The answer’s in what the new President just clearly laid out this week as his doctrine…
The following is the most important thing President Biden said at his news conference, in my opinion. (If you want the video of him saying it, just click on the photo at the top of this piece). It’s also important to note, I think, that this is a response to a question; not part of a prepared statement by the President:
“I predict to you, your children or grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on the issue of who succeeded: autocracy or democracy? Because that is what is at stake, not just with China.
Look around the world. We’re in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution of enormous consequence. Will there be middle class? How will people adjust to these significant changes in science and technology and the environment? How will they do that? And are democracies equipped — because all the people get to speak — to compete?
It is clear, absolutely clear…that this is a battle between the utility of democracies in the 21st century and autocracies.
If you notice, you don’t have Russia talking about communism anymore. It’s about an autocracy. Demand decisions made by a leader of a country — that’s what’s at stake here. We’ve got to prove democracy works.”
But almost every story I’ve read since his news conference makes no mention of this, preferring instead, mostly, to focus on inanity like if Biden is going to run again in 2024 and will it be against Trump? What? The guy was inaugurated just 2 months ago. 2 MONTHS! And already mainstream media is hyping a “re-match”? They want it so bad.
And OK. Normally, it’d be no surprise really for an American President to say he’ll prioritize supporting Democracy around the world. So maybe that explains why this statement, that seems so astoundingly important to me, is going virtually unrecognized. But I don’t think I’m wrong on where I’m focused. Because this time around, it’s a lot different.
Because Biden’s not saying he’s going to go around as an evangelist for Democracies. He’s saying he wants existing Democracies, right now, to team up and show and use their full powers against a rising tide of authoritarianism. Before it’s too late.
And show they can succeed and thrive as societies and economic powerhouses just as well or in fact better than authoritarian states, which can just order people around.
And that’s very new. And in my opinion, at least, very important. And is something that is big news and needs to be heard as such. And isn’t, yet.
President Biden saying his priority will be working with and supporting Democracies in part just because they are Democracies, might not have been an earth-shattering thing for a president to have said in the pas. But we’re being really short-sighted if we don’t see it is now .
Part of that has to do with the fact that the last President made it very clear he didn’t care at all about supporting Democracies for Democracy’s sake: he’d just go with whomever flattered him the most, or impressed him with feats of strength.
And it is a little harder to define what’s a Democracy now anyway. Russia claims to be one. Turkey, too. Even some of the countries on Biden’s “short list” of the team building he wants to do to prove Democracies can take on the modern world’s challenges are maybe questionable. Biden referred to what he called the “Quad”: Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, as keys to having democracies working together.” No doubt India is the biggest Democracy in the world. But even it’s been moving toward authoritarianism for several years. Japan, thought it has a parliamentary system, has some of the same issues the U.S. does right now: outsize influence of conservative, rural politicians who do not necessarily even come close to representing the country as a whole.
But at least the answer to that is simple: Biden’s President. He gets to choose with whom he engages in that context. And if he can turn those allies, each with different resources and powers into a forceful global pro-Democracy team that’ll prove crucial to the history of the world, he’s right.
Meanwhile, just to extend the Avengers metaphor a little further, usually the evil-doers are not simply in it because they’re power hungry egomaniacs who want to dominate just because. They very often act on a belief that humans—or at least certain groups of humans—if left to run things themselves, and make decisions for themselves, can’t help but screw it all up, and will inevitably do even worse damage to the planet, so are actually better off being controlled. And we do see that thinking a lot these days, especially in the countries that are the U.S.’ biggest political adversaries and economic competitors. At the same time, while those countries may be excelling at production, and may be demonstrating core competencies in making profits, they are not yet nearly as good at innovating, or encouraging and sustaining entrepreneurship. But eventually maybe those things can be top-down socially-engineered and completely controlled too: who knows?
And there really hasn’t been a full-scale coming to grips yet with the fact that today’s Cold War isn’t about whether Democracy prevails over Communism, but rather whether it can survive a drive toward Authoritarianism.
And of course, the President knows darn well this isn’t just a question for the world, but domestically within the U.S. too.
As demonstrated by Republicans in Georgia passing new, highly restrictive voting laws. Which would be funny, if it wasn’t so not funny.
Because no Presidential election in history in any state has been dissected as completely as Georgia, last year. Not only was every single ballot in the state counted, then recounted by hand, then counted again. But tens of thousands of hand signature matches on ballot envelopes were rechecked, by hand, as well.
And each time, the accuracy of the original result was confirmed.
Of course, after the signature matches were done, Trump whined the state had looked at the wrong county, if only they looked at a different county, they’d indeed find widespread problems there. But let’s not forget it was a bunch of Trump boosters who initiated the signature match to begin with, so as usual it only became a problem after the fact when they got results they didn’t want.
But anyway, Georgia came out of its multiple audits of so many different things, with such consistency and accuracy, you’d think state government would be patting itself on the back. But instead, Republicans who control that state government are more-or-less saying they did everything wrong, and everything they’d put into place over the years needed to be changed. For instance, no-excuse absentee voting wasn’t something someone in Georgia did because of COVID-19, it’d been in place for years. But now it’s bad.
So this “we don’t want to make it hard to vote, we want to make it hard to cheat” is just so much BS. Because you just went through so much that would’ve showed up cheating had it existed and it didn’t. Again. And again. And again. And again. And again. Literally.
What’s been getting the most attention in the Georgia law just passed and quickly signed is not being able to give out water to people waiting in line to vote. (Even Food and Wine Magazine did a story about that!) And yeah, it’s pretty egregious. What’s more egregious though, are measures in the law that would allow state legislators to reach in and take authority from voting administrators in various counties, and from elected state elections officials, and overturn results.
And so yeah: the forces of Democracy vs. the forces of Authoritarianism is the most important battle going on both worldwide and in this country right now. And any steps to build a team of Democracy boosters within and without, is maybe the most important thing this President can do. So let’s start listening, and helping, and acting…