tv Washington Journal 03202019 CSPAN March 20, 2019 9:03am-10:06am EDT
esidents" provides insight into the lives of the 44 american presidents, true stories gathered by interviews with noted presidential historians. that shaped our leaders, challenges they faced, and the legacies they have left behind. published by public affairs, "the president's" can at c-span.orgay or wherever books are sold. announcer: "washington journal" continues. as a our next guest serves professor at harvard university and is co-author of the book "the democracies die." harvard infrom boston, steven levitsky. good morning to you. guest: how are you? host: how did you come to this idea of democracies dying? guest: i studied democracies and
democracies in crisis for a long time. is actuallyxpertise latin america, a region unfortunately that has a fair amount of experience of democratic breakdown. i have been working on this issue for a long time, nearly 30 years. only since the 2016 campaign, my co-authors and i began to see things in american politics that we had only seen in other parts of the world, not american democracy. host: what are some of those parallels? guest: the one that really got us talking during the 2016 trump's was donald beginning to say that he might not accept the results of the election, beginning to claim the election was rigged, that there might be fraud, and that if he lost, he might not accept the results of the election,
questioning the legitimacy of the electoral process. it is something i have never seen in my lifetime in the united states. we have seen both in europe and the interwar period, , aticularly latin america sign that democracy is not in good health. host: you wrote that democracy might die at the hands of presidents. guest: the way democracy dies changed. during most of the 20th century, the overwhelmingly dominant way in which democracies broke down was military coups. the men with cruise would dissolve the constitution, so the president out of the country, and govern as a military dictatorship. so three quarters of all democratic breakdowns during the cold war took the form of a coup. that is no longer the case. so, the last 30 years or
the majority of democratic breakdowns have taken the form of a freely elected leader, a prime minister or president, who then uses nominally democratic means, like elections, like the courts, like parliament or congress, to subvert democracy. this is hugo chavez in venezuela. in russia, erdogan and turkey. it has occurred across many regions of the world. do you apply that directly to president trump? guest: not exactly. he parallel with trump is has clearly demonstrated authoritarian instincts. his reaction to opposition, to criticism, two independent media, to the exercise of rule of law -- you talk to the campaign, you see this president is very authoritarian. his discourse, and his language
sounds a lot like rafael correa in ecuador, or von in hungary -- ban in hungary, or erdogan in turkey. this guy has authoritarian instincts. american democratic institutions are much stronger, and the opposition, whether it is civil society or your opposite party, is much stronger. democracy is harder to kill in the united states than it is elsewhere. there are guardrails and place, would one of those guardrails be the u.s. constitution? yes and no. guest: we have the oldest constitution in the world, arguably the most successful restitution in world history. in writinge learned and researching this book is that the constitution itself is not enough to save our democracy. one of the things that has made our democracy work pretty well in most of the 20th century was the constitution.
the constitution was reinforced by really strong democratic norms. that is what we focused on in the book. you have to have a good constitution, but you also have to have robust informal rules. host: such as what? we focus on are two in the book. one is a really simple one which is related to the question you are having earlier, which is mutual toleration. it is essential that politicians recognize, both publicly and privately, that their rivals are legitimate, that they love the country just as we do, that they have every legitimate and equal right to participate in politics and to compete against us, and if they win an election, to govern. we do not treat our rivals as enemies. the other key norm is a little less familiar to people, what we call forbearance, which is the
underutilization and restraint in the use of institutional power. exercising a legal right that is available to you. it turns out that if you play strictly by the rules, if you exercise the letter of the law to the fullest extent, you can very often undermine the spirit of the law. our democracy depends on politicians using restraint in their exercise of power. guest, david levitsky of harvard university, co-author of the book "how democracy dies." if you want to ask the numbers are on your screen. thoughts @c post spanwj. in your book, you post signs of an authoritarian leader.
