In a campaign season when civil discourse seems headed to another record low, rhetorical excess has just been given a little extra boost.
For three decades Tennessee has made it a minor crime to put knowingly false statements about a candidate in oppositional campaign literature — one of the more explicit restrictions on political speech in the nation's law books. But last week a state judge said it was a bridge way too far over the First Amendment.
A prominent democracy reform group, Tennesseans for Sensible Election Laws, sued and won the right to declare in print something hyperbolic in the extreme: That a Republican state legislator is "literally Hitler," the Nazi fuhrer who died in Germany three-quarters of a century ago.
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President Trump on Monday threatened to sue to stop Nevada from delivering absentee ballots to all active voters, just hours after the Legislature voted to conduct the state's presidential election mainly by mail because of the coronavirus.
Solidly blue California and Vermont have made similar decisions this summer, joining five states that were going to be almost wholly vote-by-mail before the pandemic.
Nevada becomes the first somewhat purple place on the roster, however, and the president asserted without evidence the switch will make it impossible for him to carry its six electoral votes. It was the latest of at least six dozen statements he's made seeking to rattle confidence in the democratic process by asserting mailed ballots will magnify fraud and minimize GOP electoral strength.
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President Trump took his crusade against voting by mail to a whole new level Thursday, suggesting for the first time that "delay" of the election is the best way to prevent his re-election from being stolen from him.
The idea was either castigated, dismissed as impossible or disregarded as a silly trial balloon diversion by senior members of Congress from both parties as well as legal scholars.
But it nonetheless intensified the president's efforts to sow doubt about the reliability of the November result — which, if he ends up contesting and refusing to concede defeat, could produce a constitutional crisis posing an unprecedented challenge to democracy.
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