Todd Tantrum: Biden Hosts Democracy Summit as GOP Destroys Democracy!

On MSNBC’s MTP Daily Thursday afternoon, host Chuck Todd wailed that while President Biden was hosting a virtual global summit on democracy, Republicans were trying to “subvert” democracy in the United States. He also lamented how Democrats haven’t yet federalized and rigged all elections in their favor to combat the supposed “crisis.”

“President Biden tries to lead a global effort to revive democracy. Can the U.S. Be a beacon for democracy abroad unless he first confronts the efforts to undermine it right here at home?,” Todd fretted at the top of the 1:00 p.m. ET hour show. Moments later, he lectured:

We’ve said it before and we’re gonna say it again, the biggest story in American politics is and will continue to be this homegrown effort to undermine U.S. democracy, largely fueled by the former president and his loyalists who have hijacked and radicalized a part of the Republican Party. There’s a reason the U.S. is now considered a backsliding democracy.

Todd then suggested that “gerrymandering” and “partisan attempts” to pass electoral reform legislation that he claimed would “restrict voting access” were akin to the violent January 6th riot at the U.S. Capitol.  

After playing a clip of Biden addressing the democracy summit, Todd warned:

But the uncomfortable reality facing the President is that there’s one party that seems willing to pull out all the stops when it comes to the issue of the U.S. democracy, and it isn’t his. As Bart Gellman so aptly put it in The Atlantic: “Our two-party system has only one party left that is willing to lose an election. The other is willing to win at the cost of breaking things that a democracy cannot live without.”

The anchor then turned his ire on the Democrats: “Meanwhile, the President and Democrats in Congress have yet to make a full-throated push, even within their own party, to pass legislation aimed at protecting elections nationally as a potential counterweight to the right’s efforts to subvert them locally.”

Todd argued that “if President Biden wants democracy to thrive abroad…he’s got a crisis to deal with first right here at home.”

The hyperbolic fearmongering only increased as he brought on his panel of guests. Turning to NBC News White House correspondent Shannon Pettypiece, Todd worried: “…does the White House acknowledge the idea here of how hard it is for on one hand the United States to play leading democracy in the world and on the other hand, we are not a picture right now of a country that we would want others to emulate?”

After bashing America, Todd bemoaned to The New Yorker’s Masha Gessen that Biden didn’t use the summit to repeat wildly absurd rhetoric about the country being as divided as it was during the Civil War:  

TODD: Masha, I want to play for you a quote from President Biden from July of this year, because it has an urgency to it that we did not hear today. Take a listen.

JOE BIDEN: I’ve said it before, we’re facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War. That’s not hyperbole. Since the Civil War. The confederates back then never breached the Capitol, as insurrectionists did on January the 6th. I’m not saying this to alarm you. I’m saying this because you should be alarmed.

TODD: Masha, I don’t know whether that sense of urgency should be involved with this summit that is being led by the United States, but it does strike me as sort of a tone that’s – that doesn’t –  you know, what he said in July to me matched the urgency of the moment. What he’s saying today doesn’t.

Gessen replied: “I couldn’t agree more, Chuck. I think that’s – that ‘urgency’ is the key word….And the urgency that we need to be hearing is, “Look, there’s a crisis.” There’s – the United States, over the course of the last ten months, is actually a lesson in how democracies stumble and come to the edge.” She wondered: “How are we going to reinvent the system?”

Later in the discussion, Todd returned to Gessen as he suddenly claimed concern over the media sounding “alarmist” on the issue:  

Masha, help me out with a dilemma that I think a lot of us in the media have right now, which is I do think that many of us will look back in five years and say, “Boy, there was only one issue we should have been covering the entire time.” And yet, at the same time, how do you do it without coming across as alarmist and having people tune out? I feel like it’s a real challenge we all face in the reality-based news media.

After spending several minutes scaring viewers with over-the-top pronouncements about “backsliding” democracy in the U.S., Todd still laughably refers to himself as a member of the “reality-based news media.”

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Here is a transcript of excerpts from the December 9 discussion:

1:00 PM ET

CHUCK TODD: If it’s Thursday, President Biden tries to lead a global effort to revive democracy. Can the U.S. Be a beacon for democracy abroad unless he first confronts the efforts to undermine it right here at home?

(…)        

TODD: We’ve said it before and we’re gonna say it again, the biggest story in American politics is and will continue to be this homegrown effort to undermine U.S. democracy, largely fueled by the former president and his loyalists who have hijacked and radicalized a part of the Republican Party. There’s a reason the U.S. is now considered a backsliding democracy. The January 6th insurrection, the big lie, gerrymandering, efforts to restrict voting access, partisan attempts to control who votes and how those votes are counted, just to name a few, that is the elephant in the room as President Biden kicked off a two-day global virtual summit this morning on renewing democracy at home and abroad. In his opening remarks, he called on the world’s democracies to confront the sustained and alarming challenges facing them. And he also pointed to the sustained and alarming challenges facing the United States.

(…)

TODD: But the uncomfortable reality facing the President is that there’s one party that seems willing to pull out all the stops when it comes to the issue of the U.S. democracy, and it isn’t his. As Bart Gellman so aptly put it in The Atlantic: “Our two-party system has only one party left that is willing to lose an election. The other is willing to win at the cost of breaking things that a democracy cannot live without.”

Folks, the lies that incited the January 6th insurrection have so metastasized on the right that they are now embraced by Republican election officials and they have become litmus tests for potential Republican candidates, particularly if you’re looking for Donald Trump’s endorsement.

