Reviews | The impact of January 6 is still being felt around the world
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Until January 6, one could have seen these developments through the prism of ordinary American politics, with its disagreements on issues such as trade, immigration and abortion. But the uprising marked the moment when a large minority of Americans showed a readiness to turn against American democracy itself and use violence to achieve its ends. What made January 6 a particularly alarming stain (and strain) for American democracy was the fact that the Republican Party, far from repudiating those who initiated and participated in the uprising, sought to normalize it and purge from his own ranks those who were prepared to tell the truth about the 2020 election heading into 2024, when Mr. Trump could call for a restoration.
The impact of this event is still being felt on the world stage. Over the years, authoritarian leaders have sought to manipulate election results and deny the popular will, such as Vladimir Putin of Russia and Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus. Conversely, the loss of electoral candidates in new democracies has often been accused of electoral fraud in the face of largely free and fair elections. This happened last year in Peru, when Keiko Fujimori contested his loss to Pedro Castillo in the second round of the country’s presidential election. Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro paved the way to challenge this year’s presidential election by attacking the workings of Brazil’s voting system, just as Mr. Trump spent preparing for the 2020 election undermining confidence in postal ballots.
Before January 6, such antics would have been seen as the behavior of young and incompletely consolidated democracies, and the United States would have raised its finger in condemnation. But this has now happened in the United States itself. America’s credibility in upholding a model of democratic good practice has been shattered.
This precedent is bad enough, but there are potentially even more dangerous consequences of January 6. The global decline in democracy has been led by two burgeoning authoritarian countries, Russia and China. The two powers have irredentist claims on the territory of others. President Putin has openly stated that he does not believe Ukraine is a legitimately independent country, but rather part of a much larger Russia. He massed troops on Ukraine’s borders and tested Western responses to potential aggression. Chinese President Xi has asserted that Taiwan will eventually have to return to China, and Chinese leaders have not ruled out the use of military force if necessary.
A key factor in any future military aggression by either country will be the potential role of the United States, which has given no clear security guarantees to either Ukraine or Taiwan, but has militarily supported and ideologically the efforts of these countries to become true democracies. .
If momentum had taken hold within the Republican Party to renounce the events of January 6 as it finally abandoned Richard Nixon in 1974, we might have hoped the country could emerge from the Trump era. But that did not happen, and foreign adversaries like Russia and China are watching this situation with boundless joy. If issues like vaccinations and wearing masks have become politicized and divisive, consider how a future decision to extend military support – or deny such support – to Ukraine or Taiwan would be greeted. Mr. Trump has undermined the bipartisan consensus that has existed since the late 1940s on strong U.S. support for a liberal international role, and President Biden has yet to be able to restore it.
America’s greatest weakness today is its internal divisions. Conservative pundits have traveled to illiberal Hungary in search of an alternative model, and a dismaying number of Republicans see Democrats as a greater threat than Russia.
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