On December 9th, 2021, Biden delivered his opening remarks for The Summit for Democracy. The summit has been met with widespread criticism both internally and from abroad. Many feel that the U.S. shouldn't be lecturing other nations about the state of their democracies, when things are in a state of disaster at home. 85% Of Americans now say their political system needs to change. Over 800,000 Americans have died from Covid 19, half don't even have money for an emergency, 46 million can't afford health care during a pandemic, 50 million Americans believe the last election was stolen, over half of Americans disapprove of the current president, and in the last 20 years, two candidates won a Presidential election even though they didn't have the popular vote—Trump and George W. Bush.

The summit, thought up by US President Joe Biden, saw representatives from 110 countries meet via video link. Russia and China were not invited. Yet other countries were invited that had a questionable record in terms of their own democracies. According to Time, more than 30 percent of the 110 invited countries are classified by U.S.-based non-profit Freedom House as only “partly free,” three were “not free” at all—Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Iraq. More than a dozen are classified by Sweden’s V-Dem Institute as “electoral autocracies” including the Philippines, India and Kenya.

Aiming to put substance behind the rhetoric of the summit, the White House announced that same day that President Biden planned to work with Congress to spend about $424 million to support independent news media overseas, combat corruption, aid activists, advance technology and defend fair elections. The administration also stated that it intended to combat “digital authoritarianism” through greater export controls of technologies that can empower surveillance states. (New York Times, 12-9-21). Particulars of how each initiative would work were discussed at the summit in sessions on elections, technology, the rule of law and human rights.

Officials from Russia and China spoke out against the summit.

In November of 2021, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused Washington of trying to privatize the word ‘democracy.’ “We fought hard in the early 1990s to reduce and remove dividing lines, but now the United States prefers to create new dividing lines and split countries into good ones, in their view, and bad ones, also in their view,” he told reporters.

Wang Wenbin, the Chinese foreign minister, also issued his own rebuke of U.S. hypocrisy on democracy and human rights. Check out his facebook post.

While derision from the governments excluded from the summit might be expected, even U.S. officials concede that America’s republic is straining under political polarization, racial injustice and discord, voting rights restrictions and domestic extremism, among other issues. And some activists are urging President Biden to devote more attention to problems at home before turning his focus abroad.

“You can’t try to export and defend democracy globally when you can’t protect it domestically,” said Cliff Albright, a co-founder and executive director of the Black Voters Matter Fund, a progressive nonprofit group in Atlanta. “You can’t be the global fireman when your house is on fire.” (New York Times, 12-9-21)

Time also pointed out the hypocrisy of the summit."Narendra Modi, Rodrigo Duterte and Jair Bolsonaro walk into a democracy summit. But this isn’t a joke. Having recently abandoned Afghanistan to an Islamist autocracy and famine, and now finalizing a $650 million arms sale to Saudi Arabia, President Joe Biden thought it would be a fine idea to hold a two-day virtual gathering on democracy, where some of its worst offenders could pose as responsible upholders of freedom and dispense homilies on how to save the world from those like themselves..."


The Summit For Democracy (U.S. State Department)

Joe Biden’s Democracy Summit Is the Height of Hypocrisy (TIME, 12-10-21)

Biden Rallies Global Democracies as U.S. Hits a ‘Rough Patch’ (New York Times, 12-9-21)

Global Perspectives on Biden’s Democracy Summit (Council of Councils)

Citizens in Advanced Economies Want Significant Changes to Their Political Systems (Pew Research)