Economist Paul Krugman poses before a conversation at the 92nd Street Y on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
There was a lot of debate and finger-pointing over the last week or so on the wisdom of in-person primary voting in Wisconsin in the midst of a pandemic, whether absentee ballot deadlines should have been extended, etc. The Supreme Court even got involved.
But New York Times columnist Paul Krugman brought his own special brand of stupid into the mix with his hot take on what happened. In a piece with a headline and subheadline that reads “American Democracy May Be Dying – Authoritarian rule may be just around the corner”, Krugman wrote:
Yet the scariest news of the past week didn’t involve either epidemiology or economics; it was the travesty of an election in Wisconsin, where the Supreme Court required that in-person voting proceed despite the health risks and the fact that many who requested absentee ballots never got them.
Why was this so scary? Because it shows that America as we know it may not survive much longer. The pandemic will eventually end; the economy will eventually recover. But democracy, once lost, may never come back. And we’re much closer to losing our democracy than many people realize.
He compared not canceling a primary here in the United States to the political situation in Hungary where, he states, the government gave “[Viktor] Orban the power to rule by decree”:
What happened in Hungary, beginning in 2011, was that Fidesz, the nation’s white nationalist ruling party, took advantage of its position to rig the electoral system, effectively making its rule permanent. Then it further consolidated its control, using political power to reward friendly businesses while punishing critics, and moved to suppress independent news media.
Until recently, it seemed as if Viktor Orban, Hungary’s de facto dictator, might stop with soft authoritarianism, presiding over a regime that preserved some of the outward forms of democracy, neutralizing and punishing opposition without actually making criticism illegal. But now his government has used the coronavirus as an excuse to abandon even the pretense of constitutional government, giving Orban the power to rule by decree.
We're heading down the path of Hungary. The outrage in Wisconsin was just the latest step https://t.co/m73NGaleJv
— Paul Krugman (@paulkrugman) April 10, 2020
So American democracy is soon to be replaced with authoritarian rule because a governor was not allowed to rewrite election law by decree and a primary was not suspended? Krugman’s argument literally makes no sense, as several people pointed out:
This is just amazingly stupid. In Hungry, their leader has been given the power to rule by decree.
in Wisconsin, the governor tried to cancel the election *by decree,* was stopped by the courts, and Krugman is complaining that makes us more like Hungary
— (((Aaron “Worthing” Walker))) (@AaronWorthing) April 10, 2020
…we’re headed down the path of Hungary, which suspended elections because we ::checks notes:: refused to suspend elections?
— Ian Patrick Hines (@ianpatrickhines) April 10, 2020
Excellent point. The only way for us to avoid a Hungarian style dictatorship is for the federal government to force everyone to stay inside their homes under penalty of law.
— Gert B. Frobe (@ThumblessGrasp) April 10, 2020
And on the issue of putting voter health at risk because of politics, there was also Joe Biden’s endorsement of in-person primary voting in Wisconsin even after the DNC decided to postpone their convention, which was scheduled to be held in July in Wisconsin:
Remember this, too: Biden was actually encouraging people to do in-person voting on “Super Tuesday II” in mid-March as the pandemic was spreading, as long as those voters were “feeling healthy, not showing symptoms, and not at risk of being exposed to COVID-19”:
The right to vote is the most sacred American right there is. State election officials are working closely with public health officials to hold safe elections. If you are feeling healthy, not showing symptoms, and not at risk of being exposed to COVID-19: please vote on Tuesday.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) March 15, 2020
This was just days after Trump’s address to the nation announcing Europe travel restrictions and other measures, and well after the CDC declared that even asymptomatic carriers of the virus could transmit the disease.
All of this was conveniently left out of Kruggie’s diatribe, of course, because it didn’t fit his narratives.
(Hat tip: Twitchy)