Some 161 years after Abraham Lincoln’s address at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, President Biden will deliver an addressThere on Thursday, to speak to the rage and violence that has been loosed upon the land in the roiled wake of Donald Trump. “The White House said Biden would ‘talk about the progress we have made as a nation to protect our democracy, but how our rights and freedoms are still under attack. And he will make clear who is fighting for those rights, fighting for those freedoms, and fighting for our democracy,’” reports the Guardian.
Some days ago, in a similarly themed speech, Biden referred to hyper-aggressive Trump supporters as “semi-fascists,” and the subsequent pearl-clutching threatened to set records. “The fact that the president would go out and just insult half of America [and] effectively call half of America semi-fascist, he’s trying to stir up controversy,” huffed Chris Sununu, New Hampshire’s GOP governor. “He’s trying to stir up this anti-Republican sentiment right before the election. It’s horribly inappropriate.”
How dare a Democratic politician stir up anti-Republican sentiment right before a crucial election! How dare he? Only Republicans are allowed stirred up sentiment. Usually, this is by any means necessary. However, Republicans cannot use rhetoric that would make a group of people scream. goats vomit in unison. This guy is a thief.
Second, Biden was not referring to “half the country.” Only in Sununu’s sweatiest fever dreams do Republicans make up 50 percent of the population; independents and non-voters outnumber both major parties by miles. Half the country didn’t invade the Capitol seeking to hang the vice president and House speaker while smearing their own shit on the marble walls, and half the country isn’t threatening to massacre FBI agents and National Archives librarians because a former president is enduring the due process of law like anyone else who tap dances along the line of treason. Half the country doesn’t own an AR-15, and half the country doesn’t think about using it because the “wrong” people are voting.
The only problem I have with Biden’s statement is the fact that he dropped the phrase “semi” into it. There is nothing “semi” about the old-school bog standard fascism being peddled by Trump from his island of misfit toys down in Florida. Take a look at what Trump did yesterday: a zillion-post internet. meltdown championing every hateful, racist conspiracy theory the internet can offer… and none of it is accidental.
The first rule of effective fascism is “derange the conversation.” Use terms like “democracy” and “freedom of speech” against themselves, break the process and shoot the gap to seize power while everyone is still trying to figure out what the hell is going on. “Flood the zone with shit,” as Steve Bannon would counsel. In this instance, Trump’s “rant” came after the Justice Department turned his request for a Special Master into another humiliation in court. His eruption was necessary to end a news cycle that would have been very damaging. It’s a trick he’s pulled only a thousand times already.
“The MAGA Republicans don’t just threaten our personal rights and economic security,” Biden toldMaryland audience last week. “They’re a threat to our very democracy. They reject the will of the people and embrace, embrace political violence. They don’t believe in democracy. This is why in this moment, those of you who love this country — Democrats, independents, mainstream Republicans — we must be stronger, more determined and more committed to saving America than the MAGA Republicans [who] are destroying America.”
This sounded for all the world like a tuneup for tomorrow’s address in Philadelphia. It sounds good, but I don’t like it. needs more cowbell. The country is on the edge of a deep abyss right now, and if there is one complaint about the elders in the Democratic Party leadership, it’s this: They don’t seem to be fully aware who they are dealing to when it comes to GOP. They play scared and act like obedient mutts whenever there is any hint of danger.
It would be remarkable to see that pattern disappear on Thursday night. The country needs a speech in the vein of Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address, when he warned us about the growing power of the military-industrial complex. We didn’t heed that warning and have been buried in sorrow ever since.
Biden could offer a warning tomorrow that we are finally ready to hear. It’s possible, but the president would have to make a clear and defining break with his previous attempts at appeasement — and recognize the blatantly fascist threat we face.