Former President Donald J. Trump has refused to just accept his loss within the 2020 election, painted as martyrs the supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, laid groundwork to disclaim the 2024 election outcomes if he loses, and stated he can be a dictator on his first day again in workplace if he wins.

However in accordance with the unbiased presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., it’s President Biden who poses the better risk to American democracy — a view that Mr. Kennedy shares with Mr. Trump himself, and that democracy specialists referred to as “absurd” and “preposterous.”

Such a perspective is feasible as a result of Mr. Kennedy, who has based his political profession on selling vaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories in regards to the authorities, sees the Biden administration’s efforts to curtail the unfold of misinformation as a seminal difficulty of our time. Censorship, as he calls it, overpowers all different issues in regards to the political system.

Mr. Kennedy’s stance drew recent scrutiny this week after he said in an interview on CNN, “President Biden is a a lot worse risk to democracy, and the explanation for that’s President Biden is the primary candidate in historical past, the primary president in historical past that has used the federal companies to censor political speech, to censor his opponent.” He repeated himself on Fox Information on Tuesday, saying {that a} president like Mr. Biden was “a real risk to our democracy.”

The remarks by Mr. Kennedy, who carries the identify but not the support of a storied Democratic household, had been an escalation of his assaults on Mr. Biden and the Democratic Celebration.

He has lengthy stated that the federal government’s engagement with media firms and tech platforms — to forestall the unfold of disinformation or unlawful supplies or, in Mr. Kennedy’s case, the arguments he and his allies made towards vaccines — quantities to unlawful censorship, an argument that was met with skepticism at the Supreme Court final month.

Within the CNN and Fox Information interviews, Mr. Kennedy — an environmental lawyer who till final fall was himself a Democrat — educated his outrage straight on the Democratic Celebration’s chief, whose allies fear that Mr. Kennedy may tip an in depth election in November to Mr. Trump.

Democratic officers have devoted increasing resources to a multipronged effort to undermine Mr. Kennedy’s marketing campaign, fearing that his presence on swing-state ballots may siphon votes from Mr. Biden.

On the similar time, it stays unclear whether or not Mr. Kennedy — whose anti-establishment message has additionally made him common with some disaffected Republicans, independents and Libertarians — would draw extra votes from Mr. Biden than from Mr. Trump. A recent Fox News poll confirmed him drawing about equally from each candidates, and Mr. Trump attacked Mr. Kennedy last week as a “radical Left” candidate, in a possible signal of nervousness about his candidacy.

In marketing campaign appearances, Mr. Kennedy has usually drawn comparisons between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump. Final week, when he announced his running mate, Nicole Shanahan, a Silicon Valley lawyer, Mr. Kennedy stated that to younger People, Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump “seem like two sides of the identical coin.”

However a number of students who’ve studied democratic governments and the methods they’ll backslide advised The New York Occasions that it was nonsensical to recommend that social media moderation — which the Supreme Court docket seemed inclined to uphold as a reliable aim of presidency — posed a better risk than what Mr. Trump has executed.

They pointed to his refusal to just accept an election loss, his stoking of political violence, and his efforts to consolidate govt energy and undermine public confidence in unbiased sources of data.

The 2 most basic tenets of democracy are that politicians “should all the time unambiguously settle for the outcomes of elections and should all the time unambiguously reject political violence,” stated Steven Levitsky, a professor of presidency at Harvard who co-wrote the e-book “How Democracies Die.” “I don’t suppose you’ll discover a democracy skilled on the planet who will declare that the gentle efforts to control social media in america are someway equal or worse than an effort to overturn an election or the encouragement of political violence.”

Sheri Berman, a professor of political science at Barnard School, stated Mr. Kennedy had not solely downplayed Mr. Trump’s election denial — a risk that’s “basic” and “needs to be acknowledged as such if democracy goes to work,” she stated — but additionally inflated Mr. Biden’s actions.