can you point to what you are talking about? signs.there are four there might be a fifth, but i don't know it. host: you are correct. guest: democracy dies now at the ballot box. it matters a lot who we elect, who is in the office of the white house in the united states. we focus a fair amount of attention on identifying leaders who might not be fully committed to the democratic rules of the game, who are potential authoritarians. we draw on the great spanish political scientist who wrote a book in the 1970's called "the breakdown of democratic regimes ." he developed what he called a litmus test for authoritarian behavior. we kind of updated and revised that and presented it in our book. them.are four of one is refusing to play by or rejecting democratic rules of
the game. another one is tolerating or condoning political violence. willing tos being suspend the civil liberties of your opponents, including media. is not recognizing the legitimacy of your opponent. out --didate who checked checked off one of those boxes, you should worry about it. host: how do you apply those standards to the current president? how do you apply them to previous presidents? find: it is difficult to any 20th-century president who clearly violated any of those rules during the campaign. residential candidates. even though they behaved in a --ewhat authoritarian manner
and in some ways, fdr -- during i think all of our mainstream presidential candidates, democratic and , passes, or do not test positive on this litmus. they clear it relatively well. trump, in my view, checks out all, strikingly different from any of his predecessors. host: our first call comes from tom. tom is in illinois. tom, you are on with our guest. go ahead. you need to put one more, five. when leaders buy votes. when leaders buy votes. that is what is going on. it went on through the obama administration, with cash for clunkers and cell phones and things. really, when you say that trump
does all four of these things, republicans have never fought back. they have always capitulated to everything. one is abortion. now, we have got to fantasize. they always impose their things, and the conservatives never gain ground on anything. we lose it all. i don't know how you can call that, if somebody does not stand up and fight for it, not fighting for what i represent, because i think it is a disgrace where the democratic candidates want to have socialism. if you remember, adolf hitler was a democratic-socialist. democratic-socialist. host: ok, tom, thank you. guest: this is in part the kind of discourse that i worry about. i mean equating the -- the caller does not like the democrats. that is perfectly get -- legitimate. half the country does not like
democrats. that is the way a democracy works. impairing the democrats to the nazis does not help our cause. it hurts it. host: from nevada, david is next. you are on. you are on, go ahead. caller: good morning, professor. quote from borrow a thomas jefferson. the tree of liberty has to be irrigated by the blood of the martyrs, and at times by the blood of liberty seekers. this is a metaphor. our constitution needs to be revisited periodically in order to realign and optimize it to the realities of today, so it can no longer be considered a sacred document like a holy book . and basically that is why the naturalizedus americans, 70 million plus, and our children -- we primarily remain in the independent camp
of the political process because we cannot truly relate or empathize with the ever happened twisted ulterior motives of the ,emocrats or the republicans and we really have to go to the center and make this democracy a compassionate democracy rather than a predatory democracy when it comes to serving certain , bel fringes in our society it on the right or on the left. host: professor, go ahead. guest: i am not sure i would stake that much of the constitution. an excellents point that it is dangerous, i think, to treat any of our political discussions, any of the elements of our constitution, except the really core basic rights, as untouchable. constitutions, the institutions
change all the time in democracies, and we should always, always be open to rethinking and revising our institutions. i think electoral rules, which an caller is getting at, is example. the electoral college for example is an 18th-century institution that i think does more harm than good to our democracy. so the idea that we can look around and evaluate innovations revise andworld and improve elements of our political system is a good one. but the core problems facing our they doy right now -- not rely on the constitution. the constitution is fine. we have had the same core structure for two centuries. we have gone through horrible periods. we have gone to great periods. the underlying problem is not
the constitution. host: to highlight your concerns with the electoral college how we choose a leader -- you also focus on political parties, per say. -- se. aret: daniel and i political scientists and we actually like political parties. we didn't political parties play a fundamental role in democracy. in part, it is selecting our leaders. one of the least popular, or many unpopular parts of our book , is to do with the double-edged nature of the mary's. the primary system we have adopted in the united states since 1972 is a very democratic form of candidate selection, very open, very transparent, much more democratic than the system we had before it, or party leaders selected where party-
