AMAC Exclusive – By David P. Deavel
The makers of jokes, memes, and cartoons were given a lifetime supply of material in Joe Biden’s Thursday night speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The weird, hellish red lighting that CNN, ever the Democratic lapdog, chose to alter in order to make it seem, as Red State’s Brad Slager noted, that this was the president of T-Mobile. Biden’s trademark unhinged yelling and Hitlerian shaking of both fists. The claim that the Biden Administration was working to cure cancer. His giving “my word as a Biden.” It was all there, all real, and all spectacularly funny in the abstract.
But frankly, though we can laugh at it, this speech was a kind of stand-in for the joke that is the Biden presidency. A joke that is increasingly no laughing matter.
Biden said that Donald Trump is “not normal” and “extreme,” that he has endangered the “guardrails” of “our democracy.” But it is both Biden’s policies and Biden’s speech that have been extreme, the latter nowhere more so than in this Philadelphia speech. It is Joe Biden who has been slamming hard into the guardrails of democracy. Joe Biden is Not Normal.
The unfunny joke begins, of course, with the sales pitch that this speech was about healing “The Soul of the Nation,” as Biden’s speechwriters titled this. It’s part of the bigger joke that was played on a significant part of the Democratic Party and the American people in 2020: that Joe Biden was a moderate who would bring us back to normal and bid divisions cease. All the lines Barack Obama used about there not being a red or blue America were trotted out, but this speech, as Biden’s presidency has been, was about fanning the flames of hatred toward those who disagree with the Democrats. “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans,” Biden said, “represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.”
What extremism is this? “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.”
MAGA Republicans, Biden says, possess “blind loyalty to a single leader and a willingness to engage in political violence.” Among these violent MAGA Republicans, “there are public figures—today, yesterday, and the day before—predicting and all but calling for mass violence and rioting in the streets.”
MAGA Republicans, Biden says, “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 Republicans see politics as “total war” rather than “the mediation of our differences.” MAGA Republicans are “committed” to “destroying our democracy.” MAGA Republicans want to take away the right to vote and they are against “equality.”
What other conclusion can be drawn from such a speech than that these MAGA Republicans are an enemy of the state, an enemy of America, a group that ought to be hounded out of society or fought with military power. What other conclusion can be drawn than that Joe Biden’s point of view is that MAGA Republicans are not just deplorable but unredeemable, not just mistaken but evil, not just political opponents but mortal enemies.
This is not normal. This is not sane. This is not easing tensions or reducing polarization. This is a call to war.
And though Joe Biden attempted to sort of walk back this horrific speech the next day, his call was heard. How could it not have been heard? The week before, Biden had held a “unity rally” where he tried out all the phrases in the Philadelphia speech and then told donors afterward that the MAGA (or “Ultra-MAGA,” as he said) Republican philosophy is “semi-fascism.” Though he didn’t repeat the “semi-fascism” line in Philadelphia, the material was there. How could it not be heard?
Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post certainly heard it. He said the speech was a “terrific wartime address.” So it’s not just a call to war—America is already at war with these awful MAGA Republicans.
Journalist Roland Martin heard it and he not only gets the war thing but he knows precisely how awful those MAGA types are. He told MSNBC, “We are at war with these people. These folks are evil.”
While most people understand politics ain’t beanbag, they also don’t expect to hear their elected leaders call them fascists. Nor to hear “mainstream” media sources hold two-minutes-of-hate sessions in which half the country are said to be at war with the country.
This is not normal. And it cannot lead to anything good.
But apart from the awful, norm-breaking, fist-shaking quality of Biden’s speech, there is the jaw-droppingly obvious problem that his accusations against MAGA Republicans are either projections of views, attitudes, and actions actually found on the Democratic Party’s side or ones that are bipartisan affairs. Let’s start with the projections:
MAGA Republicans hate the Constitution. You do not hear calls to simply ignore the Constitution on the Republican side of the aisle at all. This is the province of Democratic politicians and commentators such as Elie Mystal who calls it “kind of trash.”
MAGA Republicans don’t believe in the Rule of Law or Equality. Joe Biden, not Donald Trump, decided that refusing to enforce our immigration law is an option. It’s not MAGA district attorneys refusing to prosecute criminals in the name of “racial justice. It is Democrats who believe that discrimination in education and employment is ok if it’s on behalf of the right demographic. It’s not Republican election officials who broke the law in multiple ways in states such as Wisconsin. It is Democrats who decided to have the DOJ raid Mar-a-Lago because of supposedly classified documents while treating Hillary Clinton, whose server had many classified documents on them, with kid gloves.
MAGA Republicans believe political violence is the answer. Is he kidding? Hilary Clinton said in 2018 that “You can’t be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for and what you care for,” while Maxine Waters famously called for harassment of Trump staffers. Madame Pelosi said, “when you’re in the arena, you have to be ready to take a punch, and you have to be ready to throw a punch … for the children.” And these were not idle words. Though memory-holed by many, the riots in many cities following the 2016 election were massive. So too those that cascaded across the United States in 2020. Then Maxine Waters said for protesters to “Get more confrontational.” Though there was a bit of violence on January 6th, it paled in comparison to what happened on May 31, 2020, when 60 Secret Service Agents were injured by protesters trying to breach the White House. Insurrection, anyone?
Democrats believe political violence is the answer for them, but not for you.
But let’s go to the point that might be true but does not distinguish MAGA Republicans from any kind of Democrats.
MAGA Republicans don’t accept election results. Joe Biden’s accusations of lawlessness and Constitution-and-Democracy hating really had no examples except for January 6 and the refusal of many Republicans to believe the 2020 elections were fairly decided. His own election’s legitimacy is pretty much all he has. Yet Democrats have been denying elections for years without having war declared on them. Steve Guest compiled ten minutes of video clips of prominent Democrats including Hilary Clinton, Kamala Harris, Dianne Feinstein, Jimmy Carter, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and yes, even Joe Biden claiming Donald Trump’s election was illegitimate. They include Democratic objectors in Congress to votes in both George W. Bush’s 2000 election and Donald Trump’s 2016 election victories, as well as numerous other figures in state and national elections claiming the illegitimacy of elections they had lost.
But Democrats did not just say elections were illegitimate. They acted. Fred Lucas detailed the various maneuvers tried by Democrats to reverse the 2016 election of Donald Trump, including an Electoral College coup attempt led by one Christine Pelosi. One of the details in the article is that most of the electors involved in this did not “believe” in the Electoral College. That is a funny thing, I think we can say, but again it’s a joke that’s no laughing matter. If there is anybody who hates the Constitution, I think it’s the people in this camp.
And that’s the problem. We can laugh at the hypocrisy and the stupidity of Joe Biden, his speech, and the words and actions of a lot of people in public life. Such things are indeed normal. But hypocrisy is usually a tool by which politics can get away with bad behavior. This is hypocrisy being used to justify making one half of the country permanent enemies.
That is not normal and, in the end, it is no joke.
David P. Deavel is Associate Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, TX, and a Senior Contributor at Tbe Imaginative Conservative.