Joe Biden wanted to convene a Summit of Democracies in his first year as president. COVID complicated matters, and the summit won’t happen before next year at the earliest. But even with the great strides the administration has made in taming the pandemic, a new question looms:
By the time the Summit of Democracies takes place, will the United States qualify to attend?
Biden has expressed his awareness of this problem. Indeed, if there is a single theme unifying his domestic and foreign policies it is his view that our biggest challenge at home and abroad is the struggle between pro-democratic and pro-authoritarian forces. In his first press conference, he called it “a battle between the utility of democracies in the 21st Century and autocracies.” While Biden has often spoken confidently of America’s ultimate victory in that battle, he also understands what he is up against. Framing the issue as “whether or not democracy functions in the 21st Century,” he cautioned journalists before his first big address to a joint session of Congress that “The question is: In a democracy…can you get consensus in the timeframe that can compete with autocracy?”