The prospect of an eventual second Donald Trump administration would have international repercussions. For Vladimir Putin, it would be a reason for rejoicing. For the governments of Western democracies, it would be a reason for concern. For Ukraine, it would be a catastrophe.
In 1835, in “Democracy in America,” French aristocrat Alexis Comte de Tocqueville described for his compatriots the experiment in self-government that was developing in the 13 North American colonies that had fought a war of independence against the British crown. At that time, the United States was a predominantly agricultural country with a total population of less than 13 million. Their form of government contrasted with those prevalent among European monarchies.
The viability of the experiment that de Tocqueville described was tested a couple of decades later by the secession of a confederation of southern states that sought to preserve and extend the institution of slavery. It took a bitter civil war to eradicate slavery and to ensure that, in the sober prose of President Abraham Lincoln, “[G]overnment of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Westward expansion, immigration and economic dynamism helped the United States become a world power in the late 19th century. However, within a transformed international context, democracy in the United States has once again become a relevant issue.
President Joe Biden describes the international situation as the contrast between democracy and autocracy. At the same time, he is aware that this confrontation within the U.S. has taken on dramatic characteristics.
The effectiveness of the international defense of democracy is closely linked to the strength of the rule of law and its prospects at the national level. Currently, a majority of the Republican Party in the United States has stopped believing in liberal democracy, influenced by a former president who refuses to acknowledge that he lost the 2020 presidential election by a margin of 7 million votes.
That same former president aspires to obtain the presidential candidacy in 2024, with an agenda to ignore the Constitution, exercise power without restrictions and take revenge on his enemies. In terms of international politics, his eventual victory would likely involve the suspension of military and financial support to Ukraine, the withdrawal of the United States from NATO and the bombing of the drug cartels in Mexico.
As can be imagined, the prospect of an eventual second Donald Trump administration has international repercussions: For Vladimir Putin and other autocrats, it would be a source of joy. For the governments of Western democracies, it would be a cause for concern. For Ukraine, it would be a catastrophe.
“Democracy Awakening,” a book written by history professor Heather Cox Richardson, an insightful analyst of current American politics, has just been published. She describes the historical conflict between the defenders of liberal democracy and its enemies. In the United States, that conflict is now existential.