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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The change promised by the wave of leaders who rose to power around the world since President Trump's 2016 election often hasn't materialized, forcing them to make waves internationally instead of draining their respective swamps.

The big picture: It's not just Trump whose domestic agenda has stalled out. Both Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's far-right policies and French President Emmanuel Macron's technocratic centrism are struggling to move forward at home.

Trump's stalled domestic agenda pales in comparison to the portfolio of international issues he's inserted himself into or created: trade wars, confrontations with Iran and summits with North Korea, and a Middle East peace plan.

  • The president doesn't face an oversight agenda when it comes to in-the-moment foreign policy, where he can rely on the personal, transactional style that he's favored throughout his business career to grab headlines with autocrats like North Korea's Kim Jong-un and Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Bolsonaro — dubbed the "Trump of the Tropics" for his sexist and homophobic statements — took office at the beginning of 2019, but he's already seeing difficult times ahead for his key domestic promise: $300 billion in pension reform.

  • The head of the congressional committee for pension reform said last week that Bolsonaro's plan doesn't have 200 of the 308 votes needed to pass Congress' lower house.
  • In the meantime, Bolsonaro has used his notoriety abroad to gain influence with Trump officials even as he leverages the White House's trade war with China to his own advantage — massively upping trade numbers, especially in soybeans.

Macron has seen his presidency marred by "yellow vest" protests across France, while simultaneously using his power on the world stage to attempt to prop up the European project he holds dear.

  • His grand entrance onto the political stage — the presidency and a Parliament controlled by his brand new party — became bogged down in a months-long listening tour called the "Great National Debate" in an attempt to quell the "yellow vest" outrage.
  • As a result, Macron promised a massive reform package that would, among other things, cut income taxes and reduce the size of France's oversized bureaucracy, giving up control of a large portion of his domestic agenda in the process.
  • While unrest percolated at home, Macron turned his attention to shoring up the European Union — "going full de Gaulle," according to Foreign Policy's Robert Zaretsky — bringing himself close to German Chancellor Angela Merkel as bastions of centrism on the continent and using his position as a bully pulpit against the U.K.'s botched Brexit process.

The bottom line: Democracy is designed to be a deliberative, gradual process, and it's become even slower as political polarization takes root worldwide — so leaders are increasingly forced to turn outward to flex their muscles.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Health

WHO: Not yet known whether Omicron leads to more severe disease

Photo illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Sunday said that it is not yet clear whether the newly discovered Omicron variant is more transmissible than other strains of the COVID-19 virus.

Why it matters: The agency's statement comes as the variant, discovered in South Africa, has already been detected in European and Asian countries.

7 hours ago - Health

Fauci: Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned on Sunday that the COVID-19 Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in the United States.

Driving the news: Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that U.S. officials will meet with colleagues from South Africa later on Sunday to try to determine the severity of the cases, as countries scramble to learn more about the variant.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dems fear supply-chain blame

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As supply-chain kinks drive up prices and disrupt holiday shopping, Democrats are scrambling to show action and deflect blame.

Why it matters: With their party controlling both the White House and Capitol, vulnerable Democrats worry supply-chain snafus will hurt them in next year's midterms.