American President Defends Democracy, Wingnuts Outraged
President Joe Biden gave a a barn-burner of a speech in Philadelphia last night, warning about the threats to democracy posed by Donald Trump and his MAGA cult. Biden spoke right in front of Independence Hall, to underline the "a republic, if you can keep it" tone of his speech.
This is where the United States Constitution was written and debated.
This is where we set in motion the most extraordinary experiment of self-government the world has ever known with three simple words: “We, the People.” “We, the People.”
It was a darn good speech! In case you missed it last night, here's the video.
Biden did not use the occasion to admit that we are actually all trapped in a massive computer simulation run by a mad artificial intelligence, because apparently we're not yet ready for the hard truths. But he did articulate what most of us have felt since the Trump "presidency," and especially since the weirdness of the pandemic: "Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal."
He added that Trump and his followers "represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic" because they just plain don't believe in democracy, and after some disclaimers about how regular Republicans are just fine, both of them, he got to the specifics:
MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution. They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people.
They refuse to accept the results of a free election. And they’re working right now, as I speak, in state after state to give power to decide elections in America to partisans and cronies, empowering election deniers to undermine democracy itself.
MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards — backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love.
They promote authoritarian leaders, and they fan the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country.
Back in 2019, Biden said frequently that the far-right violence in Charlottesville, and Trump's indifference to all the extremists who supported him, were what made him want to run for the presidency: to put a stop to what increasingly became an open embrace of violent thugs. Biden made clear that MAGA violence has only gotten worse since then, erupting in the attempted coup of January 6, 2011:
They look at the mob that stormed the United States Capitol on January 6th — brutally attacking law enforcement — not as insurrectionists who placed a dagger to the throat of our democracy, but they look at them as patriots.
And they see their MAGA failure to stop a peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election as preparation for the 2022 and 2024 elections.
They tried everything last time to nullify the votes of 81 million people. This time, they’re determined to succeed in thwarting the will of the people.
We're including the full bill of particulars, since so many Trump cultists are already claiming that Biden simply made an undifferentiated claim that Republicans-R-Bad.
The speech then shifted to discussing what we can do about it, since, as Biden emphasized, "We are not powerless in the face of these threats. We are not bystanders in this ongoing attack on democracy."
The answer, of course, is to vote, but not only that; Biden appealed again and again to the basic fairness and decency of most Americans, and by Crom he even made us believe in that underappreciated quality that makes us seem like Golden Retrievers at times. (Side note: In Maus , his comics memoir of the Holocaust, Art Spiegelman depicts Americans as dogs, which always struck me as perfect — we mean well, but we also bark wildly at nothing and tend to tear up the couch if we get bored.)
He didn't use the phrase that Trump recycled from Nixon, but Biden made clear that if there's a "silent majority" in America, it's not the resentful mob that Trump mobilized through fear, but the ordinary Americans who are tired of constant culture war and bullying and attacks on our institutions.
America, Biden emphasized, may be threatened by our internal fascists (he didn't use the word; we have to), but the vast majority of us are sick of them, and we need to stand up for democracy, for honesty, for respect for other Americans. It would have almost sounded Frank Capra-corny, but for the fact that we really are facing a movement that wants to install minority rule by extremists who see elections as a mere roadblock to exercising their will.
Where Trump spoke of "American carnage" and claimed only he could end it, ideally with overwhelming force, Biden repeatedly underlined that political violence can "never be an acceptable tool" in America.
Trump loved hyping up his crowds with the promise of sending protesters, and even the media, out on a stretcher, because that's what an enemy deserves. Biden, by contrast, underlined that "There is no place for political violence in America. Period. None. Ever."
With weirdly ironic timing, immediately after Biden vowed he would "defend our democracy with every fiber of my being, and I’m asking every American to join me," some hecklers started shouting at him through a magaphone. The Washington Post decorously reports they were "yelling 'Let’s go, Brandon' and the more vulgar version of that slogan."
Biden took it in stride, saying that the guy with the bullhorn is also what democracy is about, too, Charlie Brown: "They’re entitled to be outrageous. This is a democracy.” He didn't once offer to pay the legal bills of someone who'd punch the protester in the face.
It was, dare we say it, an uplifting speech, though I'll be the first to admit I'm a total sucker for sappy uplift. As he has before, Biden contrasted the darkness of the MAGA worldview with images of a brighter future that's possible if we can join together and reject the forces of division and hate:
I made a bet on you, the American people, and that bet is paying off. Proving that from darkness — the darkness of Charlottesville, of COVID, of gun violence, of insurrection — we can see the light. Light is now visible. [...]
Even in this moment, with all the challenges we face, I give you my word as a Biden: I’ve never been more optimistic about America’s future. Not because of me, but because of who you are.
Not surprisingly, the usual MAGA suspects condemned Biden's "divisive" rhetoric, but there are a lot of things I'd rather write about today than those doodooheads, so the hell with them. Let's do politics the way the sainted Molly Ivins (happy belated birthday, Molly!) always urged:
So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.
The stakes are higher than ever, and the 2022 midterms really do have democracy itself on the ballot. Let's keep that weird light shining, how about?
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