A former Republican congressman from Georgia was shut down on CNN after attacks on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) during a bizarre defense of President Donald Trump’s authoritarianism.
“So Donald Trump’s presidency, it has some critics raising the question, ‘is our democracy in danger?’ Specifically Harvard professors who’ve studied democracies for decades, because they say the answer is yes,” CNN anchor Christi Paul explained.
The warning signs include weak commitment to democratic rules, denying the legitimacy of opponents, tolerates violence and is willing to curtail civil liberties.
“We wrote this book, How Democracies Die, inspired in part by the campaign and that checklist you just gave us, during the campaign season, he went after the media, he condoned violence at election rallies, he said he wouldn’t necessarily accept the results of the election,” Daniel Ziblatt, a professor of government at Harvard, explained.
“We — having looked around the world — this set off alarm bells for us, because we’ve seen when democracies die around the world, often political leaders come to power displaying these same tendencies,” Prof. Ziblatt continued.
“So Jack, do you see him edging toward demeaning democracy in some way? Or disintegrating it?” Paul asked former Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA), who served as a senior advisor to the Trump campaign.
“No, I don’t,” Kingston argued. “If you want to look at violence, why aren’t we looking at antifa, the violence of the resistance, who are denying the election results?”
“How come the conversations of eastern liberalism always conveniently leaves that out and then finds things about Donald Trump?” Kingston asked. “He is moving on, he has got a great cabinet, he has got a great agenda, and…”
“Wait a minute,” CNN anchor Victor Blackwell interrupted.
“I was going to let you run there, but to characterize the president as having moved on…moving on is not objectively the way to describe President Trump’s view of his political opponents,” Blackwell fact-checked.
“She won’t go away,” Kingston claimed, referring to 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. “And neither will Joe Biden.”
“Joe Biden is out there now,” Kingston complained. “I mean, Hillary Clinton shows up at the Grammys reading a book.”
Kingston then went on to attack Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Prof. Ziblatt explained how Kingston’s tirade was exactly what political scientists would predict.
“The argument that we make in our book, is that when powerful politicians use this kind of rhetoric, it is dangerous on its own, but it also provokes a counter reaction,” Ziblatt explained. “We look around the world, when authoritarian leaders use this recipe, democratic opposition radicalizes and you get a kind of spiraling politics exactly the kind of thing Mr. Kingston is worried about.”
“This kind of polarized rhetoric that Mr. Kingston, frankly, is using is a predictable response to this kind of politics,” Ziblatt continued. “And the president has a particular moral responsibility to not engage in that kind of rhetoric.”