Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Coronavirus Pandemic Brings Threats to Democracy, Civil Liberties at Home and Abroad
Press Release

RELEASE: Coronavirus Pandemic Brings Threats to Democracy, Civil Liberties at Home and Abroad

Washington, D.C. — The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic crisis will have a profound effect on the world, including potential threats to democracy both at home and abroad, according to two new columns today from the Center for American Progress.

The first column describes how authoritarian regimes are taking advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak to tighten their grip at home while seizing the opportunity to advance their agenda abroad.

China, for example, has engaged in a broad disinformation campaign about the origins of the virus and seized on other opportunities to consolidate power and influence. The Russian government has stepped up its surveillance capabilities with tools could be used in the future to crack down on dissent.

The column outlines three clear trends of how authoritarian states have responded to COVID-19 in ways that could have ramifications that will last far beyond the pandemic response:

  • Consolidating power at home
  • Seeking geopolitical advantage amid the crisis
  • Trying to weaken democracies from within

A second column warns that to be strong in the face of foreign autocrats, the United States must be strong in its democracy at home. It urges the United States to conduct its domestic response to the coronavirus in a manner that signals to the world that democratic systems of government continue to represent the greater good for societies. That includes:

  • Producing results in a way that reinforces America’s democratic values
  • Countering misinformation campaigns by domestic voices and foreign powers
  • Safeguarding the November elections by investing more to make sure they are held in a timely, safe, and transparent way

Read the columns: “Authoritarian Regimes Seek to Take Advantage of the Coronavirus Pandemic” by James Lamond and “Don’t Let the U.S. Response to the Coronavirus Crisis Do More Damage to Democracy” by Brian Katulis and Trevor Sutton.

To find the latest CAP resources on the coronavirus, visit our coronavirus resource page.

For more information or to talk to an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at, or 202-478-6327.