Biden’s ‘Defending Democracy’ Agenda Is All Talk

Biden’s ‘Defending Democracy’ Agenda Is All Talk
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the opening of the virtually held Democracy Summit, in Washington, Dec. 9, 2021 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Is U.S. President Joe Biden too focused on defending democracy? Writing recently for the Atlantic, the Carnegie Endowment’s Stephen Wertheim argued that by making the defense of democracy the “first principle” guiding his foreign policy, Biden has aggravated a host of challenges facing the United States. Rather than seeking prudent compromises to stabilize crisis situations, Biden is fostering “one-sided, maximalist policies that intensify conflicts without resolving them, while entangling the United States within them.” Wertheim’s view echoes that of Walter Russell Meade, who wrote last year that Biden’s framing of “world politics as a contest between liberal democracy and autocracy” is “unfortunate” because it “hampers America’s diplomacy overseas and further erodes the weak consensus at home behind a strong American foreign policy around the world.”

One can argue that the Biden administration is too maximalist in its aims, even to the point of trying to do too much. But is it truly due to a hyper-focus on the defense of democracy, both at home and abroad?

It is indeed the case that the Biden administration has voiced the need to support democracy worldwide. Compared to his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, Biden does frequently affirm the virtues of democracy and the need to defend it. During his first year in office, Biden declared, “In the face of sustained and alarming challenges … all around the world, democracy needs champions.” Last year, he took something of a victory lap, saying, “Democracy remains humanity’s most enduring means to advance prosperity, security, and dignity for all. And over the last two and a half years, we’ve proved it.” Even when focusing on U.S. democracy, Biden has an eye abroad. In his 2022 address in Philadelphia, Biden emphasized that defending democracy at home was necessary for the U.S. to continue to serve as “the beacon to the world, an ideal to be realized, a promise to be kept.”

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.