December 13, 2021

Securing U.S. Democracy

By Carrie Cordero

With President Biden’s first democracy summit completed last week, the next steps will be continuing the dialogue the convening has generated and turning sights on implementing initiatives announced at and prompted by the conference. Given the national and international state of affairs, the summit performed a useful function by providing a high-level platform for devoting attention to the global implications of democratic decline and rallying like-minded nations around the ideals of democracy.

Globally, democracy needs bolstering, and the Biden administration has committed to reasserting a credible American diplomatic voice in support of it. As anyone who has been paying attention here at home over the past several years is aware, U.S. democracy is undergoing a substantial stress test. The latest Freedom House report warns that the United States has declined, according to its rating system, by 11 points in the past decade. In its recent report, the European think tank International IDEA included the United States among countries where democracy is backsliding. I expect this turbulence in American democracy to continue at least a few more years, perhaps through this decade.

Not only do Americans need to feel safer at home; they also need to be safer at home in their communities.

Among other areas of democracy bolstering, last week’s summit focused on countering authoritarianism. On that first pillar, moving forward, the summit identified issues such as combating corruption, defending human rights and countering digital authoritarians as specific areas of work in the years ahead. Those global efforts are worthy and important, but if the United States intends to address the lure of authoritarianism domestically, an additional area of focus should include devoting deliberate attention to making the American people safer at home.

And this effort to provide security needs to be undertaken in a thoughtful way that bolsters confidence in the rule of law through adherence to and respect for civil liberties and rights.

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