Joe Biden reaffirmed the global leadership of the United States and received harsh criticism for the failed elections in his country.
The US president closed his two-day Summit for Democracy. He said that "safeguarding rights and freedoms in the face of rising authoritarianism is the defining challenge." China and Russia scoffed at not being invited. Nevertheless, 111 leaders from around the world participated virtually.
US President Joe Biden had his much-touted Democracy Summit without the repercussions he had hoped for since he promised to convene it during the election campaign. There were no concrete results beyond the announcement of a second evaluative conference next year and that the Washington Congress would approve a $ 424 million package "to shore up democracy in the world." It brought together 111 global leaders who participated in different panel discussions, gave some speeches of circumstance, and questioned the host in a veiled way. At the opening, Biden said that safeguarding rights and freedoms in the face of the rise of authoritarianism is the "defining challenge" of this Era. The unanimous comment he received can be summed up in the colloquial phrase of "and how are we doing at home?"
The conference was a testament to Biden's claim, announced in his first foreign policy speech in February, that he would return the United States to world leaders to confront authoritarian forces after the country's global standing took a notorious turn. setback under his predecessor, Donald Trump. "We are at a turning point in our history ... Will we allow the decline in rights and democracy to continue unchecked? Or will we together have the vision and courage once again to lead the march of human progress and human freedom forward?" He said. "Democracy does not happen by accident. And we have to renew it with each generation. In my opinion, this is the defining challenge of our time. "
Biden did not point to China or Russia directly. Still, the message was intended for these authoritarian nations with which Washington faces and disputes global leadership for the second half of this century. Although yes, he references the low institutional quality at the worldwide level. In November, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance noted that the number of established democracies under threat reaches a record high, with recent coups in Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Mali, and setbacks in Hungary, Brazil, and India, among others.
After Thursday's keynote address, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the live broadcast on his ministry's website was moving to a "closed-door session," and the public broadcast was turned off. When the cameras were turned on again, a round table was taking place two hours later on "reinforcing democratic resistance." Speakers included the President of Ghana, the Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone, and the President of the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica. Of the 120 minutes in which the most exciting part of the meeting took place, not a single reference. The summit's objective - which was never entirely clear - became more opaque than ever.
China took advantage of the loophole they left. He launched an ironic comment through social networks "friends": "Does democracy in the style of the United States' make dreams come true or create nightmares'? Unfortunately, it seems that she has turned evil like Voldemort, the dark wizard from Harry Potter. As a young man, President Biden must have overeaten KFC and McDonald's, which has led him to believe that democracy is like a fast-food chain whose ingredients are supplied by the United States. "In addition to the dubious Chinese humor, the message reveals Beijing's desire to redefine international norms and present its authoritarian one-party political system not only as legitimate but as ideologically superior to multiparty liberal democracies.
"A decade ago, China's ambition to change the world's political structures was less clear, but now I think they want to change the world on an ideological level," said Charles Parton of the Council on Geostrategy in the Washington Post. The former British diplomat added that "propaganda messages may appear ineffective to Western observers, but they will strike a chord with China's domestic public and help Chinese leader Xi Jinping to legitimize his monopoly of power ."
This uncompromising vision permeates the hundreds of millions of people worldwide who were left out of globalization and the scientific-technological revolution. Donald Trump was the expression of that phenomenon. He came to the White House supported by those who lost their jobs in the big defunct industries, those who stopped studying at the end of middle school, and those nostalgic for better times. Yet, according to a recent Pew Research report, only 17 percent of those surveyed worldwide consider the United States to be "a good example to follow.". In allied countries such as Germany, Australia, Canada, South Korea, Sweden, and Japan, the figure falls below 17 percent. The country most enthusiastic about American democracy, but only 32% consider it a good example.
And, of course, there are specific reasons to think so. The American democratic system has shown too many flaws in recent times. The strange design of the Electoral College that ignores the popular vote and recognizes whoever has won in districts with the most significant number of voters (two of the four presidents elected this century lost the popular vote), the stagnant Supreme Court of Justice (that six of each 10 Americans think it is motivated by politics, not law), misinformation about the 2020 elections (which most Republicans believe were stolen), deliberate suppression of the right to vote (19 states have enacted 33 laws only this year that make it difficult for citizens to vote), not to mention the pro-Trump insurrection of January 6. ANDs, as defined by The Economist magazine's Democracy Index in the last five years: "a democracy with problems."
On the eve of the summit, the White House released a fact sheet on what the administration was doing to enforce democratic norms in the United States, including doubling the number of voting attorneys in the Justice Department and improving access to voter registration. In his last speech, on the second day of the summit, Biden said that he hoped to further enhance the system with the passage of two laws that he had sent to Congress, the Freedom to Vote and the Advancement of the Voting Rights of John Lewis. . "The sacred right to vote, to vote freely, the right to have your vote counted, is the threshold of freedom for democracy," Biden said. "Without it, practically nothing is possible."
The US press was not very sympathetic to the achievements of the summit. However, they highlighted the importance of Washington retaking the initiative globally. On the MSNBC network, several panelists stressed the importance of having "allies and partners" even if they are unpleasant. "We need either Russia or China - and, in some cases, both - to help us fight the pandemic, stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb, keep North Korea under some control, fight terrorism and, no less importantly, maintain peaceful relations between the three, which after all are the three largest nuclear arsenals in the world, "said a Democratic strategist from Texas.
And the host recalled in this context George Kennan, the architect of the United States' Cold War containment policy. He said in a speech in which he reviewed his life and times: "A country like ours exercises its most useful influence beyond its borders mainly by example, never by precept ."
Later, White House spokeswoman Jean Psaki had to come out to reaffirm Biden's line on two issues that have to do with the essence of the summit. First, following the Supreme Court decision that declared the almost total ban on abortion in Texas constitutional, he said that the president is "concerned" by what is happening in Texas and remains "deeply committed" to the ruling in the Roe v Wade case, of 1973, which established the right to abortion in the United States and became an example to the rest of the world. And when asked if Joe Biden would consider pardoning WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the press secretary said that "the president is a defender of freedom of speech and freedom of the press." A few hours earlier, British justice had approved the extradition of Assange to the United States to face espionage charges for the disclosure of secret Pentagon documents that could send him dozens of years in prison.