leaders selected candidates in what we think of as smoke-filled backgrounds. but the primary system really takes all of the power out of party leaders, and party leaders arguably should have a role in selecting the candidates. party leaders know the candidates much better than voters do. they have worked with them. we know their strengths. they know their weaknesses. they know how they hold up under pressure. they know if they are fit for office. and importantly, as we learned in 2016, they know how to identify a demagogue. leaving the party a role is important in democracy. host: you talk about how this goes back to the 1968 democratic convention. 1968, was late 60's, a period of of people in crisis in which our political parties and political system was facing a serious legitimacy crisis. there was a real consensus among
democrats that there needed to be some reform. it is understandable, given what was happening in 1968, and the late 1960's in general -- it is understandable that the democrats sought to democratize their party. primary has a lot of benefit. we are not opposed. we're just arguing it is double-edged. party leadership still having a role in this, is there a hybrid model that works? .uest: sure, superdelegates the democrats just did exactly sort of the opposite of what we would recommend. since theyears, 1980's, the democrats have had the system of superdelegates, in which the overwhelming power in selecting candidates still lies with voters, but party leaders had their say in who the candidate is. republicans did not have that.
republicans have a much more democratic system in which it is simply the votes -- it is simple that members' vote determines the candidate. what the democrats had until this year was a hybrid model. accident that republicans rather than democrats nominated a demagogue. host: here is anthony from ohio. go ahead. hower: my question is important is a responsible press to survival of a democracy? also, it seems like there is an fox news, it seems , in its claims to the discourse of republicans versus democrats. press inresponsible general is absolutely essential for the democracy. citizens do not know what is holders, what the power
are doing. they cannot keep him in check. they cannot elect him out of office. the core features of a democracy cannot operate without a free independent press. the problem emerges when we what responsible is. i think it is important not to legislate what responsible press behavior is. we have a hybrid model of press in the united states. is ae one hand, the press democratic institution. it is something that must operate, and must operate well. it must be strong, healthy, to have a democracy. written into the constitution -- the media is not. a free press is. our democracy must have an operating free press. the press ishand,
a private sector actor operating in a market economy. , washington post fox news -- any actors in the media, they have to sell better than their competitors. that unfortunately can lead to what many of us think is irresponsible behavior. news -- i am not a huge fan -- itself has a market. there are a lot of people who want to watch fox news. the nominationn in 2016 and got a tremendous amount of free media time, because he learned more than anybody else that just saying crazy stuff would get you news. the media could not look away. arguably in retrospect that may have been irresponsible hader on the part of the media.
looked at from another perspective, this is a media trying to compete. the media has to be responsible, has to be professional, but has to sell. that is never easy to maintain. the so-called mainstream media has had to compete with all whichof new social media has left it groggy trying to keep up, and has led to what many of us think is irresponsible behavior. on the other hand, i am reluctant to heavily regulate begin to give the government the power to define what is responsible or irresponsible. this is steven levitsky, the co-author of "how democracies die." this is anthony. go ahead. caller: yes, i just asked that question. host: i am sorry. thank you for putting that out. we will go to george in florida, republican line. sky.er: yes, mr. levt
no disrespect, but this is indoctrination. we are a republic. we are not a democracy. we only vote in legislation. that is it. aherwise, if we were democracy, we would have to have a referendum on anything other than what our legislators vote on. we are a republic. you have not mentioned the word republic once. not once. i have been waiting. you have not mentioned the word republic. but i have to ask you this. where were and when did they exist true democracies? it was not in greece, because only rich people could vote. landholders. slaves could not vote. i am asking you, where did these democracies exist? and can you not see as a professor that we are and have always been a republic? host: thanks, caller.
