In the aftermath of the generally calm, moderately successful Joe Biden-Vladimir Putin summit, some are anxious to announce that America is back, which, to some degree, is code for: “Trump is out, sanity has returned to the Oval Office.”
There’s a degree of truth to the idea of a rebirth of sanity in the Oval. But, in his post-summit Washington Post column, Fareed Zakaria takes issue with excessive “America is back” celebrations, based mostly on the continued reality-denying, Trump-defending behavior of most of the Republican Party, including the large portion of Republicans, including top officials, who continue to cling to the myth that the 2020 election was stolen and even that Trump will soon be returned to power.
Yes, Zakaria concedes, much of the democratic world is relieved to see Trump replaced by a saner, steadier, less mendacious, more “normal” president. But, he adds: “the story is not entirely positive,” because of the ongoing takeover of one of America’s two major parties by liars at the top and reality-deniers below. He writes:
One aspect of the United States’ power remains substantially diminished: its role as a beacon of democracy. Among countries surveyed, 57 percent of people said the United States is no longer the model for democracy it used to be. Young people worldwide are even more skeptical about America’s democratic institutions.
In one fundamental way, things look worse now than in prior periods of crisis. After Watergate, many were surprised that the world looked up to the United States for facing and fixing its democratic failures. It was a sign of the country’s capacity to course-correct. But imagine if, after that scandal, the Republican Party, instead of condemning [the disgraced former President] Richard] Nixon, had embraced him slavishly, insisted that he did absolutely nothing wrong, settled into denial and obstructionism and proposed new laws to endorse Nixon’s most egregious conduct? Imagine if the only people purged by the party had been those who criticized Nixon?
The decay of American democracy is real. It’s not a messaging or image problem. Until we can repair that, I’m not sure we can truly say America is back.