If Trump retains the presidency, the world will draw its conclusions on the US’ future role.
Its credibility as a model of competent and successful democracy would be shattered, its believability as leader of an alliance of democracies would be over, and its willingness to participate in endeavours that address shared global challenges, such as climate change or a pandemic, would be non-existent.
The world has indeed changed. But constructive and competent leadership by a democratic US is needed more than ever, given the rising power of an increasingly autocratic China, the success of charismatic autocrats elsewhere and the great global challenges of our age.
Trump’s defeat would not, however, end the threat of US retreat. His party would again do everything it can to thwart a Democratic administration. The strategy of ‘‘pluto-populism’’ – the marriage of solipsistic wealth to white middle-class rage – would persist, with the help of the Supreme Court.
Whatever happens in the election, the US role in the world will remain in question.
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Martin Wolf, is chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, London. He was awarded the Commander of the British Empire in 2000 “for services to financial journalism”.