thank you, caller. guest: we were founded as a republic. now the meaning of the term democracy has changed dramatically over time. in the 18th century, our founders were terrified of democracy. they were terrified of giving the people the right to vote. when the founders designed the constitution, the right to vote was nowhere. we did not have even male therage really until 1820's, 1830's, early in the 19th century. so our political system has changed or medically since our founding. we were founded as a republic. we are still a republic. that means a system that is not a monarchy. that we have evolved into a system from which initially only a small number of people voted to a system in which basically all adults can vote. we finally reached the point of full adult suffrage in the
1960's. time, particularly after world war i, and especially after world war ii, academics, journalists, politicians -- we all reached a consensus that modern democracy, which i call democracy, which we call democracy, is liberal democracy. it is a system in which voters elect representatives who do the legislating. i agree with you that our democracy is not and i feel he atheniant an democracy. it is a representative democracy, a liberal democracy, in which all citizens have the right to vote and possess the civil liberties necessary to inform themselves about the government, resize the government, compete against the government, and when necessary to form a government. host: when you look at your work looking at other democracies, what are the telltale signs it is on the downward swing? guest: a telltale sign that democracy is on the downward
beginis when politicians to either threatened to violate the rules or to violate the rules. thatis one of the things concerns dan and i the most. in the u.s. in the last 25 years you have seen the rise of what we call constitutional hardball, which is an effort to really use the letter of the law in ways that openly subvert its spirit. is an early sign not necessarily that democracy is dying or dead but that we need to pay attention. we need to be concerned. you talked about donald trump's statements on the campaign. are their actions in office that concern you? guest: every day there are actions that concern me. talked much has more than he has been able to
achieve, and he has thrown more punches against our institutions . we are to have strong institutions and a strong opposition, so trump has met resistance from within the government itself, from within law enforcement agencies. he has met resistance from the media, from the private sector, resistance to state and local governments, resistance from the opposition. he has not done nearly as much damage to democracy as he might like poland,ntry hungary, turkey, or venezuela. me? concerns the president of the united states arguing that millions of people voted illegally in the election and therefore our elections are fraudulent, therefore undermining the legitimacy, the credibility of our electoral process concerns me deeply.
the president of the united states repeatedly attacking the media as the enemy of the people, claiming the media is conspiring to bring him down, is --ermining the legitimate legitimacy of democratic institutions. elections in a free press are essential institutions of democracy. in the united states, we are incredibly fortunate to have among the strongest him accredit institutions in modern history area when you begin to screw around with those institutions, when you begin to call into question the legitimacy of core democratic institutions, as donald trump did as candidate and as he has done on a nearly weekly basis as president, that is really dangerous. host: when the book first came out, there was a gentleman writing for "the weekly standard." he wrote that the book calls attention to sorted warning
signs, but stretch hard to draw analogies. of each of the stories of a democracy undone tooad is a focused attempt control. there is no such person at the core of the trump presidency. guest: i think that is mostly true. we are very lucky that donald trump is impatient, it is disorganized, is chaotic as a leader, has very short time horizons. did notear donald trump come to office like hugo chavez plan to a long-term consolidate power. there is no evidence that this guy had any sort of authoritarian plan. and thank god for that. --is a pretty competent incompetent leader. had he the competence of an erdogan, we would be in greater
difficulty. this is not to say our democracy is safe. the fact that trump was elected president is problematic. officefore trump came to -- and i expect a long time after he leaves office -- we are going to confront this problem of intense partisan polarization. donald trump is a symptom of those problems. he is not the cause of them. he is not the greatest threat to our democracy. he -- it is the underlying that worryour norms me the most. steven levitsky cowrote the book "how democracies die" with another harvard professor, daniel zieblat. who is he? guest: he is a professor who works on european politics.
