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An Interview with Ruth Ben-Ghiat

Summary:
Project Syndicate: Before last November’s presidential election, you wrote that the “mere possibility” that a sitting US president would “foment political violence if the outcome doesn’t go his way” was symptomatic of a degraded democratic political climate.” That possibility came to pass with the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, which Donald Trump incited. But many believe that Joe Biden’s subsequent inauguration shows that US democratic institutions weathered the test. Have they? What steps must the Biden administration take – especially in the next two years, while the Democrats have a slim congressional majority – to combat America’s “democratic erosion”?Ruth Ben-Ghiat: We must use this window of opportunity to enact measures that reflect and

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Project Syndicate: Before last November’s presidential election, you wrote that the “mere possibility” that a sitting US president would “foment political violence if the outcome doesn’t go his way” was symptomatic of a degraded democratic political climate.” That possibility came to pass with the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, which Donald Trump incited. But many believe that Joe Biden’s subsequent inauguration shows that US democratic institutions weathered the test. Have they? What steps must the Biden administration take – especially in the next two years, while the Democrats have a slim congressional majority – to combat America’s “democratic erosion”?

Ruth Ben-Ghiat: We must use this window of opportunity to enact measures that reflect and reinforce the bedrock democratic principles of transparency, accountability, and solidarity. That means, for starters, instituting a much more rigorous procedure for vetting presidential candidates, including disclosure of financial records and foreign and domestic business interests.

We must also hold elected officials and candidates responsible for the language they use. Rogue statements, such as Trump’s January 2016 boast that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose voters, should have consequences.

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