Former President Donald Trump’s four-year campaign against American democracy and the rights of so many Americans did not take place in isolation: It was enabled and succored by fellow authoritarian populists, both at home and abroad. Internationally, Trump allied his presidency with autocrats and dictators of the far right, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman, India’s Narendra Modi, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte. What Trump wrought in the United States—the incitement of a violent insurrection to overturn the results of a free and fair election; contempt for the rule of law, an independent judiciary and a free media; assaults on the freedoms of speech, press, religion and peaceful protest; demagogic attacks on immigrants and religious, racial, ethnic and sexual minorities; and the looting of the public coffers for personal enrichment—found echoes in the behavior of his political allies in other nations.
The defeat of Trump in the November 2020 election, and the failure of his efforts to overturn the results of that election, was a victory for American democracy. His toppling from power struck an important blow against the global alliance of the anti-democratic far-right faux populists. It has heartened people fighting for democracy and human rights the world over.
The Joe Biden-Kamala Harris administration represents a U.S. government committed to working with democratic allies and supporting democratic movements against authoritarian rule. President Biden’s recent telephone call with Putin, in which he confronted the Russian leader over his interference in the U.S. elections and his domestic repression, is a sign of a new commitment to democratic principles in the White House. The deep damage of four years of a Trump presidency will not be quickly vanished; much needs to be done to secure democracy, both domestically and internationally. But with persistent and principled efforts, the United States can become a trusted defender of human rights and a friend of democracy. The American Federation of Teachers will support the Biden-Harris administration in that important work.
Today, the AFT stands in solidarity with those courageous forces worldwide who are fighting for democracy and human rights against autocratic rulers. Among them, we take particular note of:
- Alexei Navalny, a dissident leader who has been the target of assassination attempts by the brutal regime of Putin, and the many thousands of Russians who are now protesting Navalny’s detention;
- The democratic activists of Belarus, who have bravely resisted for months the theft of an election by the autocratic Alexander Lukashenko regime;
- The pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, where labor unionists and pro-democracy activists have fought for basic political freedoms in the face of political repression, including the arrest of many political leaders, by the Chinese state;
- The “women’s strike” and movement to support the rights of LGBTQ people in Poland, where the autocratic government of the Law and Justice Party has targeted their freedom;
- The teachers and education support workers of Jordan, who, despite governmental crackdowns and arrests, continue to assert their right to exist, organize and make their voices heard; and
- The people of Burma/Myanmar, who are resisting the recent coup d’état and detention of the country’s elected leaders by the armed forces.
(Adopted Feb. 3, 2021)(2021)