Mr. President, Let’s Get Our House In Order First

Mhambi Musonda
3 min readJun 9, 2021

Before the United States of America goes about preaching the ideals of democracy to external nations, we must fix ourselves first.

President Biden must focus on shoring up democracy at home before touting democracy overseas. Doug Mills/The New York Times

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden will depart for Europe on his maiden foreign trip as president of the United States. In an Op-Ed published by The Washington Post, the President explains that his trip to Europe is focused on America renewing its relationships with European countries and confronting China and Russia’s growing ambitions. ¨This trip is about realizing America’s renewed commitment to our allies and partners and demonstrating the capacity of democracies to both meet the challenges and deter the threats of this new age. Whether it is ending the covid-19 pandemic everywhere, meeting the demands of an accelerating climate crisis, or confronting the harmful activities of the governments of China and Russia, the United States must lead the world from a position of strength.¨

President Biden’s decision to travel to Europe for the first international trip of his presidency is apt. Under the previous administration, we saw a president who showed blatant indifference towards our long-standing democratic allies in Europe most notably—NATO, the European Union, and the G7. Trump even advocated for the readmission of Russia into the Group of Seven nations in May of 2020. Former President Donald Trump´s perspicuous disdain and incomprehension of international liberalism were clear during his incumbency. Trump repeatedly buttressed and was buttressed by autocratic leaders like Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Kim Jong-Un of North Korea, Xi Jinping of China, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

Trump consistently exhibited contumelious deportment towards our allies. For example, deriding Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as ¨weak and very dishonest.¨

During his tenure as President, Trump repeatedly exhibited his hauteur towards the liberal international order. His administration withdrew the United States from multilateral agreements and organizations such as the Paris Climate Accord, Iran Nuclear Deal, Trans-Pacific Partnership, and World Health Organization. Trump repeatedly impugned the United Nations, NATO, and the World Trade Organization. His administration imposed sanctions on the International Criminal Court for investigating American war crimes committed during the Afghanistan War. Trump’s contempt for liberalism domestically was more conspicuous.

During his incumbency, Donald Trump violated basic democratic standards expected from the president of the United States. From personally profiting his businesses, refusing to disclose his tax returns, refusing government oversight, interfering with the activities of the Department of Justice, abusing appointment powers, using incendiary discourse to stir up dangerous elements within our body politic, politicizing the military and judicial branch. Trump politicized American foreign policy for his political benefit, undermined our intelligence agencies, perverted the pardon power, used government resources to advance his interests, injured public confidence in the public health community, and most ignominiously subverted the very foundation of liberal democracy—the peaceful transfer of power from one duly elected president to another. Donald Trump’s attrition of America’s democratic culture and international liberalism will ensue for decades to come on the national and international stage.

President Biden cannot tout America’s democratic facsimile to our allies in Europe this week, not while a defeated former President and his allies continue to spread “The Big Lie” that the 2020 presidential election was replete with irregularities large enough to tip the scale towards Joe Biden. We cannot tout democratic norms when we had a former President who so flagrantly disregarded standards of practice every modern President has followed. We cannot preach about the imperative of accepting the results of a free and fair election when Trump supporters stormed the sanctuary of American democracy — the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, to nullify the votes of 81 million Americans who voted for Joe Biden & Kamala Harris in November and Republican officials in states, President Biden won (Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Georgia) are challenging the validity of votes cast for Mr. Biden.

The United States of America alongside our allies in Europe has led the post-World War II, international liberal order for over 70 years. The past four years under the Trump administration tested that the robustness of liberal democracy internationally and domestically.

The defining conundrum of our time will be: How can the United States of America champion liberalism abroad when we refuse to champion liberalism at home?