Biden’s stern warning on extremism shows rose-colored glasses are off | Joe Biden

Joe Biden’s journey from idealist to realist continues. But it’s not quite complete.

After 36 years in the Senate, he takes over the US presidency in 2021 as an apostle of bipartisanship, convinced that his authoritarian predecessor Donald Trump would fade away and that the Republican Party would find its bearings.

Earlier this year, he understood that Trump’s malignant influence still ran deep. “We have to be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie,” Biden said on Jan. 6, the first anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, pausing before using Trump’s name.

Then, a month ago, a group of historians reportedly gathered in the White House Map Room for two hours to give the president a dire warning about the threats to American democracy. They included Jon Meacham, author of The Soul of America.

Polls show a country still falling apart. More than two-fifths of Americans think a civil war is at least somewhat likely within the next decade, a share that rises to more than half among self-identified ‘strong Republicans’, according to research by YouGov and The Economist.

Against that backdrop, Biden used a prime-time “soul of the nation” speech on Thursday night to deliver the starkest warning of his long career about the danger from Trump – who he named this time. , – the extremist “Maga” (Make America great again ) Republicans and political violence.

“This is a nation that rejects violence as a political tool,” he said. “We are still, basically, a democracy. Yet history tells us that blind loyalty to a single leader and willingness to engage in political violence are fatal in a democracy.

It was a pugnacious speech that many progressives, worried that Biden is trapped in a rose-tinted past, have long urged. It was also sure to enrage Trump and his allies although Biden, who recently called Maga’s philosophy “semi-fascism”, did not repeat that f-word.

But the speech also, perhaps understandably, tried to err on the side of optimism by drawing a distinction between Maga Republicans and mainstream Republicans. Biden cast the former as a bizarre rebel cult that opposes the rule of law, seeks to overturn elections and revels in violence. Maga, he implied, imposed minority rule on an otherwise reasonable group of people.

“Donald Trump and the Maga Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic. Now, I want to be very clear from the start: Not all Republicans, not even the majority of Republicans, are Maga Republicans. Not all Republicans embrace their extreme ideology. I know that, because I got to work with these mainstream Republicans.

He continued: “But there is no doubt that the Republican Party today is dominated, led and bullied by Donald Trump and the Maga Republicans and that is a threat to this country.”

Maybe. The point is at least debatable after the past seven years. Many mainstream Republicans have retired or been purged, most recently Congresswoman Liz Cheney. Polls show a majority of Republicans believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, both hardliners, are the party’s top two contenders for the 2024 nomination. There is no moderate alternative with a reasonable chance.

In what could be a triumph of hope over experience, Biden still wants to believe that Maga is applied top-down. But there is evidence that it is coming from below, with millions of rank-and-file Republicans willing to accept false conspiracy theories and vote for extremist candidates midterm. As Trump may find out the hard way, the base took on a life of its own.

If Biden, with an elaborate set design in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, where the nation’s founding documents were written, worked to isolate Maga and rally Democrats and Democrats to reject him, he might have more work to do. The right was forced to compare his criticism to Hillary Clinton’s infamous 2016 comment on the “basket of deplorables” anyway.

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Network did not show the full speech and when it did, asked why Biden was speaking against a dramatically lit “blood red” background. Far-right host Tucker Carlson, the most-watched prime-time figure on cable news, sneered and deployed chyrons such as, “This is by far Biden’s most shameful moment.”

The network’s 9 p.m. newscast added, “Biden vilifies millions of Americans,” “Biden uses prime-time address to fuel more division,” and “Clueless Biden spews hate in dark, mournful speech. “.

Biden has come a long way since the man who suggested he could rewind to a golden age of Democrats and Republicans debating together, dining together and respectfully agreeing to disagree. But in the November midterm elections or the 2024 presidential ballot, his hardest lesson may yet be to come.

About Marion Alexander

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