Biden’s Summit for Democracy should focus on rights, not economics and geopolitics

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President Joe Biden’s first “Summit for Democracy” is an opportunity for the United States to highlight civil liberties, freedom of conscience, and peaceful dissent at a moment in which democracy is in a fragile state around the world. Democracy is the only political system which can protect these freedoms: For authoritarian regimes of any form — single-party regimes like China, personalist dictatorships like Russia, or absolute monarchies like Saudi Arabia — criticism, mobilization, and dissent are no less than fundamental threats to the ruling order. The U.S. has long had an inconsistent record of democracy promotion around the world, and the record of democracy within the United States is uneven as well. The Biden administration views the work of the summit as building strategies to strengthen and defend democracies — the United States included — against authoritarianism.

The Summit for Democracy, however, has a larger…

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