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Biden pushed to speak out more as US democracy concerns grow

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has gotten the same troubling questions from worried world leaders, ones that he never thought he would hear.

“Is America going to be all right?” they ask. “What about democracy in America?”

While Biden has tried
to offer America’s allies assurances, he has only occasionally emphasized the gravity of the threat to democracy from the Jan.
6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the repeated lie from the man he defeated, Donald Trump, that the 2020 election was stolen. And he’s not discussed the very real concerns about
a growing collection of insurrection sympathizers installed in local election posts and changes by Republicans to election laws in several states.

Now, as the anniversary of that deadly day nears, the Democratic president is being urged to reorder priorities and use the powers of his office to push voting rights legislation that its adherents say could be the only effective way to counter the rapidly emerging threats to the democratic process.

The tension in Biden’s approach reflects his balancing of the urgent needs of Americans to make progress on the highly visible issues of the coronavirus pandemic and the economy and the less visible, but equally vital, issue of preserving trust in elections and government.

The president plans to deliver a speech on Jan.
6 focused on sustaining democracy — voting rights won’t be part of the remarks but will be the topic of another speech soon, White House aides said. In his recent commencement address at South Carolina State University, Biden’s tone on the need for voting rights legislation took on added urgency.

“I’ve never seen anything like the unrelenting assault on the right to vote. Never,” Biden said, adding, “This new sinister combination of voter suppression and election subversion, it’s un-American, it’s undemocratic, and sadly, it is unprecedented since Reconstruction.”

And the world is taking notice. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, also has said that the riot at the Capitol has altered the view many countries have of the United States.

“Jan. 6 has had a material impact on the view of the United States from the rest of the world, I believe from allies and adversaries alike,” Sullivan said recently at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Allies look at it with concern and worry about the future of American democracy. Adversaries look at it, you know, more sort of rubbing their hands together and thinking, How do we take advantage of this in one way or another?”

In contrast, Republicans in numerous states are promoting efforts to influence future elections by installing sympathetic leaders in local election posts and backing for elective office some of those who participated in the insurrection. White House officials insist Biden’s relative reticence should not be interpreted as complacency with the growing movement to rewrite history surrounding the Jan. 6 riot. Rather, they say, the president believes the most effective way to combat Trump, election denialism and domestic extremism is to prove to the rest of the country — and to the world — that government can work.

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