“If we had a president who was utilizing federal companies to chase down his opponents, to drawback them politically, to cease them from having the ability to converse to residents and voters, that may be a serious infringement of democratic norms,” Dr. Berman stated. “That’s not what Biden was doing.”

Within the CNN interview, Mr. Kennedy stated Mr. Trump’s try and overturn the 2020 election “clearly” was a risk, however added: “The best risk to democracy is just not anyone who questions election returns, however a president of america who makes use of the facility of his workplace to power a social media firm — Fb, Instagram, Twitter — to open a portal and provides entry to that portal to the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the I.R.S., the CISA, the N.I.H., to censor his political critics.”

He then stated he was not making the argument he had simply made, however was merely saying it was an argument he may make.

He additionally didn’t present proof of any “portal” by means of which federal companies can take away posts. Quite, he referred to a lawsuit he filed final yr alleging that, by threatening regulatory motion, the Biden administration had “induced” social media firms to limit speech — together with anti-vaccine misinformation — in methods the First Modification would prohibit the federal government from doing straight.

A federal decide in February granted a preliminary injunction however stayed it till the Supreme Court docket guidelines in a associated case, Murthy v. Missouri, with which Mr. Kennedy’s case was consolidated. Within the meantime, the Supreme Court docket allowed the federal government, together with the F.B.I., to proceed contact with main social media firms — and in listening to the case final month, the justices appeared skeptical of the arguments towards the federal government.

A lawyer for the federal government, Brian H. Fletcher, advised the courtroom that banning the regulation in query would itself prohibit speech, together with public feedback from a press secretary or different officers looking for to discourage posts which are dangerous to youngsters, antisemitic or Islamophobic. He added that the social media firms had acted independently of the federal government and sometimes rejected requests to take down postings.

A senior adviser for the Democratic Nationwide Committee referred to as Mr. Kennedy’s feedback “MAGA speaking factors” that put to relaxation “any doubts that he’s a spoiler candidate.”

“With a straight face, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. stated that Joe Biden is an even bigger risk to democracy than Donald Trump as a result of he was barred from pushing conspiracy theories on-line,” the adviser, Mary Beth Cahill, stated. “There is no such thing as a comparability to summoning a mob to the Capitol and promising to be a dictator on Day 1.”

Within the CNN interview, Mr. Kennedy additionally stated falsely that Mr. Biden was “the primary president in historical past to make use of his energy over the Secret Service to disclaim Secret Service safety to one in every of his political opponents for political causes,” referring to the federal government’s refusal thus far to increase safety to Mr. Kennedy.

“Main” presidential candidates are eligible for Secret Service safety however usually are not assured it. Whether or not to grant safety is as much as the secretary of homeland safety, in session with congressional leaders from each main events, and unbiased and third-party candidates are much less probably than Democrats and Republicans to obtain it.

In a fund-raising electronic mail on Tuesday morning, Mr. Kennedy’s marketing campaign reiterated its complaints in regards to the Biden administration and the Democratic Celebration, describing the celebration as corrupt and attacking its escalating legal efforts to problem his poll entry and its refusal to permit a debate between Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Biden.

“The Democrat political machine is pulling out each trick within the e-book to cease our big momentum,” the e-mail stated. “With countless assets, institution Democrats need to cease a debate between Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Biden. They’re utilizing an enormous community of shadowy darkish cash teams and harsh attorneys to maintain Kennedy-Shanahan ticket off state ballots and unfold malicious smears.”

Dr. Levitsky and Dr. Berman each famous that it was uncommon, in a democratic nation, for a politician to explicitly reject democratic norms. It’s extra frequent for them to attempt to create a cloud of doubt so voters wrestle to know what’s true.

“Those that interact in misinformation about democracy, those that muddy the waters about what’s and isn’t democratic, are complicit within the assault on our democracy,” Dr. Levitsky stated. “The type of habits that sustains a democracy hasn’t modified over time.”



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