Dr. Zekeh S. Gbotokuma

G7 Industrialized Democracies Say Yes, But What About the Assault on Democracy at Home? 

By Dr. Zekeh S. Gbotokuma

“America is back” is a statement that we have heard over and over these days, not only from the 46th POTUS Joe Biden, not only from the American people, the majority of whom voted for the Biden-Harris Ticket in the presidential election 2020. America is back is also an honest diplomatic statement that is made abroad, especially by the U.S. friends and allies. Whenever there is a presidential election and transfer of power in the U.S. or elsewhere for that matter, foreign leaders send congratulatory messages to the new president regardless of how they really feel about him. In 2016, U.S. friends and allies – virtually all of whom were not necessarily happy with Trump’s shocking victory – congratulated the 45th POTUS. They also reiterated their congratulatory greetings to Trump when he showed up for the first time at the international gatherings. I had the opportunity to read, compare and contrast some of the congratulatory messages sent to both Presidents Trump and Biden. Trump ran for President to supposedly “take our country back.” But I do not recall any message to him interpreting his presidency as America is back in a positive way, except, of course, statements showing his presidency as going “back” to dark ages of racism, sexism, and other negative isms. Things have been quite different these days with President Biden. Industrialized democracies and U.S. allies have welcomed the 46th U.S. presidency as meaning, among other positive things, America is back. This is apparent in such statements as, “I’m delighted to see that the United States is back to work together with us in climate politics, “because there can be no doubt about the world needing your contribution, if we really want to fulfill our ambitious goals.” (Chancellor Angel German Chancellor Merkel statement at WH Climate Summit 2021). “It is so good to have the U.S. back on our side in the fight against climate change…” (European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen). 

Last week, Biden traveled to Europe for the first time as the 46th POTUS. The purpose of the travel was to attend the 47th G7 Summit in Cornwall, UK (11-13 June 2021), the NATO meeting in Brussels, Belgium, and Biden-Putin Summit (Geneva, Switzerland, 16 June). British PM Boris Johnson and Summit host welcomed Biden’s presidency as a “breath of fresh air.” This is an interesting statement from a foreign leader who was seen as “Trump’s clone” in the UK. From the very beginning of the European trip, Biden stated that “America is back at the table and in the business of leading the world. For seven decades or so, the POTUS has been the de facto leader of the free world. This has not been the case under Trump’s one-term presidency. That is why it is correct to refer to Biden’s presidency as the U.S. resumption of its role in the world. To fully understand this return, it is to understand what happened.

From 2016 to January 19, 2021, the American people and the international community were used to hearing phrases and slogans such as “America First,” Make America Great Again” (MAGA), and “Keep America Great.” These catchy phrases were not necessarily and intrinsically bad things about politics as “une sale cuisine” (French for dirty kitchen). During the presidential campaign in 2016, Donald Trump emerged as the Republican Party’s nominee to face Hilary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s nominee and demonstrably the most qualified candidate for the U.S. presidency. The American people had the opportunity to know both candidates and their fitness for the highest office of the land. Despite everything the voters knew about the GOP nominee, they – I mean the Electoral College – gave him the benefit of the doubt. After all the birther-in-chief was supposedly the author of the best-selling book, The Art of the Deal (1987). Anybody who could author that kind of “truthful hyperbole” was believed to be qualified and fit to be the President of the United States, right? Like most fellow Americans and many people around the world, my reaction was, “What a big joke!” After four years of Trumpocracy and Tweetocracy, the American people and the free world had many good reasons to doubt the benefits they were getting out of a scandal-rich and demonstrably corrupt and incompetent administration led by a Hitler-like Führer.

Inarguably, in addition to the alleged “collusion” or “this Russia thing” and the “quid pro quo” or the “perfect call” inviting a foreign country’s leader to interfere in the U.S. democratic process, the COVID-19 denialism and disastrous handling of the global pandemic were the coup de grâce for Trumpocracy’s “very stable genius.” The Art of the Deal did not become a miraculous recipe to really “Make America Great Again.” “America First” meant America alone and isolated in a spider’s web-like, warming, ‘coviding’ and unequal world, one that urgently needs solidarity, democracy, leadership and collaboration more than greed, megalomania, autocracy, and competition. The U.S. loss of global leadership through partnership and self-respect was on display during international gatherings, from the UN General Assembly to G7 Summits where participants laughed at the 45th POTUS. At the G7 Summit 2018 in Charlevoix, Canada, for example, Trump showed his lack of understanding of and respect for international law by demanding the return to the G8 formula through the readmission of Russia. This former member was expulsed from the Group as a punishment due to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Trump’s strange behavior at that summit resulted in the reference to G7 as “G6+1” or even worse, as “G7-1” (G7 minus one), ‘one’ being the U.S.  Moreover, Trump’s antagonistic and isolationist behavior towards the NATO allies while praising the adversary Russian President V. Putin became so obvious and troublesome that European allies started questioning the American Exceptionalism and U.S. reliability as an ally and thinking of alternatives. There was nothing or very little, if anything, to “Make America Great.” Nobody can be great alone. Consequently, there was no good reason to “Keep America Great,” except for those who put the party and “Me the President” before the country and “We The People.” America stopped being great for four years. The American people got it. They voted their conscience and patriotically in November 2020 and removed Trump from the Oval Office. By then, a lot of damage was already done.

