Vice President Kamala Harris issued a dire warning about the state of U.S. democracy on Sunday, saying the United States is at risk of losing its standing in the world if Congress doesn’t pass legislation protecting voting rights in the coming year.
Harris’ warning matched the White House’s renewed energy around voting rights over the past couple weeks, and it spoke to the reality — reported at home and abroad — that voter suppression has weakened America’s standing in the eyes of the world.
Harris addressed that loss of credibility during an episode of CBS’ "Face the Nation":
“We have been a role model saying, ‘You can see this and aspire to this and reject autocracies and autocratic leadership,’” Harris said. “Right now, we’re about to take ourselves off the map as a role model, if we let — if we let people destroy one of the most important pillars of a democracy, which is free and fair elections.”
Republican-led legislatures across the country have unleashed an arsenal of voting laws to restrict access to the ballot and discourage many Americans from voting. Even prior to the vice president’s comments, there were already signs that these laws have diminished America’s standing as a global, democratic power.
During a November visit to the U.S., a top United Nations human rights official warned about America’s dwindling democracy.
“I conclude that there is in fact what could be described as an undermining of democracy, with a phenomenal number of legislative measures in different parts of the country, which have the effect — whether it’s intentional or not — but it certainly has the effect of making the exercise of the right to vote more difficult for certain minorities,” Fernand de Varennes, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on minority human rights issues, said.
“It is becoming unfortunately apparent that it is almost a tyranny of the majority, where minorities’ right to vote are being denied in many areas, many parts of the country and that this cannot be a positive development,” de Varennes observed. “This cannot be consistent with the fundamental values of democracy and certainly does not seem to be consistent with the United States’ human rights obligations.”
That’s consistent with a recent report that listed the United States as one of the world’s “backsliding democracies.”
“The United States, the bastion of global democracy, fell victim to authoritarian tendencies itself, and was knocked down a significant number of steps on the democratic scale,” according to International IDEA’s “Global State of Democracy Report 2021.”
Of course, that followed the Jan. 6 insurrection, another antidemocratic attack on free and fair voting that evoked horrified reactions from leaders across the globe.
Now, world leaders have taken note of America’s growing illiberalism, as Harris asserted. Other nations won’t unsee what they’ve seen; the only question is how grave an impact the United States’ antidemocratic swing will have on the rest of the globe.