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Thu Jun 10, 2021, 12:02 PM

Advancing democracy abroad requires defending it at home


President Biden arrived in Europe on Wednesday having unabashedly declared that his is a mission on behalf of democracy. But democracy involves more than a list of principles. It’s also a set of practices and disciplines.

This fact led to an unusual moment on Monday when national security adviser Jake Sullivan briefed reporters on the president’s journey and turned his attention squarely to the home front.

“I would say the basic notion of democratic reform and voting rights in the United States is a national security issue,” Sullivan said. “We are in a competition of models with autocracies, and we are trying to show the world that American democracy and democracy writ large can work.”

By implicitly suggesting that a pro-democracy foreign policy would be undercut if Congress fails to pass the For the People Act and a new voting rights bill, Sullivan was not politicizing diplomacy. On the contrary, he was operating in a venerable post-World War II tradition.

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Just imagine the glee of autocrats in China, Russia and elsewhere when U.S. states passed laws that, among other things, allow election results to be cast aside by political bodies, stop volunteers from delivering food and water to voters in long lines, or make such lines more likely by sharply curtailing opportunities to vote early.

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