“It’s more interesting to ask the question about America itself, not the America of Trump or the America of Obama, but what is today the appetite of the Americans, really, to have an active role in the world affairs?”
French Ambassador Gérard Araud
“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
Horton Hears a Who!
I almost called this the shrinking of America.
What I mean by that is America is shrinking in the eyes of the world.
Let me begin by framing this from a business perspective.
Business leaders are responsible for the growth of their business on a number of dimensions not just $’s.
You can only hold on to your position for so long if you are having some economic success but the company brand and image is suffering.
You can also only hold on to your position for so long if you are having some economic success but the board views it as a poor long term strategy.
You can also hold on to your position for so long if you are having some economic success but perceptions of your leadership are not very good.
But that’s business <and we assume anyone who rises to a business leadership position knows this … as they should>.
I say that because a business can grow in a variety of dimensions not just profit & sales … there is also strategy, positioning and leadership. And if people start to doubt your business on any of those dimensions it is kind of like a balloon … they become little pin pricks and your ‘balloon’ starts shrinking.
And that is what is happening to America from a global perspective.
Pinpricks in the American balloon.
The pinpricks are doubts … in leadership, reliability, consistency and … well … civility <note: I could have added intelligence but I will not>.
I am not making this up.
A Pew poll of 37 countries ranging from large to smaller shows attitudes toward the United States have collapsed since Trump took office. At the end of Obama’s presidency, 64% of people in these countries said they were confident in the US president. Today, that has fallen to 22%.
In addition. Opinions of America overall have fallen by 15 points.
This Pew study examined global attitudes toward America since Obama left office and Trump has assumed the leadership role. Suffice it to say … it is really tough reading for any American.
On all attitudes America is shrinking.
The only places in which Trump’s numbers rose versus Obama are … uhm … Russia <which rose a staggering 43 points, 11% to 54% confidence>and Israel. And, I would note, that despite the common perception Obama was loathed by Israel, Obama’s confidence ratings varied from 49% to 71% during his administration as compared to Trump’s current 58%.
Just to drive a nail into this particular coffin a little deeper … if I were to pull Russia and Israel out of the study … uh oh … confidence in America would drop into the teens <gulp>.
6 months into a Trump presidency and the pace and the depth of the decline driven by Trump’s leadership, or lack thereof, is stunning. Trump’s belligerent style and immature substance is not only affecting his approval scores domestically … but also internationally. He currently wears the mantle of “shrinker in chief.”
Whether one believes in the accuracy of polling or not, and not many sane people doubt PewResearch> the consistency between domestic numbers and international numbers should make anyone and everyone take a moment and pause.
I could even argue the domestic numbers only look better than international numbers because Republicans are stubbornly hanging on to Trump despite having some serious doubts. If I were in the Trump White House I would be eyeing this Pew report and thinking “yikes, this is my floor here in the USA <22% or the teens>.”
We are shrinking.
And it is sad.
Trump supporters will flippantly suggest they don’t care about what other countries think about Trump & the USA because it just doesn’t matter.
Which leads me to my point <other than expressing some sadness> … a word to the wise <and even a word to the intellectual dwarfs>.
It does matter.
And it really matters if there is a lack of alignment between perception & reality as well as domestic attitudes & perceptions and international attitudes & perceptions.
That matters because alignment is what makes countries, and businesses, effective AND efficient. It eliminates the herky jerky of misunderstanding and the slowing inherent in having to overcome any negative aspects which could be obstacles.
Alignment is important.
Any sane business leader knows that sustainable success is not found in some transaction or some event or even being viewed positively by some others <here & there>. They know success inevitably begins and ends in internal alignment.
Instead of promoting American leadership & unity, Trump is leaving a vacuum internally, domestically, by stubbornly gripping onto a minority view with regard to what people want and what is actually best for the country long term.
This gets exacerbated by the fact he is doing so within his own management team as well as within his ‘employees’ <the citizens … all … even the ones who did not vote for him and did not vote>.
An “every man for himself” attitude doesn’t really encourage a positive transaction relationship but rather it encourages a sense of chaos … which leaves Trump and the US with fewer friends and less influence.
I have said it before and I will say it again … this is solvable. And it is solvable not through transactions but rather by … well … internal <domestic> alignment. Trump often argues that words don’t matter and behavior is more important.
Oftentimes this is true, however, words can often build the doorway through which skeptics & doubters can walk through to get a little closer to the alignment America needs to progress – economically and mentally.
If Trump were to triple down NOW on building unity domestically, it would go a long way to stopping the shrinking of America <note: but I seriously doubt something like this is within his DNA>.
Or the art of the deal as a leader.
It seems his single-minded pursuit of individual challenges or countries does not translate to the complex politics of … well … the EU, China, Russia, the Arab & Muslim world, or anywhere.
As a result, the “best” dealmaker is starting to look like he cannot make a deal.
He can complete some transactions <albeit they all seem to be about getting paid to arm the rest of the world with as many weapons as possible> but transactions are not ‘deals.’ NAFTA is a deal. The TPP was a deal. We have trade deals with people. These are not “let’s make a deal for this space” but rather a more complex web of multiple variants in which over time the variants will … well … vary and yet the ultimate outcome overall is positive.
That’s not his kind of deal.
And, frankly, that’s not the kind of ‘deal’ other countries truly desire.
But Trump’s dealing and his character are so intertwined it is almost like a Gordian knot.
That matters as we discuss shrinking.
PewResearch, who makes every attempt to be unemotional and unbiased, said this in their report:
Confidence in President Trump is influenced by reactions to both his policies and his character. With regard to the former, some of his signature policy initiatives are widely opposed around the globe.
Trump’s character is also a factor in how he is viewed abroad. In the eyes of most people surveyed around the world, the White House’s new occupant is arrogant, intolerant and even dangerous. Fewer believe he is charismatic, well-qualified or cares about ordinary people.
The truth remains that the US economy, just as it was with Obama, has remained mostly healthy and Trump has not to date significantly altered any signs of the health. The end of the Obama economic era and the start of the Trump economic era represent an ongoing good, not great, economy.
This is good.
But as I noted initially … economic success is just one dimension and while a powerful dimension you can only hold on to your position for so long if that is the only ‘positive benefit’ you are offering your organization as a leader.
Trump is a myopic bully and, just as with almost every bully, I worry America will remain large in physical stature but small in everything else.
In the end.
I brought up alignment and shrinking for a reason. Alignment is a double edged sword.
Positive alignment greases progress.
Negative alignment can suffocate and squeeze.
And that is my point on the current shrinking of America.
Poll numbers showcase directional negativity which is difficult to ignore … especially since the numbers reside in both domestic and international framing.
Call it perceptions or call it reality … I don’t care.
As long as it exists America will continue to shrink.
And ignore the most recent PewResearch at your own peril because it sure as shit looks like we are shrinking.