Competence depends on your definition. As a US citizen, I'm very, very frustrated with our federal government. I've very, very frustrated with most state governments. Local governments can be incredibly
hit or miss (never underestimate the tyranny of a small man given a modicum of power). I can point to any number of headline issues that has left me depressed and despondent, because I see absolutely no real chance of changing the status quo, and even if there were to be a change, for that change to be in a direction that I would approve of.
Turns out, if you don't drink the koolaid, a PoliSci degree in the United States is like a degree in depression
, I would not classify the United States, on the whole, as an incompetent democracy. In fact, on technical grounds, I would not ever consider our federal level of government a democracy at all. You could probably closer define it as a managed federalist system of sorts, but its not what a layman would understand as a democracy. I'm convinced that the public at large doesn't realize that they don't actually vote for the president.
The United States is very, very stable. Outside of the Civil War (which was really just resolving issues that have existed since long before the Union's birth), there has never been any real
civil conflict. Change in the States often comes slowly, but it has only once had to come from the barrel of a gun. Our political system is guaranteed to generate only two political parties, but these parties act more like vessels
of action, rather than really defining a policy agenda by themselves. The parties themselves pick up and drop ideologies as a means to gather votes, not because either party cares about the ideologies themselves.
(this difference, by the way, is why the Tea Party is such a PITA for typical Washington politics. Its ideologically driven, not vote/outcome driven)
The United States has absorbed a huge number of immigrants, from all over the world, in a very peaceful manner. Societal integration for these people may take a generation or three to become truly complete, but it does happen reliably. The total population of the United States is third largest on the planet, the total surface area is fourth largest, and every economic measure you care to name is #1, often by fantastical margins.
I say this not
as a "rah rah America #1!", but to highlight that while I may strongly dislike
many aspects of our society, it is a huge mistake to characterize America's Democracy as incompetent. The government is incredibly stable, and has survived events that have literally toppled other countries and regions when they are faced with similar challenges. The US may be facing (and has always faced) problems with income disparity, corporate influence, and concentrations of political power, but it also does so whilst leading an incredibly vibrant economy. Technology, trade, art... really any field you care to name, the United States is either #1 or in the circle composed of the "#1s".
To a degree, the United States has been very lucky. North America is large, isolated, and absolutely packed with all manner of resources. Its colonization was done largely by the British, which brought a history of civil philosophical thought well conducive to a democracy. European ancestry and NA's climate means we have the high-energy crops and animal-borne antibodies to survive disease and grow plenty of good food with minimal effort - all conducive to rapid expansion and the birth of cities. Our position in the world is perfect for intercontinental trade whilst providing absolutely zero chance of ever fighting a battle on our own territory. You couldn't ask for a better starting point in a game of Civilization.
Starting perks only get you so far though, and its not fair to call what America has built and continues to build only luck. You can get far with a good start, but you don't get to be a world leader in virtually any field you care to name based on luck. The US government might be indifferent, slow, callous, corrupt, and/or ruthless (depending on its mood), but it is not
I'm much less familiar with internal Russian Federation machinations, but they aren't pretty. Russia's transition into democracy has stumbled along from drunken Yeltsin to the ruthless Putin, and neither has provided the leadership needed to reign in the handful of oligarchs that sized critical industries during the capitalization era out of the Soviet Union. Freedom of the press, independence of the courts, federal-state sovereignty... there aren't any real beacons of Russian Federation government that one can point to and say "well, at least X isn't totally broken".
Despite the Soviet Union's industrial base and scientific prowess, Russia has still struggled to become anything more than a resource-exporting nation. Far too much of Russia's total economic power is derived from oil and gas exports, and that wealth is not funneled into improving domestic industrial production, or high-tech services. The "resource curse" is alive and well in modern Russia, and it is already biting them in the ass (oil prices and embargoes). Russia has the potential to become a real world leader, a mini-United States with its size, resources, and technology, but instead Russia would rather relive a Soviet Union highlight reel.
Meanwhile, on the world stage, Putin has dragged Russia back from the brink of economic prosperity and trade with Europe, to the worst relations since the Cold War. Russia is so firmly cemented into playing the role of the Foil against the US that it seems incapable of playing any
other role. If the US says up, Russia says down. If the US says "Yay government X", Russia says "Yay group Y - the sworn enemies of government X!". Russia will take any contrarian stance it can find, even if it must cut itself by doing so.
The United States does need opposition - shit like Iraq 2.0 is a failing of not only our government, but of many other governments for getting dragged along into it. Even a united NATO standing against the United States probably wouldn't have stopped the invasion in the end, but it would at least highlight that rogue invasions of sovereign states is not a behavior to be tolerated in the 21st century.
What nobody needs is a madman, and Putin's 2edgy4me realpolitik games are a product of an entirely different era, one not suited for a world that - in spite of everything - is more peaceful and progressive now than at any other point in history. In Ukraine, Putin made a wonderful deal: 30 years of diplomatic progress with Europe, for a sea port that they already owned. Great job
TLDR: The US is neither incompetent nor a democracy, while Russia is incompetent and is also not a democracy.