he is an expert on the crisis of democracies in europe during the interwar period. just wrote a fabulous book on the importance of strong conservative parties for democracy. here is will, from atlanta, georgia. republican iast voted for was in 1968 right before i went in the army. i never voted for another republican. realized in the declaration that we made a covenant with god, that we were all supposed to serve god. i studied the torah. i married a jewish woman. there is a vision by isaiah that everyone can read that a new country will grow up, and it will be ruled by truth and justice under god alone as a sovereign, as thomas jefferson named in the declaration. but then in the weekly liturgy on saturday morning, it says
that gentiles are animals, goyim a mindless herd of cattle who rob and slay with impunity, and they are god's chosen to rule the world. mob frontorking on a -- i saw the 500 roman catholic plan for hispanic ministry. host: what is the question for our guests, please? is published to take over america with illegal immigrants, and their already voting in california, which is a roman catholic controlled state. host: john in pennsylvania, go ahead. caller: thank you for taking my call. i wonder if the guest could comment on the president's through the electronic
media of twitter. i scarcely believe we are talking about a president who tweets incessantly. week,during this past where he seemed to become a bit egregious lee emotionally unhinged and speak about going satire showmedy "saturday night live," citing hisxistent laws, and rhetoric regarding his supporters in the military, the police, and biker gangs, getting it isough with people -- going to be bad if they are pushed too far. let's remember donald trump is an individual who has previously, as president, endorsed acts of police brutality on suspects in their custody, and also as a container evoked a so-called second amendment solution at an nra-sp
onsored event. host: you laid out a list, so we will let our guest respond. guest: first of all, on twitter -- look, twitter is a facet of political life now. trump was very savvy. he is one of the first politicians to really grasp how effective twitter can be. we are even after trump going to see politicians using twitter extensively. i am not a big fan of it either, but i think it is now a fact of life. two things the caller pointed to two boxes in our four-point litmus test that from clearly and repeatedly has ticked off. one is condoning violence. trump is doing something authoritarian across modern history have done, which is supporters encourage -- or at least tolerate the idea that their supporters might engage in violence. deliverthink trump can
on that threat. violence is not healthy to democracy. he was a candidate, has been pushing to punish media that criticize him. he has talked about strengthening libel laws. he has made noise and apparently some effort to punish parent companies of media that criticize him. he is unlikely to get away with much of this, but what concerns me most is not so much what trump will be able to do to "the washington post" or cnn, or to democrats physically, but that his discourse is shaping public opinion. particular -- one survey result in particular that -- a goodied me number, in some cases a majority
of republicans, agree with the statement that the media is the enemy of the people. and close to a majority of republicans would support laws that allow the government or the courts to punish or even shut down media that publish inaccurate information. so trump may not be able to cnn, but he is shaping public opinion in a way that is growing the constituency for authoritarian behavior. that terrifies me. host: one of the things that came out of the last administration, highlighted by "the new york times," that the fbi was used to spy on reporters. was that a concern? would you apply this idea of authoritarian leadership to the previous administration? again, our litmus test was for candidates. it focuses on the discourse of candidates and trying to pick out who might be an authoritarian before we elect
him. presidentswhether engage in authoritarian behavior, it is a different set of questions. richard nixon would fly to the top of the list, obviously. considerehavior we abusive. obama would not be at the top of the list. but the presidency has gained a tremendous amount of power over the last 70 or 80 years. the u.s. presidency now has a tremendous amount of power to wield against opponents. and all recent presidents have stepped over the line. obama engaged in behavior that i find frightening. so did george bush. so did trump. detroit, michigan, rain say. caller: -- ramsa.
