Despite the massive domestic and international challenges facing the United States, the country is heading toward a presidential election in which neither of the two likely candidates appeal to most voters. In the absence of unifying leadership, the stage is set for further bouts with avoidable crises.
STANFORD – Despite a resilient economy that has defied most forecasts – thus far both avoiding a recession and maintaining low unemployment – Americans seem increasingly restless. A large majority, lacking confidence that today’s good conditions will last, believe the country is heading in the wrong direction. Moreover, America is facing perhaps the most complex and dangerous geopolitical situation since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Yet with so much at stake, the country is heading toward a presidential election between a candidate who has been indicted for multiple serious crimes and an incumbent who is laboring under a stain of corruption surrounding his son’s foreign business dealings. To be sure, scandal often comes with the territory in American politics. President Richard Nixon left office to avoid being impeached and removed from office over Watergate, and Bill Clinton and Donald Trump were both impeached (but not convicted by the Senate). Nonetheless, today’s political rancor seems new in its level of intensity – and it is only growing.
Making matters worse, vital national issues remain unaddressed, and America’s future economic strength and geopolitical influence are facing major new risks. The country has excessive public debt and the budget outlook shows huge deficits as far as the eye can see. Social Security and Medicare are both heading toward insolvency. And the United States urgently needs to strengthen its military and its alliances to counter the growing capabilities of current and potential adversaries.