Democracy must prevail over autocracy, Biden tells the world – even as he’s accused of autocratic tendencies back home
"We must demonstrate that democracies can still deliver for our people," Biden said on Friday via video link at the the conference.
That is our galvanizing mission. Democracy doesn't happen by accident. We have to defend it, strengthen it, renew it. We have to prove that our model isn't a relic of our history.
Biden made his comments in the context of "democratic progress" being "under assault" in the US and Europe. He said that with governments facing such challenges as the Covid-19 pandemic and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, some argue that autocracy is "the best way forward." He added, "Historians will examine and write about this moment. It's an inflection point. And I believe with every ounce of my being that democracy must prevail."
Biden provided strong encouragement for multinational alliances, declaring that "America is back" as a "fully committed" NATO ally that will "work alongside its European partners." German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Biden confirmed that his administration won't go through with former president Donald Trump's plan to withdraw 9,500 of the 34,500 US troops stationed in Germany and that the new American commander-in-chief is committed to a strategically unified West.
He predictably bashed Russia as an adversary, claiming it has tried to destabilize democracies in the US and elsewhere.
But if Biden is seeking to set an example of democracy's superiority, he's off to a rocky start. He was inaugurated on January 20 with 75 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of independents believing that he was illegitimately elected, according to a CNN poll. He then proceeded to sign executive orders at a record-shattering pace – his 31 edicts exceed the first-month totals of Trump and Barack Obama combined.
At the same time, while Biden has spoken of bringing the nation together and healing, many of his fellow Democrats have painted some if not all of the 74 million people who voted for Trump, including fellow members of Congress, as terrorists. Democrat activists have called for steamrolling the opposition party through such measures as eliminating the Senate filibuster, allowing them to ram through such controversial bills as Biden's plan to give amnesty to an estimated 11 million illegal aliens.
Nevertheless, Biden’s admirers have welcomed his Friday speech as an example of leadership, with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson going as far as saying that “America is unreservedly back as the leader of the free world and that is a fantastic thing.”
Biden critics, however, had different thoughts in mind, one writing under a CNN tweet gushing over the president's speech that “he panders to globalists” as “America crumbles,” and another questioning the legitimacy of his presidency and calling him “a sock puppet.”
Others suggested that Biden’s move toward multilateralism is, in itself, not directly representative of his constituents. “Today, President Biden promised that the United States would not engage in foreign policy that’s ‘transactional,’” Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) tweeted. “Translation: ‘I’m going to give away your tax dollars and not benefit Americans.’”
Today, President Biden promised that the United Stats would not engage in foreign policy that’s “transactional.”Translation: “I’m going to give away your tax dollars and not benefit Americans.”— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) February 19, 2021
Rev. Steven Kinyk, a Baptist minister, agreed, saying, “Biden is bringing America back to world dependency instead of making America strong again.”
Biden's democracy-over-autocracy message might also be a tough sale as he just controversially chalked up China's alleged human-rights abuses, including the claims of "mass rape" of Uighur Muslim women, to differences in cultural "norms." And his struggle to help democracy prevail over autocracy will ring ironic in the Middle East, where he'll rely on Gulf state monarchies to help provide the US with negotiating leverage against Iran.
Biden on Friday said the allies must stand up for democratic values and push back against those "who would monopolize and normalize repression." Such cooperation will help prevail against the Kremlin, he said, as it's easier for Russia to "bully and threaten individual states" than to negotiate with a united NATO.
Ironically, the solution Biden offered to address "Russian recklessness" sounded somewhat authoritarian. He said the US and the West must "shape the rules that will govern the advance of technologies and the norms of behavior in cyberspace."
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