caller: we are a two-party totem and one party tries undermine people's right to vote, and also tries to use foreign powers to get them elected. we have presidents who have not gotten elected, with help from foreign powers. all three have been republicans. reagan, and now this character. mr. levitsky? guest: i am not sureguest: any of our presence have been clearly elected by foreign powers. certainly not president reagan. this issue of voter suppression, with which the caller led all, is incredibly important. it is absolutely essential in a democracy that all parties know
how to lose, that they know how to lose gracefully. that means when you lose am election, you accept defeat. you go home. you have a beer or two. you get up and play another day. cannot accept defeat gracefully that they may not be able to win again in the future, or if there is a fear that losing is somehow catastrophic, parties cheat. they start to behave in ways that either push the boundaries of the rules in order not to lose -- the best example in u.s. history is actually the democratic party in the aftermath of reconstruction, the aftermath of the civil war, in the u.s. south. the expansion of african-american suffrage meant that a majority of voters in a
handful of states in the south would be african-american, which was a major threat to the electoral dominance of the southern democratic party and was perceived to be a threat to the way of life of many southern whites, democratic voters. if full suffrage for african-americans in the late 19th century would have the racial order. democrats in the south became terrifying -- terrified of using, so what did they do? they cheat. constitutions were changed. electoral rules were altered so that african-americans would be effectively stripped of the right to vote through poll taxes, literacy tests, residency requirements. african-american suffrage fell
from about 61% in the south in -- to 2%.% it is one of the most egregious ratizations in history because the democrats in the south were afraid to lose. my fear today is the republicans are afraid to lose, and that is why we are seeing in a variety of states purging of the roles -- rolls to suppress the vote and to make it much harder for people to register them to exercise their suffrage. think of a more central blow to democracy than denying people the right to vote. host: this is mary from new york. caller: hello, am i on? host: you are on. go ahead. caller: i would like to know
what he believes about obama having used the irs to harass and alsoarty members, to go after james rosen from fox news the way he did. there is no balance in what this gentleman is trying to portray, and that is the infuriating part for a lot of people who look at both sides and who critique both sides. -- it is always tilted against trump and republicans. i will take your answer. is no question that the erosion of democratic two. is a tango that takes this has been a process that began in the 1990's. there were some signs in the 1980's. both parties are contributing to this process of norm erosion.
we can disagree, we can differ in our analysis of who started it. analysis ofr in our whether it has been asymmetrical process or an asymmetrical process. we make the argument in the book that this is primarily driven by republicans, and that republicans have been the most egregious violators of democratic norms. but we recognize in the book and i freely recognize here that both parties have engaged in abuses, without question. use has been tremendously exaggerated, the use of the irs for political reasons. but politicization of the irs is incredibly damaging to democracy. i do not think the obama administration and the trump administration are even remotely comparable. 's is much more restrained, behaving and more
responsible ways than president trump. this is a problem that faces all of us. the erosion of our norms, the an escalatingis process that threatens all of us, that involves both parties. even if we disagree over where westarted and who did what, can all agree and all should agree that this process of norm erosion is threatening our democracy, and we have to stop it. host: one of the names you mention is newt gingrich. blame yes, me not so much mid gingrich, but he is a pioneer. newt gingrich recognized that polarized politics, hardball politics would sell. he sensed earlier than others, earlier than any other sort ofan, that extremist hardball behavior, a refusal to compromise with the opposition, a sort of any means
necessary approach to politics would actually win votes, would be popular among his base. lot of -- in our book, he gets a lot of blame for the beginning of the 1990's. host: the book "how democracies die," and steven levitsky joining us. caller: i wonder if you can talk about the role of money in our politics, and how it might be conservative into our acceptance of erosion. we are sort of like, put it against the wall and see what happens. it may be.est: we do not write much about the role of money in politics in our book. as you know, there are many ways to die, and there are many ways democracy can become unhealthy. and i completely agree that the
role of money in u.s. politics, particularly in a context of extreme inequality that we have today, is deeply, deeply damaging to our democracy. it isot convinced that the same problem we are talking about in our book. i am not convinced that it is the cause of polarization. rationality the caller just pointed out -- the fact that politicians seem so beholden -- i think are so beholden -- to those who finance their , thatgns, to big-money they become more open to appeals of basically, let's just take a wrecking ball to the political -- you are right. i case can be made that the overwhelming influence of money in politics is leading everyday voters to lose faith in the
democratic process, to lose confidence in democratic institutions, and grow willing to vote for people who have never held any public office, and who don't show any commitment to democratic norms. republican line from georgia. hello. caller: good morning. i am going to just take a moment and then i would love to hear the professor critique my comment. i guess i believe the erosion of on thecy is more democratic side, and i say this as someone who voted for mike dukakis, the clinton, and al gore. if hillary had won the election i do not think anyone would seriously talk about changing the electoral college or stacking the supreme court. that is a product of her losing. i do not think anybody in america can say that the main stream media does not stifle free speech. debating there
iran deal that president obama did, it quickly turned into if you disagree with president obama you want a war in iran. if you disagreed with global warming policy, it did not turn into a conversation about why you disagree or what you think would be a better alternative areas you are a denier, like you are a holocaust and higher. now, we have the democratic allowingking about illegal immigrants to vote as citizens, at least in the municipal elections, yet 16-year-olds to vote. how is this not a weakening of our democracy? itskyi would say to mr. lev that people are in power with different political ideologies, and i am critical of president trump, but at the end of the day, to be honest, my believe in the systems in america, of the things he feels are saving us -- those are the things i am more troubled by then president trump. host: we will it there.
