HKS Authors

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Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor, Emeritus


At their conventions last month, both the Republican and Democratic parties declared that the United States is not in decline. The very fact that they felt compelled to deny such a claim, however, reveals the degree to which the issue has become part of the domestic political debate over America’s role in the world. Republican nominee Mitt Romney has cited the high rate of unemployment (above 8 percent) and slow economic growth (1.7 percent) as evidence that President Barack Obama is indeed presiding over an American decline, one that Romney claims he would reverse. Democrats reply that these numbers represent short-run problems and reflect the fact that recovery from financial crises is slower than recovery from ordinary recessions. Obama responded to the charge of American decline by proclaiming that “if anyone tries to tell you our greatness is past, that America is in decline, you tell them this: Like the 20th century, the 21st century will be another great American century.”


Nye, Jr., Joseph S. "Fear Factor: The Illusion of American Decline." World Politics Review, October 9, 2012.