If you look closely, you can see the common thread. The distance between them may be thousands of miles in geography and substance, but at the heart of both lies a concern about the future of democracy.
Whether it’s Ukraine fighting Russia’s efforts to destroy its independence as a democracy, or France resisting the populist far-right and apologist for Putin, or apprehension of what might happen to Twitter – that cauldron where conspiracy theories, electoral lies and disinformation campaigns can cook up a brew capable of infecting society and tearing the country apart – we are all witnessing. The great challenge of our time is playing around us.
The challenges to global democracy are deeply troubling, but they are not all bleak. Indeed, the current crises have created unexpected opportunities.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s campaign to wipe out the state of Ukraine and confront NATO has backfired on multiple fronts. By inadvertently strengthening and unifying NATO, strengthening Ukraine’s national identity and undermining Russia’s prestige, Putin may have created the conditions for strengthening the forces of democracy.
In the US, the country is still deeply divided, but it is uniting on the Ukraine issue with intense partisanship that was hard to imagine just a few months ago.
And of course, there is the question of whether former President Donald Trump — who used Twitter to rise to power and perpetuate a conspiracy theory about widespread election fraud that inspired a mob to attack the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 — will be brought back. Under Musk’s leadership in a move that could return him to the political spotlight ahead of the 2024 elections.
And the prospect of Twitter emerging even more spectacular amid a raging war already riddled with disinformation makes the danger all the more clear to democracy-conscious Americans at home and abroad.
This level of public support is the highest Gallup has found for refugee admissions since 1939. For context, only 26% said they supported bringing in 10,000 refugee children from Germany in 1939; 16% said they supported more Jewish and other European refugees than the law allowed for admission in 1946, just after World War II.
It is clear that the war in Ukraine has touched a nerve in the American psyche. Deep sympathy and concern for the Ukrainian people and anger over Putin’s attempt to usurp their freedom have led to a renewed appreciation for democracy.
But this growing consensus will not alone save America from ills. It will not alone reflect the tide of tyranny sweeping the world. However, it presents an opportunity. Americans don’t have to agree on everything. But going forward, the country needs to cooperate on at least two key points: the necessity for democracy to survive and respect for this fact. This consensus is not achieved very soon.
those who were worried about a pro-Putin populist victory in France; about turning Twitter into a more powerful weapon of disinformation, hate and division; And on the fate of Ukraine, he opened the door to responsible, eloquent and principled political leaders. They must seize the opportunity and try to bridge the widening divisions that have emerged in the United States in order to put it back on the path of transition to a stronger, unified and lasting democracy.