By Arthur O’Sullivan
Our forty-sixth President has a new item on the list of “existential threats to Democracy,” the MAGA Republican. The “unity” President inaugurated the ninth month with a speech “on the Continued Battle for the Soul of the Nation.” Awash in the revolutionary colors of red and black, and flanked by two marines, he decried the ostensible violence and extremism which characterizes the MAGA Republican. Though circumspect in assuring his listener that he refers only to a fringe group, he likewise asserts that said fringe has grown to dominate and intimidate the Republican party, with Donald Trump its cultish leader.
The President delivers his remarks in Independence Hill, PA.
In vacuo, Mr. Biden’s speech would be not only agreeable, but stirring. He condemns, in the strongest possible terms, extremism, bigotry, political violence, and the many other pathologies which destroy lesser nations. He restates his faith in the American project, and Democracy more broadly. He even appeals to the moderation and decency of the American people. Yet the context of his speech reduces the force of his oration to a farce.
The hellish-red lighting, for instance, was not a “Dark Brandon moment” of fascist intimidation, but an abortive attempt to backlight the President in Red, White, and Blue. The cameras failed to pick up on the latter two, only showing the President, like his polling numbers, in the red, which contrasted unsettlingly with the black September night, in yet another embodiment of this administration’s technical incompetency.
His rhetoric, however, makes his setting look demure.
At numerous junctures, his words indicate a lack of self-awareness which would make Brian Stelter blush. His emphatic cry, “There is no place for political violence in America. Period. None. Ever.” rings hollow when compared to his dismissal of Antifa as “an idea”; his condemnations of the attacks on law enforcement have a similarly dull effect. His most painfully ironic statement, what would be the apex of any other President’s speech, falls deaf on the ears of his audience:
“They don’t understand what every patriotic American knows: You can’t love your country only when you win.”
There has been no truer sentiment since “this sliced bread is the bees knees.” If only Biden and his party would hold fast to this principle: Surely they would agree that the 2000 election was no more stolen from Gore than 2020 was from Trump; Stacey Abrams legitimately lost the governorship of Georgia to Brian Kemp; Democrats’ inability to pass gun control legislation comes not from the sinister funding of the NRA, but out of earnest popular sentiment. Finally, they must concede that Republicans winning the House and Senate in November would no more be a loss to Democracy itself than any other election. Yet condemnations of our nation and her systems have reigned, and continue to reign, unchecked by “moderates” such as Biden whenever Democrats lose so much as an inch.
But let us grant that the “MAGA Republicans” are the distinct and existential threat to Democracy which our President claims. The anti-democratic and extreme tendencies of Trump and his devotees somewhat substantiate this sentiment. One could make a reasonable case that right-wing nutjobs have imperiled, and if unchecked, will continue to imperil our democratic norms. But if you truly believe this Mr. Biden, then why, O Chief of the Democrats, did your party fund them this election season?
Joe Biden’s speech can be defined in a single word: Desperation. Despite manifold Republican fumbles, internal conflicts, and botched primaries, the Democrats’ outlook on this election season is grim. A stag-flated economy, foreign policy meltdowns in Afghanistan and Ukraine, an unhinged progressive wing of the party for whom “social truth” and “social justice” supersede Truth and Justice, and a general air of malaise have driven the Democrats to their knees, and the Biden administration is attempting to fellate its base back to the top. If this means exercising utterly unconstitutional authority to forgive student debts, so be it. If this means allowing the DOJ to raid a political opponent’s home under the aegis of a heavily redacted affidavit, so be it. If this means contriving a label for your political opponents and anathematizing them as a “threat to democracy” in an irresponsible and desperate plea for your base’s votes, then so damn-well be it, you dog-faced pony soldier.