Predictably, many Republicans melted into volcanic spasms and hissy fits after President Biden delivered his speech in Philadelphia last week.
In one of his rare prime time addresses to the nation, Biden declared in clear and no uncertain terms that the American democratic experiment is in serious danger due to Donald Trump and those in the GOP who remain his steadfast allies.
Former South Carolina governor and ex-U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley said she was disturbed by the “dark imagery” surrounding the president. The habitually shameful Marjorie Taylor Greene referred to Biden as “demented.” Equally-horrendous Fox News host Tucker Carlson compared the background accompanying the president’s message to Nazism. Monica Crowley, a former Fox News contributor and Trump administration official, referred to the event as “nothing short of satanic.”
No one should be surprised by such juvenile political histrionics coming from the more extreme corners of the GOP. After all, such routine overzealousness is their stock and trade.
For all the chest thumping and disingenuous ranting and raving, did Biden say anything that was false? For those who claim the speech was angry, divisive, or hateful, the reality is that many MAGA Republicans epitomize those same traits. By and large, these GOP extremists do not have any genuine regard for the Constitution, spit in the face at the rule of law, disregard the will of the American people and refused to accept the results of a free, fair and equitable election.
Indeed, many of the MAGA faithful — from politicians to ordinary citizens — were very supportive of Trump’s determination to overturn his election defeat in November 2020. Who doesn’t remember many MAGA rioters (I will not call them protestors) ferociously yelling chilling chants to “Hang Mike Pence!”
Trump, in ever Machiavellian fashion, stated in a radio interview last week that if he was elected again in 2024, he would “look very, very favorably” at pardoning the Capitol insurrectionists. Let’s not forget, Trump-worshiping sycophant Lindsey Graham promised there will be “riots in the streets” if Trump is criminally charged for hoarding top-secret documents at his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago. Relatedly, you have Republican elected officials in numerous states aiming to place themselves in positions of power to manipulate and control voting machines and other equipment in future elections in an effort to potentially disregard any Democratic wins as null and void.
MAGA Republican-controlled state legislatures have also gleefully imposed draconian abortion bans and endorsed disturbingly weak gun laws. They’ve ratified legislation designed to make it harder for historically-marginalized groups of people to vote. They’ve forced school districts to censor books in school libraries. It just goes on and on.
In response, a number of prominent historians met with president Biden earlier this summer and discussed their concerns over what they see as a democracy potentially teetering on the brink of collapse. As someone who is a historian by training, not since the 1850s has this nation been so politically and culturally volatile or vulnerable.
To be sure, the president made it clear he was not speaking of all Republicans — just the right-wing MAGA types. In the true bipartisan fashion that has been one his primary attributes, Biden proudly discussed how he has productively worked with a number of those on the other side of the political aisle, crafting and passing legislation for the betterment of the nation. Such an image is a far cry from the wanton, retrograde MAGA forces which currently dominate and control the party.
There was considerable talk across the political spectrum of Biden having two uniformed Marines in the background as he delivered his speech. Such imagery seemed ominous, but given the theme of his speech, their inclusion seemed most fitting and appropriate. Biden unequivocally stated, “We are in a battle for the soul of this nation,” pitting democracy against autocracy. I concur with such sentiment.
Most rational minded people can probably only shudder at the prospect of a 2024 presidential election in which a MAGA-controlled Congress propels the reactionary agenda of a dictator-in-waiting, whether it be Trump or some wannabe MAGA clone. Such a situation would likely make martial law seem benign in comparison.
Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker. Contact caglecartoons.com