let our guest respond. guest: 16 euros can vote in austria, brazil, and nicaragua. noncitizens vote in local elections in peru and many other democracies in the world. we can debate and you can initiatives, those but neither 16-year-old suffrage nor the vote of noncitizen isidents in local elections something that does not exist in other democracies in the world. they do not seem to be threats to democracy. would we be talking about removing the electoral college have hillary won? many constitutional scholars, many scholars of our democracy, have been saying for decades that the electoral college is not a useful institution and ought to be reformed. but it is not partisan bias i that is leading to the discrediting of the electoral college. of thehe fact that two
last three u.s. presidents were elected initially despite losing the popular vote. the president of united states is the person who lost the popular vote undermines legal,itimacy -- it is it is constitutional, but it does not sit well with voters. that thatthe fact outcome has occurred in two of the last three presidencies that has generated this debate. host: the independent line, tonya from chesapeake, virginia. caller: my question is in regards to transition of power. can he do to cause an issue, and how long can he hold up the transition? and is there any examples of an authoritarian stopping a peaceful transition of power
that you have, that you know? guest: there are lots and lots of presidents who either did not want to accept defeat, and therefore stole the election or cancel elections at the last minute because they were about to lose, or change the constitution so they could extend their stay in office. i don't think any of those scenarios is at all likely in the united states. there is real reason for concern based on his own statements that -- it trump will -- might will be a close election, no matter what. we are almost certainly headed to a super close election, i almost all of our elections have been over the last generation. case, if donald trump were to lose a close election, i think there is a decent chance he claims fraud and at least
initially refuses to accept defeat. foro not have any precedent responding to that. we do not have clear institutional or constitutional mechanisms to deal with that. i think it would in the short-term create a crisis. it would depend a tremendous amount on the behavior of republican party leaders. if a good chunk of the republican party stepped to the side and said, "this is crazy. it was a fair election. --if has got to step down" the republican party closes ranks again behind an egregious statement of donald trump, we could be in for a bit of a constitutional crisis. but i think unlike autocrats fromhere in the world venezuela, argentina, brazil, and the philippines that have overstayed their time in the presidency, who refused to accept defeat -- i think the , andition is too strong
our basic institutional structure to robust, for count to be able to get away with it. crisis, but iit a am quite sure he would not be able to stay on. republicans in the house and senate pushback against the president on this idea of executive power, with the executive order for a border wall. does that give you any indication of where republicans are, especially if they have to pushback on these major things you are concerned about? guest: you can see that glass as half-full or half-empty. 13 republicans defected and voted with the democrats to oppose what was an egregious fabrication of a national emergency to explicitly bypassed the world congress, which is -- the will of congress, which is a -- at thegerous thing
end of the day, a solid majority of republicans in the senate voted for donald trump, and acquiesced to an egregious act.ritarian it is a positive step to see some republican standing up to trump, but it is not nearly enough. in a democracy, political parties have to behave in a democratic way. from kansas city, this is scott. caller: hello, am i on? host: you are on, go ahead. caller: hello, i want to give a shout out to the guy that mentioned nexen -- nixon and reagan as being involved in political intrigue, for an invention. in vietnam, the south vietnamese government held at the peace
