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America is Back—but for How Long? Political Polarisation and the End of US Credibility

Author: Rachel Myrick

Affiliation: Duke University (USA) 

Organisation /Publisher: Foreign Affairs 

Date/Place: June 14, 2021/USA 

Type of Literature: Article 

Word Count: 1948


Keywords: Bipartisan, Polarization, United States, Democrats, Republicans


The article focuses on the bipartisan polarisation of the US and its effects on foreign policy. These issues were visible from the Trump administration’s policies, which seriously challenged or outright withdrew from more than a dozen international agreements or institutions, including the Paris climate accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Iran nuclear deal, and the World Health Organisation. The author argues that the bipartisan foreign policy consensus among voters and the politicians they elect is eroding. However, even worse, polarisation has created broader, under-appreciated consequences for the United States’ ability to enact foreign policy in the first place by chipping away at a critical pillar of its power: its reputation for stability, credibility, and reliability. The author highlights some advantageous positions of the democracies to enjoy while making foreign policy choices in a bipartisan environment. 1. In democracies, where leader turnover occurs in regular elections, foreign policy tends to remain reasonably consistent during political transitions. 2. Bipartisan support of a leader’s foreign policy signals credibility in international politics. 3. They tend to be better at committing to and complying with international agreements, making them more reliable allies and partners. Although there are exceptions, domestic ratification processes make it more difficult for democracies to renege their global commitments. The author points out some worrisome conclusions of the bipartisan polarisation of Democrats and Republicans. A possible scenario can arise to deepen foreign policy division. It is now possible to imagine a world in which different parties maintain different relationships with foreign allies and adversaries. Because this polarisation leads the United States to abandon tricky negotiations or renege on existing commitments every time a new party is in power, the author concludes that Washington’s reputation as a credible adversary and a reliable ally could be in serious jeopardy.


By: Razia Wadood, CIGA Senior Research Associate



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