Anne Applebaum: What Trump and His Mob Taught the World About America
Repairing democracy at home is not incompatible with standing up for democracy abroad; they are mutually reinforcing. The threats to democracy are not unique to the United States. Trumpism is part of a global nationalist-populist movement that benefits from international networks of kleptocracy, disinformation, and corruption. As Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren noted during the Democratic presidential primary, taking down these networks is a necessary prerequisite for restoring democracy and the rule of law at home.
Many of the long-term threats to democracy—disinformation and the lack of an objective truth, political interference by China and Russia, inequities in the global economy, and fears about interdependence and globalization—can only be addressed collectively. And American allies still want the country’s help. Allied officials have told me in recent days that although they are worried about what’s happening in the United States, they would regard it as a “disaster” if the U.S. abandoned its leadership role in strengthening liberal democracy globally.
This week, Twitter was awash with people arguing that the United States has no moral authority to lecture others about human rights given what happened in Washington. This sentiment was also prevalent over the summer, following the murder of George Floyd. Then, Tamara Cofman Wittes, a former Obama-administration official, wisely observed, in an article on the Brookings Institution website:
To insist that we must first “get our house in order” before speaking to others’ oppression, to be so ashamed by our own shortcomings that we refrain from calling out abuses abroad, and thus to withhold our solidarity from the abused, would itself be an act of moral abdication.
After four years of Donald Trump and rising authoritarianism around the world, we now live in what former U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband has labeled the “age of impunity,” when governments believe that they can get away with anything, largely because they can. If the United States does not push back against this, it will only get worse.
Tom Nichols: Trump’s Removal Is Taking Too Long
In the days after the insurrection, the Chinese embassy in Washington tweeted a horribly offensive statement about the forced sterilization of Uighur women in Xinjiang, China, that was later taken down by Twitter. The post could be interpreted as a deliberate provocation to show that, as the United States fell into crisis, China could push the boundaries of acceptable discourse. Earlier in the week, China arrested scores of prodemocracy activists in Hong Kong in its efforts to slowly strangle the last remnants of freedom in the city.
Perhaps denunciation of these actions and a renewed focus in Congress on how to respond would sound hollow because of America’s domestic problems, but that does not make them any less necessary. Beijing may argue that the United States lacks credibility, but its victims certainly would not.