the global legacy of january 6

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Thirty years ago, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama wrote in his essay “¿The end of the story? “that American liberal democracy personified the end point of humanity’s sociocultural evolution, the highest and final form of government.

But a year after the deadly siege of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, Fukuyama, now a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, says America’s example as a global beacon of democracy stands out. deeply tarnished.

“The United States was unable to effect a peaceful transfer of power after an election, and that is a precedent that has already reverberated around the world,” he said.

On the anniversary of the siege of the Capitol, the VOA spoke to other observers who are also giving ominous warnings about the global legacy of January 6 and the decline of American democracy.

Also read: Assault on the United States Capitol, a year later

Authoritarianism as an alternative

The events of January 6, Trump’s lies about the 2020 elections, and the GOP’s persistent unwillingness to repudiate them serve as “useful talking points for autocrats, both current and aspiring, who assert that democracy as an ideal it’s both fanciful and misguided, “said William Howell, Sydney Stein Professor of American Politics at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.

They create setbacks for democracy reformers abroad who have turned to America for guidance and inspiration, Howell added.

FILE – President Joe Biden delivers a speech on voting rights at the National Constitution Center, July 13, 2021, in Philadelphia.

Jonathan Stevenson, a US defense principal investigator at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a global think tank, agreed.

“Although liberal-leaning countries by default can still seek political support in the United States, authoritarianism is increasingly seen as a viable alternative,” Stevenson said, adding that the degradation of American democracy is not the only cause.

The rise of China, the “legitimacy of performance” of illiberal leaders like the Hungarian Viktor Orban and the growing appeal of disappointment-driven populism in democratic governments are also important factors, he added.

“But January 6 has certainly increased the burden of ideological persuasion on American democracy,” Stevenson said.

Meanwhile, Republicans’ acceptance of the 2020 election lies has made allies deeply nervous about America’s trustworthiness, said Max Bergmann, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

“Now they have to ask themselves: If America moves in an autocratic direction, will it be there to confront other autocrats?” He said.

Still, the United States remains a country unparalleled in key realms of geopolitics, and despite the increased coverage of countries and the formation of ties with other powers such as China, most still seek to maintain strong working ties with U.S.

“The insurrection has left a mark on the position of the United States in the world, but it has not yet fundamentally undermined the overall position of the United States,” said Brian Katulis, vice president of policy for the United States. Middle East Institute. “The fact that the United States still has the world’s largest and strongest economy and military, and much of its soft power in technology and education, is held in high regard.”

Also read: Museum of History lists collection of objects from the assault on the Capitol

Saving American Democracy

As president, Joe Biden has tried to salvage America’s position and framed his foreign policy in the context of democracies versus autocracies. In December, it brought together more than 100 countries for a virtual Summit for Democracy to “set an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and address the greatest threats democracies face today through collective action.”

To mark January 6, Biden is scheduled to make remarks with a focus on sustaining democracy and countering threats to democratic processes. His aides say Biden believes the most effective way to combat Trumpism and electoral denial is to show the country and the world that democratic governments can work.

“Political cohesion, political stability, a common commitment across partisan lines to the basic institutions of America and the values ​​of American democracy. Those are the kinds of things that would really provide the kind of national security propulsion that we really need. in order to serve our interests abroad effectively, “National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said at a recent Council on Foreign Relations event.

FILE - In this July 1, 2019 photo, protesters gather inside the meeting room after storming the Legislative Council in Hong Kong.

FILE – In this July 1, 2019 photo, protesters gather inside the meeting room after storming the Legislative Council in Hong Kong.

With deepening polarization and ongoing attacks on America’s democratic institutions, that can be a difficult task. In demonstrations across the country, Trump continues to push what critics call the “Big Lie,” the narrative that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, and most Republicans believe him.

According to a new survey of USA Today / Suffolk University, 58% of Republicans say that Biden was not legitimately elected to the White House, this despite numerous audits and investigations discrediting Trump’s claims of voter fraud.

Fueled by “Stop the Steal” and other voter fraud conspiracies, Republican lawmakers in states across the country have passed or sought to pass legislation that would assert greater control over election systems and results, blocking Democrats in the process.

Advantage for opponents

Adversaries, including Russia, China and Iran, have used the siege to their advantage, a fact recognized by Sullivan.

“January 6 has had a material impact on the view of the United States from the rest of the world,” said Biden’s top adviser. “The allies view it with concern and they care about the future of American democracy. The adversaries view it, you know, more as rubbing their hands and thinking, ‘How can we take advantage of this one way or another?'”

Chinese officials often questioned how US Democratic lawmakers could convict protesters who stormed the United States Capitol while defending those who stormed the Hong Kong legislature. Iranian leaders have pointed to the ongoing US siege and political divisions in their own propaganda to hit the United States.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has established a moral equivalence between the prosecution of the January 6 rioters and the crackdown on his political opponent Alexey Navalny.

“These arguments may be simplistic and torturous, but they are not ineffective,” said IISS’s Stevenson.

Moscow has also launched “whataboutisms” on US democratic backsliding in response to US statements on Russian democracy. The goal, said the author of How to Lose the Information War and global member of the Wilson Center Nina Jankowicz, is to undermine the legitimacy of the criticism that the United States has had of Russia in recent years with respect to human rights and the right to free expression.

It should come as no surprise that adversaries have used America’s democratic backsliding as an excuse to defend their own undemocratic systems. “When America undermines its own liberal values ​​at home, it creates a sense of entitlement, or even permission, for leaders with autocratic instincts to trample on the freedoms of free and fair elections or the right to protest,” said Leslie Vinjamuri, director of the US and Americas program in Chatham House, based in London.

Vinjamuri added that there is currently a widespread feeling in Europe, rightly or wrongly, that “America may still have the power to lead, but it no longer has an interest in going beyond its borders to provide the kind of liberal order. or moral that he once did. “

Whats Next?

Much depends on the 2022 midterm elections and the 2024 presidential elections and whether Americans can deliver relatively stable elections without the drama and violence of 2020.

“It seems to me that the next two years will determine whether the United States remains a credible world power,” said Jérôme Viala-Gaudefroy, assistant professor at CY Cergy Paris Université. “If January 6 is still unique, then there is hope. But if it’s just the beginning of something, well, then all hell could break loose.”

FILE - National Guard troops tighten security around the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan.17, 2021.

FILE – National Guard troops tighten security around the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan.17, 2021.

Other observers offer an even bleaker point of view.

“By 2025, American democracy could collapse, causing extreme domestic political instability, including widespread civil violence,” said Thomas Homer-Dixon, executive director of the Cascade Institute at Royal Roads University in Canada, in a recent opinion piece. “By 2030, if not before, the country could be ruled by a right-wing dictatorship.”

The student of violent conflict urged his fellow citizens to prepare for the unfolding crisis in the United States, which he characterized as a “political and social landscape flashing with warning signs.”

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