US sees image tarnished abroad post-Jan. 6

A United States still deeply divided over Jan. 6 has hurt its standing overseas, tarnishing the reputation of a country that has long promoted democracy efforts abroad. 

The one-year anniversary of the Capitol riot marked not just a reflection point in the U.S., but also among allies and adversaries alike, who witnessed Democratic lawmakers largely gather on their own to remember a day when the democratic process in the United States came under a serious and violent challenge.

“Democracies in the rest of the world in Latin America, Asia, and Europe, recognized Jan. 6 for what it is. It was an attempted coup. It was an effort by a president to steal an election,” said Steven Levitsky, a democratization and authoritarianism expert at Harvard University and author of the book “How Democracies Die.” 

“There’s no debate or division in democratic societies about what happened in the United States — an effort to overturn an election. I think what is stunning … is that we now have a political party, a major political party in the United States that was unwilling to accept defeat. That’s an indicator of an authoritarian political party, an anti-democratic force.”  

The events leading up to and on Jan. 6 were closely followed by the world and watched in real time, with then-President TrumpDonald TrumpRon Johnson to run for reelection: reports On the Money — US reports meager job growth to finish 2021 Jan. 6 chair says panel will move this month to ask Pence to testify MORE’s false claims of election fraud spurring his supporters to violently disrupt Congress from certifying the election win for President BidenJoe BidenBiden addresses Coloradans after wildfires: ‘Incredible courage and resolve’ Ron Johnson to run for reelection: reports On the Money — US reports meager job growth to finish 2021 MORE.  

One European diplomat, speaking anonymously to be candid, said the riot put into stark relief the threat to democracies and raised questions of the U.S. strength in being able to overcome those challenges. 

“It was the first time that it came to the big public eye, ‘OK, there is a big problem in the U.S. democracy,’ ” the diplomat said of the attack. “The U.S. won’t be there all the time because they also have problems within their borders. I think it’s a bit of a call to action for the countries around the world and the allies, most of them, to be able to beef up their defenses both internally and externally.”    

Recent polling shows a diminishing regard for the U.S. and its guidance on democratic principles. 

A Pew survey of international respondents from 16 democratic societies, published in November, found that just 17 percent said democracy in the U.S. is a good example to follow, while 57 percent think it used to be a good example but has not been in recent years. 

“Jan. 6 has done real damage to America’s reputation with democratic allies, who have long viewed the United States as an anchor for stability and a democratic world order. … It’s partly about image, but more importantly, it’s about whether America will be able to retain the ability to lead the free…

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