Trump Left U.S. Democracy In Shambles. Biden Has To Build It Back.

Jan 31, 2021
In The News

For the past four decades, U.S. presidents have wrestled with the question of “democracy promotion” — that is, where and how to encourage free speech, free assembly and free elections in other nations. President Biden will be the first executive since the middle of the 20th century to face an entirely different and far graver challenge: preventing democracy from succumbing to autocracy as the dominant form of human governance.... Meanwhile, liberal democracy is being undermined from within by autocratic populist movements, including that led by Trump. Thanks to him, a majority in one of the United States’ two major political parties is now prepared to nullify election results, disregard court rulings and knowingly propagate lies to remain in power. For Biden, defending democracy cannot be merely one “basket” in a variegated foreign policy or a talking-points sop to liberals. The issue is now existential. His dual imperative — and the central test of his presidency — will be to fashion a strategy that can defeat Trumpism at home while offering the world a competitive political counter-model to that being pushed by China.... For his part, Biden has stressed the importance of repairing U.S. democratic institutions, which must be not only hardened against future assaults from Trumpism but also become more inclusive and transparent. The extremist movements that led to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol must be corralled; the 1887 law that would allow a partisan majority in Congress to reject electoral college votes should be repealed. An incipient wave of state legislation by Republicans to restrict voting in future elections must be beaten back. Instead, the measures to expand voting, reform redistricting and expand public election financing included in the For the People Act, passed by the House in 2019 as H.R. 1, ought to be at the top of Biden’s legislative priorities. Revitalizing the U.S. democratic model is the precondition for prevailing over China in the global battle of governance…. Blinken described a contest between “techno-democracies” and “techno-autocracies” that, he said, “is going to go a long way to shaping the next decades.” Democracies, he said, have to come together to ensure that “we are the ones shaping the norms and rules” of 21st-century technologies so that “they are more our values than theirs....” The new secretary of state is probably right to suggest that the United States and other democracies are not certain to prevail in this fateful contest. “There are many, many very apparent weaknesses that China tries to hide when it comes to projecting its model,” he told senators. “But in the absence of an alternative, they may do better than we think.” That neatly defines the job of the Biden administration. Trump has left the U.S. model of democracy in ruins. Biden, to paraphrase his own slogan, must build it back, stronger.