WASHINGTON As President Joe Biden opens a long-promised “democracy summit” Thursday with more than 100 participating nations, he finds himself in charge of “room A” among the world’s endangered democracies.
Of the great industrial powers that make up the Group of Seven, only the United States has suffered an attempt to overthrow representative democracy since the group’s inception half a century ago, in the form of Donald Trump’s efforts to undo the 2020 elections and stay in power. . Among the 17 democracies in the G-20, the United States is one of only two, along with Turkey, to have seen its chief executive abuse this power in an attempt to stay in power.
Fiona Hill, a former National Security Council analyst from the UK who was among the first to describe the Trump-instigated January 6 insurgency as a coup attempt, said the idea that this could ever happen in this country was unthinkable.
“It was not for a million years that I imagined that the United States would embody this crisis of democracy,” she said.
“Biden must be frank that the United States is the last battleground of democracy against autocracy,” said Ruth Ben-Ghiat, professor of history and authoritarianism expert at New York University . “And use the summit to send a message to Democrats and Autocrats that the United States will pursue anti-democratic forces with vigor and determination.”
Ironically, Biden specifically cited Trump’s anti-democratic tendencies when he first mentioned the need for a summit to rally the world’s democracies in a campaign speech on July 11, 2019.
“Democracy today is under more pressure than at any time since the 1930s,” Biden told City University in New York. “As democracies around the world look to America for the values ââthat unite us and truly run the free world, Donald Trump appears to be on the other team.”
By the time of Biden’s 2019 speech, Trump’s affinity for autocrats was well established. He has repeatedly praised leaders such as Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro, Turkish Recep Tayyip ErdoÄan and even North Korea’s murderous dictator Kim Jong Un. A year earlier, Trump had stood by his side. of Russian Vladimir Putin and had told the world that he believed Putin’s statements regarding his 2016 election interference in US intelligence analysis.
In 2020, as Trump began to lay the groundwork for asserting that a re-election loss could only be the result of Democrats cheating, Biden’s campaign began to consider the possibility that Trump might attempt to overturn a victory. by Biden.
“He continues to sow doubt and undermine our democratic institutions even now that he is no longer in office,” TJ Ducklo, the Biden campaign press secretary, said of Trump. âIt is ironic that the United States is now an ‘A Room’ among Western democracies facing a legitimate autocratic threat from within. “
Trump, despite losing the election by 7 million votes nationally and 306-232 in the Electoral College, became the first president in more than two centuries of U.S. elections to refuse to hand over power peacefully. His incitement to the Jan.6 assault on Capitol Hill – his latest attempt to stay in power left five dead, including one policeman, injured 140 others and led to four police suicides.
Despite this, Trump remains the dominant figure in the Republican Party and is openly talking about running for president again in 2024.
âIt is ironic that the United States is now an ‘A Room’ among Western democracies facing a legitimate autocratic threat from within. “
– TJ Ducklo, press secretary for Biden’s 2020 campaign
Biden has repeatedly condemned the Jan.6 crowd’s attempt to block the voter certification process as an attack on democracy itself, and White House aides said he would speak out again on that day. there at the summit.
âThere is no question that as people around the world, countries around the world watched the events of January 6, watched what happened here in the United States, it was clear that when the president took office , it was going to be at the forefront of his agenda, and it was, âWhite House press secretary Jen Psaki said this week.
A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Biden will focus on a message he has been pushing all his time in the White House to date: that democracies must show that ‘they are better than the alternative. “The president sees the challenge of our time as a demonstration that democracies can measure up,” the official said. “And it is by improving the lives of their people and by tackling the biggest problems the world faces.”
Ben-Ghiat, however, said a more forceful stance against would-be autocrats might be more helpful at this time. âThe summit is meant to send a message to the world that the United States is still a democratic leader and to show its strength,â she said of Biden. “If he can back that up with actions, including from the Justice Department, that will help a lot.”