Meanwhile, the President and Democrats in Congress have yet to make a full-throated push, even within their own party, to pass legislation aimed at protecting elections nationally as a potential counterweight to the right’s efforts to subvert them locally. They botched this a number of ways. You can go through, you can talk about HR-1 and all of this, was there a better and smarter way for them to push these and create more of an urgency for this issue? Bottom line, if President Biden wants democracy to thrive abroad, he’s gotta deal – he’s got a crisis to deal with first right here at home.

(…)

TODD: Shannon [Pettypiece], let me start with you. And I want to start a little bit with, does the White House acknowledge the idea here of how hard it is for on one hand the United States to play leading democracy in the world and on the other hand, we are not a picture right now of a country that we would want others to emulate?

(…)

TODD: Masha, I want to play for you a quote from President Biden from July of this year, because it has an urgency to it that we did not hear today. Take a listen.

JOE BIDEN: I’ve said it before, we’re facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War. That’s not hyperbole. Since the Civil War. The confederates back then never breached the Capitol, as insurrectionists did on January the 6th. I’m not saying this to alarm you. I’m saying this because you should be alarmed.

TODD: Masha, I don’t know whether that sense of urgency should be involved with this summit that is being led by the United States, but it does strike me as sort of a tone that’s – that doesn’t –  you know, what he said in July to me matched the urgency of the moment. What he’s saying today doesn’t.

MASHA GESSEN [THE NEW YORKER, STAFF WRITER]: I couldn’t agree more, Chuck. I think that’s – that “urgency” is the key word and it’s the word that we cannot use to describe what’s happening today. There’s this posturing, there’s this language that the United States is so used to, and that it’s easy for Biden, who has spent most of his life in government, kind of to fall back into. This certainty about what democracy is and how it’s done.

And the urgency that we need to be hearing is, “Look, there’s a crisis.” There’s – the United States, over the course of the last ten months, is actually a lesson in how democracies stumble and come to the edge. And what are we going to do about this? How are we going to reinvent the system? And that we’re not hearing the language, we’re not hearing the truth. And you know, if you don’t hear truth, you can’t have a conversation.

TODD: You know, Cynthia, I’m going to read you a – just this basic news clip from today’s Axios. And instead of hearing the words “Donald Trump” and “Republican Party” in here, imagine we were talking about another country and its fledgling democracy. “Donald Trump and his associates are systematically reshaping the Republican Party, working to install hand-picked loyalists across federal and state governments and destroy those he feels have been disloyal. If most or all of Trump’s candidates win, he will go into the 2024 election cycle with far more people willing to do his bidding who run the elections in key states.” This is about the United States and the Republican Party. What would you be saying if we were describing the conservative party in Great Britain?

CYNTHIA MILLER-IDRISS [DIRECTOR, AMERICAN UNIV. POLARIZATION & EXTREMISM RESEARCH & INNOVATION LAB]: Look, I think, Chuck, if this were happening anywhere else in the world, we would be sending democracy assistance funds, election monitors to support the democracy building efforts and restoration efforts. But I think – you know, in some other country. But I think what that quote also really shows is that ultimately all of this depends on individual voters who are making choices. And, you know, it’s one thing to have a lot of words at a summit from presidential leaders that maybe assuage the fears of global leaders who are worried, as they should be, about the United States and our commitment to democracy. But it’s another thing to actually commit to making the changes at the community level that really reinvest in renewal and reinvigoration of community support for democracy and its norms and values.

And that’s really where the disease is, is at the local and community level. And that’s where the cure also has to be directed, through kind of public health-style commitments to educating people and working with communities to restore this. Because all the talk at the global level isn’t really going to help change the way that voters support rising political violence or continue to look the other way around voter suppression if issues – or even support them – or storm the Capitol. I mean, all the things that ordinary citizens have done over the last year and year-plus are the root of the problem in the end.

TODD: Cynthia, there’s one other uncomfortable fact, though. Many of these people that participated in the insurrection, that are following the lead of the former president, they swear they’re trying to defend democracy. We have a propaganda problem.

MILLER-IDRISS: We absolutely have a propaganda problem and a disinformation problem. But ultimately, I would argue, it goes back to the same issue. It’s also media literacy and a digital literacy problem. It’s about equipping communities and individuals with the tools to recognize that propaganda, to be less persuaded by tactics like scapegoating or fearmongering, to understand and recognize disinformation.

(…)

TODD: Masha, help me out with a dilemma that I think a lot of us in the media have right now, which is I do think that many of us will look back in five years and say, “Boy, there was only one issue we should have been covering the entire time.” And yet, at the same time, how do you do it without coming across as alarmist and having people tune out? I feel like it’s a real challenge we all face in the reality-based news media.

GESSEN: I’d like to separate the alarmists from having people tune out the problem. Because I think you can sound the alarm and you can help people understand the story, which is the story of the crisis of the government of governed, right? Of what democracy ought to be. And do it in a way that doesn’t come across as hysterical and overblown. And that involves reporting, that involves understanding what’s going in – on the other side.  That involves, for example, understanding the core of the belief that the election was stolen.

I have not actually read or done good reporting on that, right? I haven’t seen people who believe that there’s a crisis of democracy make a concerted effort to understand the story of this crisis. And I think there are many elements to it. There’s the element of the disappearance of local media, which I think is a huge story that we have not covered enough. I think there’s the element of, you know, the legal, the court legacy of the Trump administration, which is hobbling this administration in ways that are woefully undercovered and misunderstood. And that’s just two things that can be covered in depth without, you know, coming across as, you know, fly the flag upside down.

(…)

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