The Biden-Harris winning ticket meant “America is back.” Back from the debacle of Tweetocracy. Back to Build Back Better domestically and globally. The victory marked the beginning of a difficult but not impossible mission, that is, first and foremost, to fight and win the war on COVID-19 with science, not political science; second, to fix what was broken, domestically and globally. Domestically, there is a need for unity and healing. Four years of Trumpism has contributed to the worsening of socioeconomic problems, the ethnic antagonism that was exacerbated by the endless police brutality, especially the murder of George Floyd, followed by Black Lives Matter-led global protests, and recently, the COVID-related exponential increase of hate crimes, the most recent of which were directed at the Asian Americans and Pacific Islander communities. Moreover and equally important for “the first modern democracy,” the USA must deal with the assault on democracy. During and after the election year 2020, we have witnessed anti-democratic phenomena, some of which have indicated that the U.S. democracy is in jeopardy. For example, before the presidential election 2020, Trump expressed his unwillingness to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. Instead, he preferred talking about a “continuation thereby causing the fear of backsliding into autocracy and constitutional crisis. He showed his intention to undermine democracy by suggesting an election delay and getting rid of the ballots, and sabotaging USPS. He pressured the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to expedite the confirmation of the late Justice Ginsburg’s replacement as part and parcel of his plan for the post-election fight, if he happened to lose. After losing reelection, he has never conceded defeat.  Instead, he did everything he possibly could, lawful and unlawful, to overturn the election results. Claiming without proofs that the election was fraudulent, he brought the matter to numerous courts and lost. He used the Department of Justice to hopefully support his lies. He pressed Georgia’s Secretary of State to help him find votes that were not there. His big lie about winning the election led to the insurrection or the assault on Capitol on January 6, 2021. 

What was worrisome for the U.S. democracy was the fact that despite the overwhelming evidence of Trump’s responsibility for the insurrection, Trumpublican senators failed to indict and prevent him from ever holding public office. Six months after Trump’s defeat, he is still delusional, in denial, and hoping to be reinstated in August 2021. Moreover, Trump’s big lie has led to the proliferation of “Jim Crow 2.0” and voter suppression laws in many states, including but not limited to Georgia, Florida, Texas, Arizona, etc. The assault on democracy and “Democracy and Demographics in the USA” (Gbotokuma 2020) has gone beyond voter suppression mechanisms. It has included the growing opposition to critical race theory (CRT) that Trump supported when he signed an Executive Order banning federal contractors from conducting racial sensitivity training. President Biden rescinded the ban on diversity training about systemic racism. He believes that “unity and healing must begin with understanding and truth, not ignorance and lies.” Yes, America is back, but its global leadership will be undermined or diminished, unless and until the country stops the ongoing assault on democracy and diversity.

Globally, there is an urgent need to repair U.S. image in the world through better foreign policies. To this end and to begin with, Biden’s COVID-19 and climate diplomacies have been very effective. This is apparent in Pew Research Center’s latest findings showing that “America image abroad rebounds with transition from Trump to Biden.” According to June 12, 2021, findings, “The election of Joe Biden as president has led to a dramatic shift in America’s international image. Looking at 12 nations surveyed both this year and in 2020, a median of 75% express confidence in Biden, compared with 17% for Trump last year.” It is an understatement to refer to Biden’s COVID-19 diplomacy as part and parcel of the 46th POTUS’ COVID-19 Marshall Plan to “BUILD BACK BETTER FOR THE WORLD.” In June, the WH “laid out a plan for the U.S to share 25 million surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to the world” (O’Donnell and Mason 2021. Moreover and more important, President Biden announced that the U.S. government will purchase and donate 500 million Pfizer vaccine doses, thereby making the war on COVID-19 a matter of national interest and global leadership  as well as the major focus of the 47th G7 Summit. He challenged other G7 leaders to donate vaccine doses and they responded positively by promising to provide for 1 billion doses over the next year (See CARBIS BAY G7 SUMMIT COMMUNIQUÉ). Last but not least, Biden’s decision to rejoin Paris Climate Accord is another way for America to be back and lead in a concerted effort to save our planet. The WH Earth Day and Climate Summit last April with 40 nations was the first major international political event preceding the Biden-Harris administration’s First 100 Days, the address to the joint session of Congress on April 28, the 47th G7 Summit, the NATO meeting in Brussels, and Biden-Putin Summit in Geneva. Yes, America is back, fired up, and ready to act as a respected member of the international community

Dr. Zekeh S. Gbotokuma earned a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Gregorian University and a post-doctoral diploma in International Studies from the Italian Society for the International Organization, all in Rome. He is the Founder & President of Polyglots in Action for Diversity, Inc. (PAD) & Associate Professor of Philosophy, Morgan State University. He is the author and editor of, among others, Democracy and Demographics in the USA (2020: Paperback: https://amzn.to/2KbcOUV eBook: https://amzn.to/35BsCbN); Global Safari (2015); A Pan-African Encyclopedia (2003). CONTACT: Zekeh.Gbotokuma@morgan.edu

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