The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion At Davos, all eyes are on America’s presidential election

Donald Trump at the White House on July 23, 2018. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
5 min

The conversations swirling around the chilly mountain air of Davos, Switzerland, keep returning to one issue. “2024 is the year of 50 or so elections around the world,” Carl Bildt, a former prime minister of Sweden, told me. “But there is only one election we are all talking about: the one in America.”

When abroad, Americans can often be parochially attentive to their own politics, boring their foreign counterparts with long discussions of party politics in the Senate or the prospects of a new governor. But this time, I find it’s the Americans who are weary of their country’s political drama while foreigners are panicking about what might happen in November.

The U.S. election is taking place at a crucial moment. Around the world, we are seeing several challenges to the rules-based international order that has served humanity well for decades. In Europe, the bloodiest war the continent has seen since World War II threatens to upend its security system. In the Middle East, Iran and its alliesHamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and others — are testing their ability to disrupt the balance of power in the region. And in Asia, the rise of China remains the largest long-term disruption, to which one must add North Korea’s accelerating arms buildup and increasingly belligerent rhetoric.

All of these have become tests of will for the United States, which is scrambling to mobilize its allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East to help deter these threats and resolve crises. But many allies worry that in November, the United States could decide that it has had enough — that these many problems perhaps do not centrally threaten U.S. security and are therefore not worth confronting. Much of the rhetoric of Donald Trump and some of his closest ideological soul mates — from Tucker Carlson to Vivek Ramaswamy — feeds into this fear.