As President Joe Biden marks his one-year anniversary in office, America’s ability to project power, policies and moral leadership abroad has been steadily undermined by a slow-motion coup at home that threatens to undo US democracy.
Attempts by the Biden administration to pass serious new laws on climate change have faltered with the stalling of the “Build Back Better” bill. After the chaotic pullout from Afghanistan, America’s allies are still wary about whether US democracy is strong enough to back tough bipartisan foreign policy initiatives. Iran is closer than ever to having a nuclear weapon if it chooses to build one. Russia and China are behaving more aggressively in the world, threatening Ukraine and Taiwan respectively.
In America, the bigger threat comes from within – a self-inflicted stain of domestic division, deepening authoritarianism and political deceit that tarnishes its once-strong leadership abroad. A defeated, twice-impeached former president continues to spout the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him, and he has found a receptive audience among the vast majority of Republicans. If their voter suppression and nullification strategies succeed, America is headed away from constitutional norms and back to Jim Crow, even minority rule. Many Americans don’t seem to care.
“This is democracy’s hour of maximum danger,” historian Jon Meacham said recently. “We’re as close to losing the constitutional republic that a lot of us have taken for granted for a long time, as we have been since Fort Sumpter.”