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The 2020 issue that matters is democracy itself

E.J. Dionne Jr. on

WASHINGTON -- The future of American democracy will be on the ballot next year. No one should pretend otherwise.

We witnessed President Trump's obvious disdain for democratic rights and liberties once again last week during his warm encounter in Japan with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.

And the U.S. Supreme Court's partisan, anti-democratic decision on gerrymandering, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, showed how dangerous it would be to expand a right-wing majority hellbent on making our system less inclusive, less fair and less equal.

For these reasons, Democratic primary voters should not be knocked for making "electability" their highest criterion in picking a presidential candidate.

Of course judging who is most likely to win is a difficult and rather subjective enterprise. And this calculation must not be a cover for sexism. But Democrats have no room for error. They need to avoid the sectarian infighting for which their party is famous and find a candidate who can excite turnout while also demonstrating broad reach and political savvy.

Let's focus on the horror of our president making light of Russian interference in our election during his Friday meeting with Putin, and yukking it up with the Russian president over how bad members of the media are. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 25 have been murdered since Putin took power. Many of them were investigating his regime.

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Referring to the journos in the room, Trump said: "Get rid of them. 'Fake news' is a great term, isn't it? You don't have this problem in Russia, but we do."

To which Putin responded, in English: "We also have. It's the same."

Which is worse: Trump's seeming appreciation for the brutal control Putin exercises over his country, or the Russian leader claiming our two countries are "the same"?

When Trump was asked if he would discuss election interference with Putin, our president did a fair imitation of an insolent high school student. He turned to the Russian boss, smiled, and said, "Don't meddle in the election, please. Don't meddle in the election." Putin laughed. Was he laughing at us?

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