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Biden's two years to undo Trump's damage to democracy

February 24, 2021 in Blogs

By María Isabel Puerta Riera

A few days ago, President Joe Biden announced to western allies that America is back while the images of the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol were still fresh in our memories. The ambitious damage-control operation that the Biden administration has embarked on has quite a few critical fronts: the COVID-19 pandemic management and vaccine roll-out; the much-needed economic relief bill negotiations; the broad social and racial discontent; and the most pressing of all the institutional challenges the country has been left to deal with: the distrust in American democracy.

The United States is in an extremely uncomfortable—and unusual—position where much of its political authority, historically based on the strength and stability of the American experiment, has been cast in doubt after the Capitol insurrection. The country, with Biden’s leadership, must not only work to recover public trust in democratic institutions, but also ease concerns among Western superpowers that the United States can be seen once again as an unfailing ally.

Historically, “democracy promotion,” as it’s called, had been an essential artifact of the American foreign policy agenda. Efforts around the world have oscillated from financial aid to institutional promotion, from containment to military intervention. The strategy would very much depend on which party was in office, but under Trump, the embrace of autocrats like Putin and Kim Jong-un contrasted with the aggressive rhetoric against Maduro in Venezuela, making it unclear if his administration was more interested in giving the impression of pushing for regime change to secure Venezuelan American votes in South Florida than democracy itself.

The investment in democracy building has been both a commitment to advance democracy development around the world and a preemptive measure against authoritarian regimes. This time around, the country is facing one of the most consequential tests to its own democratic system while the world is watching. How can Biden advocate for democracy overseas while in his own country is under attack?

The United States has to lead by example in breaking the authoritarian expansion started by Trump, his administration, and the Republican Party. The first weeks of the Biden administration have been essentially oriented by the complete undoing of some of Trump’s most far-reaching decisions: leaving the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran Nuclear Agreement, rescinding the Muslim Ban, among other immigration policies. The message is both a domestic compromise and a foreign policy pledge.

The Biden administration has probably two years to undo most …read more


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