Some 161 years after Abraham Lincoln’s ominous pre-Civil War address at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, President Biden will deliver a speech of his own there on Thursday, and will reportedly 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.”
A Democratic politician attempting to stir up anti-Republican sentiment on the eve of a critical election? I mean, how dare he! Only Republicans are allowed to stir up sentiment, usually by any means necessary while using rhetoric that would make a herd of goats vomit in unison. Where does this guy get off?
For the sake of basic clarity, know that 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 a firearm arsenal they vocally contemplate using 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. Look at what the man did just yesterday: a zillion-post online 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 concepts 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 required in order to upend what otherwise would have been a badly damaging news cycle. 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 told an audience in Maryland last week. “They’re a threat to our very democracy. They refuse to accept the will of the people, they 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. I like it, but it needs more cowbell. The country stands on the brink of a deep abyss today, and if I have one all-encompassing complaint about the elders occupying the leadership of the Democratic Party, it is this: They never seem to be fully aware of who they are dealing with when it comes to the GOP. They play scared, and roll over like obedient mutts at the slightest hint of menace.
It would be extraordinary to see that pattern dissipate 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 did not heed that warning, and have been steeped in woe ever since.
Tomorrow, Biden might offer a warning we are finally ready to hear. It’s possible, but the president would have to make a clear and defining break with he and his party’s previous and seemingly eternal attempts at appeasement — and recognize the brazen fascist threat we face.