President Joe Biden has been bombarded with the same alarming concerns from concerned international leaders, questions he never expected to hear.
“Is America going to be okay?” they enquire. “How about democracy in the United States?”
While Biden has attempted to reassure America’s friends, he has only sparingly stressed the seriousness of the threat to democracy posed by the Jan. 6 insurgency at the US Capitol and the continuous claim by the man he beat, Donald Trump, that the 2020 election was stolen.
Now, as the anniversary of that horrible day approaches, the president is being encouraged to rearrange priorities and utilize his office’s authority to campaign for voting rights legislation, which supporters argue is the only viable way to combat the quickly rising challenges to democracy.
The conflict in Biden’s approach shows his attempt to strike a balance between the immediate demands of Americans to make progress on the epidemic and the economy, as well as the less apparent but equally important problem of maintaining faith in elections and government.
The president will give a speech on Jan. 6 focusing on preserving democracy; voting rights will not be mentioned in that address, but will be the subject of another speech soon, according to White House staffers.
Biden’s tone on the need for voting rights legislation took on increased urgency in his recent commencement address at South Carolina State University.
“I’ve never witnessed anything like the continuous attack on voting rights. “This new dark mix of voter suppression and election tampering is un-American, undemocratic, and unfortunately, unparalleled since Reconstruction,” Biden stated.
And the rest of the world has taken note. Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security advisor, has also stated that the Capitol riot has changed many countries’ perceptions of the United States.
“Jan. 6 has had a major influence on the rest of the world’s perspective of the United States, I believe from allies and foes alike,” Sullivan remarked at the Council on Foreign Relations recently. “It causes fear and alarm among allies about the viability of American democracy.” Adversaries glance at it with their palms rubbing together, wondering, “How can we take advantage of this in some way?”
Republicans, on the other hand, are encouraging attempts to sway future elections by putting favorable leaders in local electoral seats and endorsing candidates who participated in the insurgency for elected office in a number of states.
Biden’s hesitation, according to White House officials, should not be misinterpreted as complacency in the face of a rising campaign to rewrite history surrounding the Jan. 6 disturbance. Rather, they claim, the president feels that demonstrating to the rest of the country — and the globe — that government can function is the most effective approach to battle Trump, election denialism, and domestic extremism.
“I understand that development does not come quickly enough. Last November, Biden stated, “It never has.” “Government is a difficult and at times demoralizing process. But I also know what’s possible if we keep the pressure on, never give up, and maintain our faith.”
Many of Trump’s supporters, according to Biden, did not fully embrace Trumpism. Instead, Trump built his coalition on long-standing unhappiness with the country’s political, economic, and social structures.
As a result, Biden focused his first-year domestic agenda on addressing what he saw as the core causes of the unrest — the fragile economy and the pandemic’s pull on it — essentially to demonstrate that government can function successfully.
He’s ordered federal law enforcement to beef up security at national institutions and enhance communication systems and protocols, which were partly to fault for the US Capitol Police being swamped for hours during the mob attack.
The Department of Justice has launched the biggest case in its history, prosecuting over 700 people and still hunting for more.
However, many Democrats and activists concerned about what may happen in 2022 and beyond are encouraging President Trump to make voting rights a top priority.
“The insurgency was part of a bigger campaign to suppress elections and subvert our democracy,” said Christina Baal, a veteran activist and executive director of Public Wise, an organization that investigates and publishes information about politicians seeking for office who advocate electoral fraud.
Efforts to smear election integrity, according to Baal, not only energize Trump supporters, but also make other people less willing to vote. “We know — we’ve done some studies on system trust — that people who don’t trust elections are less likely to vote. This is part of a bigger strategy of voting suppression, which is why Biden’s statement is so important.”
The House has passed comprehensive voting rights legislation, but Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have become roadblocks, claiming they oppose modifying Senate procedures to avoid a GOP filibuster.
That bill would reinstate the Justice Department’s power to evaluate changes to election rules in states with a history of discrimination, a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that was ruled down by the United States Supreme Court in 2013. According to the Brennan Center, 19 states have recently enacted legislation that makes voting more difficult.
Separate voting rights legislation has been drafted by Manchin and Sinema, but it does not have enough Republican support to overcome the filibuster.
“People are picking sides instead of looking at the structural dangers to our democracy,” said Democratic Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont, who is running to succeed Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, who announced his retirement.
On Jan. 6, Welch was in the Capitol, and the violence that day is forever seared in his mind.
He stated, “The principles that have been the cornerstone of our democracy, the free and peaceful succession of power and the renunciation of violence, they’ve been destroyed.”
Following Biden’s address in South Carolina, Senate Democrats redoubled their efforts to enact voting rights legislation as soon as possible in 2022. In an interview with ABC, the president indicated he supports making an exception to the Senate filibuster if it is necessary to enact voting rights legislation.
It was a surprising capitulation for Biden, who had spent four decades in the Senate, and it highlighted the intensity of the threat. And, he said, he understands that the rest of the world is watching to see how the country responds – and wondering if democracy can survive.
“Did you ever imagine another leader asking you that question?” Biden stated the following.