More than one year into the Donald J. Trump administration, it has become obvious that the White House has little interest in using the bully pulpit, or U.S. funds, for promoting democracy and human rights globally. The White House has submitted a FY19 budget that aims to drastically slash funding for the National Endowment for Democracy and other democracy promotion programs, cutting funding overall for democracy and rights promotion by 40 percent and seemingly trying to reduce the power of the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute.
Certainly, having a U.S. administration uninterested in, if not disdainful of, rights and democracy promotion is a significant blow for rights and democracy campaigners in many states. But the void of rights and democracy advocacy left by Trump—and likely to be maintained, in many ways, by future U.S. presidents, due to the growing isolationism of the U.S. public—could be filled by other world leaders, as they realize that the United States is unlikely to return to the same role in democracy promotion that it had in the past. No one state, of course, can make up for a dramatic shift in U.S. policy on democracy promotion. But, other rich democracies, and powerful developing democracies, can step into the breach. They may never match the single bully pulpit of a U.S. president, but together, they could prove a powerful voice against the global democratic regression.
For more on how other states could fill the democracy promotion void, see my new World Politics Review column.