On arriving in New York as a refugee aged 11, I soon became a proud and grateful American. Later, as a US diplomat, I often pointed to the country’s democratic institutions and venerable electoral process as models. Foreign friends endorsed this assessment. When people looked to the US, they generally liked what they saw.

In October 2020, those happy memories feel far away. Due to the antics of a president born with both a silver spoon and a forked tongue in his mouth, US democracy has been visibly and audibly debased. Watching the recent debate between Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, I felt as if I were trapped inside an erupting volcano with a howling dog. A president who claimed to represent law and order refused to abide by the debate rules his own campaign had accepted. He declined, as well, to condemn the forces of racial bigotry, or to promise to abide by the results of the election. Based on his record, none of this was surprising.

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