Operation Grant quickly realized what the rest of the world already understood: America’s increasingly diminished role as the undisputed leader of the free world under Donald Trump imperils democracies worldwide.
As one international correspondent told us in Cleveland prior to the first presidential debate, the U.S. presidential election is more than just a passing interest in his country. His country is closely following America’s election because of the direct impact its outcome will have on his country’s civil liberties.
Americans are rightly concerned about balance of trade issues, currency manipulators, nuclear proliferation, and international terrorism. But our overarching value to the rest of the free world remains America’s ability and willingness to project its moral authority to hold oppressive regimes in check and promote freedom around the world.
The free world needs a strong, healthy, stable, and dependable America to meet the never-ending challenges of rogue regimes that oppress, torture, assassinate and imprison their own citizens.
Indeed, the international interest is a testament to the danger the future might hold for America’s friends and allies from a second Trump term. A second Trump term would likely accelerate America’s descent toward authoritarianism and isolationist policies, which would destroy our traditional post-World War II leadership role in promoting democracy, freedom, and the rule of law internationally.
Countries like France, Germany, Belarus, South Korea, and Japan are democracies that will face increasing pressure from Russia, China, and North Korea if the U.S. re-elects Donald Trump.
The electoral madness generated from Trump’s intentional disinformation, his schizophrenic interruptions and bullying during the first debate, his open questioning of America’s ballot integrity, and his refusal to call out white supremacists, further frees authoritarian actors to run roughshod over civil and human rights around the globe.
For example, despite his trade war, Trump has turned a blind eye to China’s increasingly heavy hand in Hong Kong. China has arrested student protesters, detained outspoken opposition publisher Jimmy Lai, and intensified its horrific persecution and detention of the Muslim-minority Uighurs.
Likewise, Russia’s brazen poisoning of Putin’s primary opposition leader Alexi Navalny goes, not only unpunished, but ignored by Trump, as does the arrest of nearly 7,500 citizens protesting the rigged re-election of Russian puppet Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus.
And let us not forget the murder and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which was determined by the CIA to be committed with the approval of the crown prince Mohammad bin Salman’s Saudi Arabian government.
The Trump Administration has abdicated its role as the political and moral champion of liberal democracy as a force for good in the world. In fact, many now openly question whether the president of the United States is truly the “leader of the free world,” a thought completely unthinkable prior to Trump’s presidency.
The world is holding its collective breath to see whether the U.S. will return to a strong re-affirmation of its core democratic principles and values under a Biden administration, or its continued authoritarian slide under Donald Trump.
So while Belarus and Bucyrus, Ohio are half-a-world apart, their futures are intertwined in this election – from the integrity of its elections to the supremacy of the rule of law as a governing principle. This fall, Ohioans would be wise to vote as if their own freedom depended upon it.
Because, as the rest of the world already knows, it does.
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Chris Gagin is a former Belmont County GOP Party chair who resigned his position after witnessing President Trump’s behavior with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in 2018. He is a director of Defending Democracy Together and a team leader at OperationGrant.org. Melinda Zemper is a West Chester, Ohio, writer and volunteer with Operation Grant.