When Joe Biden announced he was running for president two years ago, he couched his quest as a “battle for the soul of this nation.” In those pre-pandemic days, he said he decided to run after watching neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville and hearing then-President Donald Trump declare there were “very fine people on both sides.” America’s “very democracy,” Biden said, was at stake.

Since then, the country and the world have endured a devastating crisis, and Biden’s aspirations have grown to match. Listen to him now. He’s not just trying to restore the soul of America; his aim is to save democracy around the globe.

The message was clear in Biden’s first address to Congress on Wednesday, when he restated what has become a common theme: “We have to prove that democracy still works.”

Biden has noticed with alarm something many of us have been watching for years. Democracy is losing ground, while autocracy is making strides. In Biden’s view, the outcome of the conflict between democracy and autocracy hinges, in part, on whether he as President — and the United States as a nation — can show the rest of the world that democracy is capable of responding to a crisis, keeping people safe and creating lasting prosperity.