Friday, February 1, 2019

Crises of Leadership Among the Allies

The leaders of the world’s most powerful allied democratic nations are all supported by well under half of their respective citizens. The collective average approval of the heads of state of the big five allies is about 35 percent. In fact, the two most currently popular leaders are Angela Merkel at 40 percent, who just ceded power in Germany after repeated election losses, and Donald Trump , who, while remaining in a narrow range of public approval (40%), runs a chaotic administration, which faces shutdowns, declining re-election chances and an impeachment. He also is not much of an ally or an advocate of democracy in the traditional post-WWII sense.

  • Theresa May, dealing with a difficult Brexit decision, a fractured parliament and party, and a closely divided country, is barely at 30 percent approval. May is respected by the public for sticking to her principles, but only 28 percent believe she is handling Brexit well.
  • Angela Merkel was forced to step down as head of her party in December and announced she will serve out her last term as chancellor. She became party leader in 2000. Her 40 percent approval rating is low for her long career. She still has no serious opponent in the German political system, but her center-right coalition does not command a majority.
  • Emmanuel Macron, who just entered office (5-17) with high ratings, has dropped precipitously over the last year and is now facing a grassroots revolt over fuel taxes, disrupting the country in regular “yellow vest” protests. His economic reforms in France and pro-EU globalism are embattled.
  • Shinz┼Ź Abe won an election in 2017 and has been designated by his party to continue in office, making him the longest serving Japanese prime minister in post-war history. His approval ratings have been on a rollercoaster, affected by scandals and international incidents, such as North Korea’s missile tests. Late last year, it was around 30 percent, but since 2017, his ratings have been above 50 percent and below 30 percent.
  • Trump’s minimalist, transactional “we’re done being suckers” (America’s the victim) foreign policy has abandoned U.S. leadership and even much friendships with the allies. Yet, the country remains powerful just because of its size. It is unlikely Trump’s approval rating will break out of its range (38% to 44%). Two years of disruptive behavior has narrowed his domestic support and largely ended America as a credible advocate of democracy.

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