Search for a report, a publication, an expert...
Institut Montaigne features a platform of Expressions dedicated to debate and current affairs. The platform provides a space for decryption and dialogue to encourage discussion and the emergence of new voices.

2020: An American Year

2020: An American Year
 Dominique Moïsi
Distinguished Senior fellow

From an international perspective, the most important event of the year 2020 - barring unexpected and spectacular developments in the strategic or climate field - is expected to take place on Tuesday 3 November. That is the day on which the Americans will choose their President. Their decision will have geopolitical, political, economic, climatic and, perhaps even more importantly, ethical consequences for the whole world. A divided people with contradictory instincts has an excessive influence on the course of history. This led Stanley Hoffmann, a Harvard professor and famous political scientist, to say, ironically, that the peoples of the world should have a say in the Americans’ choice of their president.

Indeed, the world may have become bipolar (a G2 with China) or multipolar again, but can the world's equilibrium, if not the cause of democracy or even the medium-term survival of the planet, afford four more years of Donald Trump? Internationally, America's chaotic and contradictory withdrawal did not begin with Trump and is therefore likely to continue after him, if he is defeated in 2020. The United States is going through a "Jacksonian moment" in its history, an expression that refers to the seventh American president, Andrew Jackson, and that describes this mixture of nationalist and isolationist tendencies without which America's current relationship with the world cannot be understood.

Similarly, the crisis of democracy in the United States was not born with Trump. Exactly the opposite happened. His election is a symptom, not a cause. Some date the moral crisis that gripped America to Richard Nixon. In fact, it was the profound dysfunction of American democracy, aggravated in its negative consequences by the explosion of economic and social inequalities and the financial and economic crisis of the late 2000s that brought Donald Trump to the White House. And the election in the United States of a more ecologically conscious president will not be enough to meet the challenge of global warming.

The election in the United States of a more ecologically conscious president will not be enough to meet the challenge of global warming.

Yet between the election of a Democrat, any democrat one might be tempted to say, and the re-election of Donald Trump, there is a considerable difference. The world cannot afford to have at the head of the country that is still the world's leading power (now closely followed by China) a cunning yet skilful clown, but above all, an absolute cynic, lazy, unpredictable, unstructured and, last but not least, dangerous - the elimination of General Soleimani in Baghdad has been an illustration of this.

Napoleon didn't want good generals around him, he wanted lucky generals. Is Donald Trump a lucky president of the United States? The downing of a Ukrainian civilian plane mistakenly shot down by the Iranians themselves is for the American President a positive wink of fate. Will he continue to be so lucky until the end of his first term? The cause of classical liberal democracy would suffer considerable damage if Trump, for lack of a credible opponent in the Democratic camp, were to succeed himself. That is the whole problem, with less than a year to go before the 2020 election, Trump's strength still lies in the divisions and weaknesses of the Democrats. The "Messiah" is slow in coming, and the economic crisis does not seem ready to break out, even if there are signs of a slowdown.

There are those, many among the analysts, who are convinced that at the time of Bolsonaro in Brazil, Modi in India, Erdogan in Turkey, Xi Jinping in China, Duterte in the Philippines, Orban in Hungary, among others, the "zeitgeist" (spirit of the times) is favourable to populist and neo-authoritarian leaders. Why should America be an exception?

Less than a year to go before the 2020 election, Trump's strength still lies in the divisions and weaknesses of the Democrats.

On the other hand, there are those who, like the author of these lines, want to remain hopeful. Reason and decency are not doomed to fail. The "centre" continues to stand firm in the United States in the face of the temptations of radicalism and populism. Joe Biden is still the favourite in the polls among the Democratic Party candidates. The entry into the race of the ninth fortune of the world, Michael Bloomberg, may be late, but it is nonetheless significant of this "resilience of the centre". America can regain, at least in part, its democratic fundamentals.

Impeachment does not, of course, mean removal, but the procedure may help to reinforce the doubts of the hesitant, about the essence as much as about Donald Trump's performance. His core group holds but only 40-42% of Americans at most. Negative continuity or positive start, the wait will be long between now and November 2020.

One way or another, the year 2020 will, barring unforeseen circumstances, be "American".


Copyright : J

Receive Institut Montaigne’s monthly newsletter in English