Monday, March 8, 2021

Secretary of State Antony Blinken Says Riots Hurt U.S. Reputation, but ‘Transparency’ Will Help

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that the United States’ reputation as an authority on democracy “took a hit” because of the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. However, he added that the United States’ desire to confront this challenge with full “transparency” sets the country apart from other countries that hide their societal struggles and reform efforts.

The Quote

Speaking on a Monday interview with CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, Blinken said:

“There’s no doubt that our ability to speak with that strong voice for democracy and human rights took a hit with what happened on January 6, what happened at the Capitol. But I gotta tell you, I actually see the glass as half-full on that because we had a peaceful transition of power pursuant to our Constitution. The grievous assault on Congress, what happened? Members of Congress came back, they came back to the Senate, they came back to the House, they came back to the halls of Congress and they did their job pursuant to the Constitution to ensure that we had a peaceful transition of power.”

“You know this so well throughout our history,” he continued, “we’ve had incredibly challenging moments, and sometimes we’ve taken our own steps backward. But what’s made us different is our willingness, our ability to confront these challenges with full transparency in front of the entire world. And that’s very unlike other countries that when they face challenges they try to sweep everything under the rug ignore it. repress it, push it back.”

“We’re doing this all out in the open,” he concluded. “Sometimes it’s incredibly difficult. Sometimes it’s ugly. But I think we have a very strong story to tell about the resilience of democracy, the resilience of our institutions and the determination of this country to always try to form a more perfect union.”

Antony Blinken capitol riots transparency
In a Monday CNN interview, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the United States’ “ability to speak with that strong voice for democracy and human rights took a hit with what happened” during the January 6 Capitol riots. However, he said that the nation’s “transparency” in accounting for what happened makes it different from other nations where similar insurrections have occurred.
Mark Makela/Getty

Why It Matters

Blitzer was asking Blinken about how the U.S. can credibly tout democratic values worldwide, particularly in response to the military coup happening in Myanmar, considering that the January 6 insurrection by people seeking to overturn our presidential elections, Blitzer said, pushed our democratic institutions “to the brink”

Foreign commentators have made similar criticisms. Pro-Chinese elements on social media have said that the Capitol riots proved “that ‘American-style democracy’ is on its deathbed.” Similarly, nations that had been previously targeted by the U.S. in efforts to overthrow their governments mocked the riots as just desserts and proof of U.S. domestic instability.

Now, as Myanmar faces a coup and Russia faces nationwide protests over Russian President Vladimir Putin allegedly poisoning and jailing his main political opponent Alexei Navalny, there is renewed pressure on President Joe Biden to reassert the United States as a stabilizing global force for democracy, particularly in contrast to former President Donald Trump‘s isolationist “America First” approach to international disengagement.

The Counterpoint

Arguably, the U.S. has yet to prove whether “transparency” will resolve its deeper democratic issues, especially as Trump faces his Senate impeachment trial for inciting the insurrection this week.

While former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the police quashing of the riots proved that the U.S. is not a “banana republic,” Democratic congress members like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have said that Republican colleagues are eager to “move on” without any accountability about how their party’s oft-repeated falsehoods of massive voter fraud contributed to the insurrection.

About 43 percent of the U.S. population still thinks that there was widespread voter fraud in the election, including 75 percent of Republican voters, even though Trump’s own election security agency, his Department of Justice and numerous court cases have said otherwise.

Regardless of whether the Senate impeaches Trump or not, a right-wing distrust in American elections will likely remain. In response, some Republican legislators have pushed for more stringent voting restrictions that could disenfranchise voters and deepen distrust in the U.S. democratic system overall.

Newsweek contacted the U.S. State Department for comment.

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