(4) The "beacon of democracy" draws global criticism
The people of the world have a discerning eye. They see very well the flaws and deficiencies of democracy in the US, hypocrisy in exporting US "democratic values", and US acts of bullying and hegemony around the world in the name of democracy.
A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson once noted that the US is accustomed to posing as the "global beacon of democracy" and urging everyone else to take a humane approach to what they call "peaceful protests", but adopting completely opposite measures at home. She further noted that the US is "not a beacon of democracy", and that the US administration "would do well to, first of all, listen to its own citizens and try to hear them, instead of engaging in witch-hunts in their own country and afterwards talking hypocritically about human rights in other countries". The US is in no position to lecture other countries on human rights and civil liberties, she noted.
In May 2021, Latana, a German polling agency, and the Alliance of Democracies founded by former NATO Secretary General and former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, released a Democracy Perception Index which is based on a survey of over 50,000 people in 53 countries. The findings reveal that 44% of respondents are concerned that the US may pose a threat to democracy in their country, 50% of Americans surveyed are concerned that the US is an undemocratic country, and 59% of US respondents think that their government acts in the interest of a small group of people.
In June 2021, Brian Klaas, Associate Professor of Politics at University College London, contributed an article to The Washington Post entitled "The world is horrified by the dysfunction of American democracy". The article quotes data from Pew Research Center, which suggest that "America is no longer a ‘shining city upon a hill’" and that most US allies see democracy in the US as "a shattered, washed-up has-been", and that 69% of respondents in New Zealand, 65% in Australia, 60% in Canada, 59% in Sweden, 56% in the Netherlands and 53% in the United Kingdom do not think that the US political system works well. More than a quarter of people surveyed in France, Germany, New Zealand, Greece, Belgium and Sweden believe that American democracy has never been a good example to follow.
A report by the polling agency Eupinions indicates that the EU’s confidence in the US system has declined, with 52% of respondents believing the US democratic system does not work; 65% and 61% of respondents in France and Germany hold the same view.
In September 2021, Martin Wolf, a renowned British scholar, pointed out in his article "The strange death of American democracy" contributed to The Financial Times that the US political environment has reached an "irreversible" point, and "the transformation of the democratic republic into an autocracy has advanced".
In November 2021, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, a Sweden-based think tank, released The Global State of Democracy listing the US as a "backsliding democracy" for the first time. The Secretary General of the institute said that "the visible deterioration of democracy in the United States" is "seen in the increasing tendency to contest credible election results, the efforts to suppress participation (in elections), and the runaway polarization".
Indian political activist Yogendra Yadav points out that the United States is not "an exemplar of democracy", that the world has realized that the US needs to reflect on its democracy and learn from other democracies. Mexican magazine Proceso comments that behind a seemingly free and democratic facade, the US system of democracy has major flaws. Sithembile Mbete, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Sciences at the University of Pretoria, writes in an article published in Mail and Guardian that "many of the markers of free and fair elections – a universal voters’ roll, centralized election management, uniform rules and regulations – are absent in the American system. Much of what we Africans have been trained to recognize as good electoral conduct has never existed in the US."
America: no longer the beacon on the hill
– The Times of Israel
What is now imperative for the US is to get to work in real earnest to ensure its people’s democratic rights and improve its system of democracy instead of placing too much emphasis on procedural or formal democracy at the expense of substantive democracy and its outcome. What is also imperative for the US is to undertake more international responsibilities and provide more public goods to the world instead of always seeking to impose its own brand of democracy on others, use its own values as means to divide the world into different camps, or carry out intervention, subversion and invasion in other countries under the pretext of promoting democracy.
The international community is now faced with pressing challenges of a global scale, from the COVID-19 pandemic, economic slowdown to the climate change crisis. No country can be immune from these risks and challenges. All countries should pull together. This is the best way forward to overcome these adversities. Any attempt to push for a single or absolute model of democracy, use democracy as an instrument or weapon in international relations, or advocate bloc politics and bloc confrontation will be a breach of the spirit of solidarity and cooperation which is critical in troubled times.
All countries need to rise above differences in systems, reject the mentality of zero-sum game, and pursue genuine multilateralism. All countries need to uphold peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom, which are common values of humanity. It is also important that all countries respect each other, work to expand common ground while shelving differences, promote cooperation for mutual benefit, and jointly build a community with a shared future for mankind.