A favorite tune in the foreign information operations playlist is that democracies are in disarray, are inefficient, and do not deliver for citizens. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, China attacked the ability of democracies to handle crises, arguing the superiority of autocratic leadership, not hindered by checks and balances and able to enforce draconian restrictions. (Though today, unsurprisingly, China has dropped this take.) When Republican President Trump and his allies attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 elections and fomented an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, gleeful narratives from the Kremlin and Beijing flooded the infosphere.
Our foreign adversaries once again grabbed their popcorn and keyboards last week, as Congress descended into chaos with Republicans in the House unable to select a Speaker. The show at the Capitol feeds into the preexisting lack of trust in Congress and public frustration with politics, creating fertile opportunity for autocrats to gloat.