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President Joe Biden turns from the podium after speaking to a joint session of Congress President Joe Biden turns from the podium after speaking to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, April 28, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

U.S. Democracy Promotion Needs a Reboot

Friday, April 30, 2021

For those excited by Joe Biden’s campaign promises to restore democracy promotion as a central plank of U.S. foreign policy, the months following last year’s presidential election were hair-raising. As Donald Trump refused to concede defeat and his supporters spread baseless conspiracy theories about election fraud, experts raised alarms that the fraught climate and Republican intransigence were eroding America’s global reputation. The ensuing loss of credibility, they warned, would make it all the more difficult for the U.S. to hold other countries accountable for authoritarian behavior.

One insurrection, one inauguration, and 100 days later, the democracy promotion community has found some encouragement in Biden’s early acts in office. During a speech on his administration’s foreign policy agenda in early February, Biden deemed democratic values the “grounding wire of our global foreign policy.” That strong rhetoric has been accompanied by several actions that indicate his administration’s intent to spend significant political capital on human rights and democracy. In the first face-to-face meeting between senior U.S. and Chinese officials, for example, Secretary of State Antony Blinken offered sharp criticisms of Beijing’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The U.S. also moved quickly to impose sanctions on Russian officials and entities after the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and on members of Myanmar’s military after their early-February coup. ...

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