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Mihir Sharma

World Shouldn’t Laugh at U.S. Too Soon

Before gloating at America’s democratic stumbles, other countries should recognize how much stronger its institutions are than their own. 

Launching a thousand memes. 

Launching a thousand memes. 

Photographer: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

In much of the world, the sight of a mob storming the United States Capitol to keep their leader in office was met not just with horror but with, let’s face it, schadenfreude. Finally! The U.S., which has for decades lectured other democracies about their imperfections and failures, had an anti-democratic moment of its own. Some here in India responded in keeping with the honored traditions of this country — i.e., WhatsApp jokes (“Owing to Covid-19 travel restrictions, this year’s U.S.-backed coup will take place at home”). The Times of India’s banner headline was “Coup Klux Klan.”

Others’ humor was a little drier. The Russian foreign ministry, which has perfected the art of straddling provocation, irony and fact, noted mournfully that “the electoral system in the United States is archaic; it does not meet modern democratic standards,” which is particularly infuriating because of its exact truth. The Turkish press release sounded like officials had gleefully cut-and-pasted past advisories from the U.S. State Department, down to the advice that “Turkish citizens in the U.S. avoid crowded areas.”