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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

A new world order is unfolding — one no longer clearly dominated by America and its values.

That might seem hyperbolic, but it's not. The world is pulsing with several currents that put the America-dominated order at risk and on the decline. Ian Bremmer — founder and president of Eurasia Group, and one of the smartest analysts of global trends — calls this a "geopolitical recession."

The causes:

  • China eagerly and systematically asserting itself as a global force with trade deals, investment and posturing. The nation, despite all its flaws, is rising.Trump abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multinational trade deal, gave China huge political and economic openings in its neighborhood.
  • Trump eagerly and systematically shaking up U.S. engagement overseas, and attacking the U.N. and other institutions that helped hold together a post-World War II world.Bremmer: "To the extent that Trump has had any impact on the global stage, by far the most important of those impacts is the opportunity he's provided for the Chinese president."
  • Germany, France and Britain, hammered by surging populism similar to the disruption that hit U.S. politics, are increasingly looking inward, and away from a unified European voice. Europe's influence is on a clear decline.
  • While Trump sucks up a lot of attention and blame, a lot of this change was set in motion before he arrived. The combo of social media + identity politics + fake news has resulted in less legitimacy for most, if not all, Western governments.

L.A. Times correspondents interviewed leaders, diplomats and scholars around the globe, and found other powers eager to fill the void as the U.S. retreats:

  • "On a range of policy issues, Trump has taken positions that disqualified the United States from the debate or rendered it irrelevant."
  • "China has now assumed the mantle of fighting climate change, a global crusade that the United States once led."
  • "Russia has taken over Syrian peace talks, also once the purview of the American administration."
  • "France and Germany are often now the countries that fellow members of NATO look to."

Bremmer on why this matters: "We are facing at least a period of five or 10 years where there is going to be a profound absence of global leadership, and that's going to lead to a lot more conflict."

  • Counterpoint: Trump is showing moral leadership and speaking out against the theocratic regime in Iran — something Obama avoided doing in his determined pursuit of a nuclear deal. But the world is fractured on this issue. The Europeans are not with us.

Be smart: For all the chaos and catastrophe of this epic year, the national and global economies are in a rare synchronized recovery, and the world hasn't faced the kind of transcendent crisis it could next year: a Middle East conflagration, a terrorist spectacular, or a hot confrontation on the Korean Peninsula or in the South China Sea.

  • It'll only be in time of emergency that we'll see the trust cost of "America first," as well as the tectonic trends that fueled Trump's rise and have accelerated the sidelining of the stabilizing institutions he taunts and shuns.

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Go deeper

Trump's Republican critics rake in cash

Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger during the first Jan. 6 hearing. Photo: Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

Republican critics of Donald Trump have raked in campaign cash this year as their votes to impeach the former president and investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack have put them in the crosshairs of Trump and his allies.

Why it matters: The 2022 midterms won't just determine which party controls Congress. They're also shaping up to be a test of Trump's continued hold on the GOP. The few remaining Republican dissenters in Washington need to put up big fundraising numbers if they hope to stave off a purge.

The Republicans' mixed mandate message

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Republicans have expressed selective rage amid the rise of the Delta variant: They rail against the return of indoor masking but are far less vocal about vaccine requirements.

Why it matters: Masking may help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, but the real solution to the pandemic is getting more Americans vaccinated. Increased support for that — including the use of heavier-handed methods like mandates — will only increase its chance of succeeding.

Mitch’s Sinema secret

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is urging his fellow Republicans to buck up Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — a Democrat, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans view Sinema and her moderate Democratic colleague Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia as their last line of defense against sweeping progressive laws — ranging from a $3.5 trillion social welfare bill to potentially irreversible structural changes like eliminating the filibuster and adding new states to the union.