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Democratic institutions only work when people believe in them

Seeing images of people storming the U.S. Capitol in order to challenge the certification of the recent presidential election was disturbing, but not surprising. Throughout the past several years, Americans living abroad have experienced waking up to unsettling headlines from the U.S. on a regular basis – pulling up the news with a „nothing surprises me anymore“ mindset.

I’ll admit that I had lost faith in the democratic system that the United States has worked so hard to build and maintain over the past few centuries. Like many people from the outside looking in, I was confused to be witnessing what appeared to be the unravelling of the world’s most powerful democratic system. Our government had become the subject of widespread mockery.

It wasn’t until the 2020 U.S. presidential election that I regained a sense of hope and pride in my home country. Voter turnout reached record highs. 160 million of my fellow citizens felt compelled to exercise their democratic right to have their voices heard, trusting that their vote would have an impact in the future direction of America. Watching the election results come in was a thing of beauty and honestly brought tears to my eyes.

Democratic institutions only work when people believe in them.

I’m an optimist at heart, and do think that shining light on the many cracks in America’s foundation will serve as the impetus to tackle these longstanding challenges head on. It is blatantly obvious to everyone that there is work to be done. A new administration will not solve all of our problems, but it certainly is a step in the right direction.

A guest commentary by the American and human rights expert Elisabeth Aljalloud, Aachen