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The 46th President of the U.S., Joe Biden has promised to hold “a global Summit for Democracy,” this year, soon after assuming office. At present, the majority of the world’s nations are democracies. The spike in democracies began after World War-II, before that many countries were autocratic or oligarchic, being ruled by Kings or dictators. In contrast, a democracy by its very nature is liberal. This liberal democracy came under threat under Trump’s Presidency, is the opinion of many. The U.S. is the oldest currently extant democracy in the world, as the country attained independence in 1776 from British rule whereas India, after regaining sovereignty in 1947, though it had very different political traditions voluntarily embraced liberal democracy to bring equality to all citizens under the law and to grant constitutionally mandated common rights and privileges under one nation.
It was the Europeans that occupied the American continent soon after the discovery. In the 18th century by spreading the prevailing philosophy of enlightenment they provided an unprecedented extension of democracy to America. In return the United States frequently tries to propagate and preserve democracy in other nations although it has also hatched or fostered military coups and happily protected dictators in many parts of the world. Knowing this American affectation, neighbouring Pakistan tries to showcase itself as a democracy, although in a bonsai-form, to please Washington in particular and the West in general.
To many academics in America: liberal democracy is the highest-form or end-state of human development. When the very foundations of American liberal democracy were shaken by Donald Trump (by his style of functioning and rhetoric which led to the instigated insurrection around the Capitol on Jan 6 this year), to revive faith in democracy became imperative for Joe Biden as a liberal democrat. However, Biden and his party as well as the Leftist intellectuals who support them at home, never try to introspect as to why Trumpism has taken roots into American democracy.
The issues before Biden at the home front are to be sorted out first. But for, Covid-19 Pandemic that caused huge loss of lives – and the absurd conspiratorial theories propagated by the QAnon- and Trump himself being unscientific by belittling the seriousness of the Coronavirus – calling it a hoax – which helped the contagion to spread, Biden might not have come to power. The moderate Republican voters wanted decency in discourse and civility in society. So, it is said that some of them joined hands with Democrats to defeat Trump. In politics timing is everything and it favoured Biden this time.
In any case, Trump’s America First slogan to give employment to Americans, his policies on: Immigrants, liberal media, China are still alive in the public space. The right-wing groups still continue calling to debate them. They are capable of bending the liberal curve downward further in history. Unless, the liberal moral policing stops, Biden cannot move forward to bring-in his much desired “unity” in America.
The threat to American democracy or elsewhere in Europe is regarding demographics. Mass migration to Western-European countries from other nations (Syria, Turkey, Algeria, Libya etc.) brought-in much resentment among the natives. That empowered the far right in all those countries. Biden needs to address that issue of immigration at the home-front to dispel fears among people, instead of calling it tribalism. Globalisation and outsourcing of jobs have made the middle-class, especially, the rust-belt Americans poor. Since the manufacturing sector is in the doldrums, many in America are jobless. Earlier, when the Europeans progressed industrially and achieved better material conditions it made democracy possible. Of course, Biden’s recent step of increasing the federal minimum wage to more than double, evinces a realisation of the problem at hand. Where there is vast material inequality/disparity among people, socialism and communism take roots. America has always been at the forefront to aid poor nations economically to stem the spread of Communism. Never forget, in history – social, political and economic disparity led to the French Revolution. Economic welfare for all, makes a country progress. No wonder, the sages of India called for: Sarve Jana Sukheno Bhavantu (Let all people have a peaceful and comfortable life) thousands of years ago.
Now, the very democracy of the U.S., faces acute challenges on many fronts. Immigrants from other countries were, once upon a time, welcomed with open-arms. Now, they are treated as job-stealers. Added to that, the unregulated social media is brain-washing people and peddling, at times, false and concocted information. This is not to say that, before the advent of social media the news media in the liberal democracy was hunky-dory. The mainstream media used to project only one point of view or at most two i.e., the liberal and the more conservative position. The media used to hush up or silence other opinions by either labelling them hate-speech or by not reflecting them. They thought in their wisdom that those voices die down eventually. Truly it was already a tacit form of the current cancel culture prevalent then.
With the election of President Joe Biden, the battle between the right and the left in America is not yet over. As truly pointed out by Chua and Ruben Feld (in their article: Is democracy dying?), “American on both the left and the right now view their political opponents not as fellow Americans with differing views, but as enemies to be vanquished. And they have come to view the Constitution not as an aspirational statement of shared principles and a bulwark against tribalism, but as a cudgel with which to attack those enemies”. Hence, Biden needs to set his house in order, keeping in view the new hopes and sensibilities of people. Biden’s prioritised issues for the Global Summit for Democracy viz.: fighting corruption, authoritarianism and advancing human rights in democracies, would automatically take care of a society that is expected to have democratic element in government.