disgusting manner. Over the weekend the hip-hop icon Jay-Z traded tweets with the president over the president’s incendiary shithole remarks.
Perhaps the most devastating of Trump’s reversal of America’s historic partnerships is with one of our closest allies. Trump’s ongoing battles with British Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May and London’s Muslim Mayor Sadiq Khan have severely damaged that relationship. PM May specifically called out and condemned Trump when he retweeted British far-right anti-Islam videos. Yesterday, Trump criticized PM May again saying he would negotiate Brexit with a “tougher attitude.”
The American approval rating by the British saw one of the sharpest declines in confidence. The British approval rate dropped by 26 percentage points. A whopping 63% of the British expressed disapproval with America’s presidential leadership.
Nature abhors a vacuum and other world leaders will quickly fill the void left as Trump cuts and runs from world leadership. In addition to the reliable and levelheaded leadership of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, there are several new younger leaders rising to the occasion. French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are assuming the adults in the room leadership as Trump’s erratic behavior marginalizes America’s influence in the world.
Trump hasn’t just shaken America’s long standing alliances with the world’s leaders. He has supported our allies’ greatest enemies, Russia and the far-right nationalist movements. Trump’s implicit acceptance of Russia’s interference in western democracies elections has Europe reeling. They fully understand the danger Russia poses to their democracies.
The other major source of danger to NATO democracies is the rise of the far-right nationalist movements. Trump shocked Europe when he supported the far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen rather than he eventual winner Emmanuel Macron. All these European democracies are fighting the rising right-wing nationalist parties and Trump has positioned America on the wrong side of this crucial battle.
As Trump retreats from the world, China has embarked on an unprecedented initiative of their One Belt and One Road (OBOR). China’s goal with OBOR is to create the world’s largest network of economic cooperation, trade and financing. China is creating a network of railways, roads, pipelines, and utility grids that would link China with Europe, Central Asia, West Asia, and parts of South Asia. This ambitious connection of investment with 60 countries could leave America totally isolated from the world’s economic dynamism.
Trump’s “America First” is destined to put “America last” in the world.
by Rick Smith
Photo via Gage Skidmore