talks until nixon got elected. hostageshey held those until he got elected, and released them the day he got elected. everybody said it was because he was so tough. 280 marineslater, got bombed in beirut, so he was not that tough after all. i would like to say one more thing that is kind of a pet peeve with me. excuse me. i am a little nervous. polarization is good in a way, because my dad -- i remember him as a railroad worker in the 1950's, a democrat. he used to say if you do not like tweedledee, you can vote for tweedledum. we do need polarization. it is a good sign. the big problem in america right now is propaganda, and we need some sort of commission. we need a more aggressive and , andlar news media to deal people that care, to deal with propaganda, because most people
do not have the time, and they listen to things, and when you start calling democrats baby killers and all this other stuff -- i mean, we need the polarization. host: got you. i will let our guest respond. guest: first of all, i do not think the evidence is that good that these foreign events determined the outcome of the elections either in 1968 or in 1980. i really think it is not productive and not healthy to propel the idea that three republican presidents have foreign-imposed. that is not true. republicans were legitimately elected just as democrats were legitimately elected. i would set that aside. i agree with the caller that polarization is important. throughout much of american -- modern american history, and certainly when many of us were
growing up, the political parties if anything were too close together, too mushy and centrist and moderate for many voters. this idea of the two parties being tweedledum and tweedledee was widespread. wallace famously said there was not a dime's worth of difference between the parties. i agree completely that there is polarization is healthy for democracy. it is important that the parties represent different ideas, that they compete seriously against one another. the problem is when you get into the realm of extreme polarization. there is pretty good evidence, particularly recently by my colleagues at yale, showing that as societies become highly polarized, extremely polarized, we begin to tolerate authoritarian or abusive behavior by our side. that is very dangerous for democracy.
we have seen extreme partisan , whether it is germany in the 1930's, spain in the 1930's, brazil in the 1960's, or venezuela more recently. extreme polarization is a killer one thingacy, and that worries me about polarization and the united states. an exit poll in 2016 that suggested that about 24% of trump voters, people who pulled didlever for donald trump, not believe donald trump was fit for the office of the presidency of the united states. voters for donald trump did not believe that donald trump was fit to be president, and yet they still preferred him to hillary clinton. that is extreme polarization. that is a dangerous level of polarization. host: the book is "how democracies die." it is
cowritten by harvard professor steven levitsky. we thank you for your time. guest: thank you. host: that is it for our program today. another comes your way at 70 clock tomorrow morning. see you then. announcer: at&t ceo randall stephenson sits down with david rubenstein or a conversation on the state of technology and advancement. that is at 12:45 eastern and we will have it live on c-span. also, jerome powell holds a news conference after the federal
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c-span is your unfiltered view of government so you can make up your own mind. announcer: we are happy to announce the winners of these bands video documentary competition answering the question -- what does it mean to be an american? we received a most 3000 entries from 48 states with more than 6000 students. congratulations to all of our winners. our first prize middle school middle are from eastern school in silver spring, maryland. america runs on fast food. stark: companies like burger king, wendy's. fast food has and will impact our society in so many more ways then we can realize. it is part of what makes us
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subduing it. people are really just willing to recognize the nation's laws when politicians do not. announcer: c-span has given away a million dollars in prizes to our documentary competition. will air onntries c-span in april and you can watch everyone online at studentcam.org. announcer: the senate armed theices committee held army, navy, marine corps and therefore is regarding problems with military housing. they discuss reports of lead paint, mold and other dangerous conditions in military housing. jim and half is the terror of the armed services committee.