My Chicago White Sox are in the home stretch of a disappointing season. They’re still in playoff contention so I am far more interested in what’s happening on the ball field than what’s happening in politics.
But writing about politics is my job so I’ve been forced to endure the banality of partisan nuttery masquerading as warnings of doom. Has anyone stopped to think that all this handwringing, wailing, and gnashing of teeth is all “sound and fury signifying nothing”? We are going to talk our way into civil war unless we all take a step back and breathe deeply.
That’s what Joe Biden should have done before he gave that speech in Philadelphia. Biden and the Democrats are getting truly hysterical about people they’re calling “MAGA Republicans.” “A clear and present danger,” we’re told. The MAGA Republicans “threaten the very foundations of our republic,” Biden says.
Who are these threats to democracy? Let me at ’em! I’m 68 years old but I stand ready to defend the republic against those who “threaten the very foundations of our republic”!
Tell us, Mr. President, how do we know who these people are? What are their distinguishing physical characteristics? How do we differentiate between the “enemy” (MAGA Republicans) and those Republicans who have received the Joe Biden Seal of Approval?
But here’s a thing Joe Biden is not so sure of: who exactly these “MAGA Republicans” are, or what makes them so extreme. As Charlie and I noted of last week’s Philadelphia speech, Biden couldn’t keep straight even within the speech whether he was denouncing the refusal to accept election results, the use or threat of political violence, or more common Republican policy proposals such as opposing abortion. He’s been doing this for months. At a Pride Month event in June, Biden described state laws against age-inappropriate sex and gender education and transgender drugs and surgeries on children as “ultra-MAGA agenda attacking families and our freedoms.”
The problem with this, of course, is that throwing everybody in the party or in support of its agenda (such as the Florida sex-education bill, which is supported by a majority of Florida Democrats) dissipates the force of the attack, strengthens Trump’s position within the Republican Party, and gives every Republican in the country good reason to believe that the president of the United States has declared them enemies of the state. It does not even make any sense on its own terms. As I’ve argued in contexts ranging from radical Islam to white supremacy to woke ideology and critical race theory to left-wing street violence, if you want to defeat a radical fringe, you try to give them a distinct name and identity that isolates them from their ideological fellow-travelers and sometime-allies. If MAGA Republicans are just all Republicans, there’s no effort to isolate them.
“Biden Tries to Condemn Trumpism, Without Writing Off the G.O.P.” headlines the New York Times. It’s a nice trick if you can separate the 75 million people who voted for Donald Trump in 2020 from the mouth-breathing conspiracy nuts — the thugs, the ruffians, the brain-dead delinquents who pushed the police out of the way and trashed the Capitol Building.
We all knew back in 2021 that Biden and the Democrats would milk the Capitol riot for all it was worth — up to including efforts to destroy the Republican Party, not just MAGA Republicans. And they would justify it by claiming they were defending the republic.
But when the press secretary to the president of the United States makes no effort to draw a line between extremists and mainstream Republicans, someone in the White House needs an intervention.
“You look at the definition of fascism and you think about what they’re doing in attacking our democracy, what they’re doing in taking away our freedoms, taking away our rights, our voting rights. That is what that is.” She added, on the eve of the Philadelphia speech: “The way that [Biden] sees it, is the MAGA Republicans are the most energized part of the Republican Party. This is an extreme threat to our democracy, to our freedom, to our rights.”
See what I mean by talking themselves into a civil war?
For the record, the dictionary definition of “fascism” does not describe any political party in modern America.
It’s “…a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.”
No, it’s not the Democrats either, although many Democrats would secretly love the part about “regimenting all industry.”
The scary thing is that Biden may want to separate MAGA Republicans from the rest of the right, but he’s too stupid, too lazy, or too addled to do it. NRO’s Dan McLaughlin writes, “Maybe Biden genuinely can’t keep straight in his head anymore what he’s talking about from one day to the next, but you’d think that somebody around him is in charge of putting out a disciplined message that doesn’t reverse itself on a daily basis.”
The media—like the New York Times—is trying to be very helpful in describing who is threatening our democracy. But it can’t be done. Biden and the Democrats are all in on smearing the entire Republican Party as democracy destroyers, and unless there’s pushback in the polls or from the few rational Democrats in Congress, it will stay this way until the midterms and beyond.