Brian Stelter: We Are Witnessing Creeping Authoritarianism | Video | RealClearPolitics

Brian Stelter: We Are Witnessing Creeping Authoritarianism


BRIAN STELTER, CNN: But first, an election mess in the making, with three months before ballots will be counted.

Picture all of us Americans in a car together. President Trump is the driver. And he is trying to drive us off the road. He is trying to crash the car.

In this analogy, the car is our democracy. It is old. It's got a lot of miles on it, but it's still running strong. It's been well- maintained. It stays humming along. It stays on the road through voting, through elections.

But the driver, ever since 2016, I don't know, either the he wants to go offroading or he wants the car all to himself or he doesn't know where he's going. Something's going on with the driver. He's trying to crash the car. But all of us are along for the ride.

The president's rhetoric about the coming election is the equivalent of trying to crash a car. Through his tweets, through his statements, he is eroding confidence in the democratic process, making a crash more likely, and he's doing it for no good reason. It's just his own ego. And his media pals are helping him do it.

So everybody else, besides Trump and the pro-Trump media, everybody else, all the responsible newsrooms, elected officials, civic leaders, everyone else has a huge responsibility in the next three months.

You know, this fall's election, culminating with a big broadcast on November 3rd is probably not going to look like these past elections. You know, we all think about election night in America. You sometimes know the outcome by 11:00 p.m., a little later at night in 2016, of course, 2020 was the anomaly.

Well, 2020 is now an unprecedented situation. We're not going to be seeing balloon drops in massive convention halls and arenas. You know, we're not going to be seeing campaign stops with huge rallies in all these different states.

And that's largely due to the pandemic, due to mail-in voting and other reasons, Election Day will be more like election week. That's the way to think about it. In fact, television networks like this one are already planning for much longer vote-counting coverage.

We're probably going to see long lines, short -- short staffed, poorly funded precincts. We're probably going to hear concerns about mail-in ballots not getting delivered and counted on time due to Postal Service problems.

And the president is going to keep lying about the likelihood of voting fraud. Fact-checkers are going to keep debunking those lies, but lots of people will be left confused, not knowing what to believe or maybe not even knowing how to vote at all.

So, in November, in December, they will be left wondering if the whole thing was legit. That is the car crash. And the president is behind the wheel.

Keep in mind, there's an entire universe out there designed to make Trump's claims seem true or, you know, at least truish, true enough. He's taking a lot of his talking points from Fox, including that tweet which was spurred by "Fox & Friends."

Keep in mind, Fox News calls its election coverage "Democracy 2020". I hope they'll live up to that word in 2020. Democracy -- because we are witnessing creeping authoritarianism in America.

"The New York Times" called it Trump's campaign to undercut democracy. And you can say it was just a tweet and you can say he was just kidding. It is still creeping authoritarianism, even if the guy is joking.

Of course, the good news this week is the Republicans did immediately challenge Trump's musing about delaying the election and more good news, news outlets did a good job truth-squadding right away, immediately, pointing in the headlines that Trump didn't have the to either to delay anything anyway.

But it's August 2nd. The election's November 3rd. There's going to be three more months of this -- three more months of the lies, three more months of the sowing doubt, of the delegitimizing the election, three more months of this.

And the president still has the keys. He is still behind the wheel. His words still have power in this looming car crash.
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