UPDATE: Greg Sargent of The Washington Post sums up the conundrum for “MAGA Republicans:
Republicans are in a rage over President Biden’s speech in Philadelphia, in which he flatly declared that the American democratic experiment is in serious danger due to Donald Trump and the Republicans who remain allied with his political project.
So here’s a question for those Republicans: What exactly in Biden’s speech was wrong?…
…That MAGA coup attempt included extraordinarily corrupt pressure on many government actors, including law enforcement, which flouted the rule of law on its face. It involved pressure on Vice President Mike Pence to violate his constitutional duty. Pence himself said he was being asked to betray basic tenets of constitutional democracy.
Many Republicans who are now professing outrage supported all that. A review of their own conduct proves Biden right.
“The MAGA Republicans believe that for them to succeed, everyone else has to fail.”
— President Biden (9/1/22)
President Joe Biden delivered a powerful primetime speech on Thursday night from the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia that laid out in clear terms the battle for democracy in the United States.
As David Frum wrote later for The Atlantic, Biden’s speech was so effective because it was real:
The response from Biden’s Republican opponents has been hotter than mere tut-tutting. Biden’s sharp speech has only one justification: So much of it is true.
If you missed Biden’s 24-minute speech, you can read the full transcript here or watch it in full below. To better understand the significance of Thursday’s events — including here in Colorado — it helps to break things down into a few different parts. Let’s start with…
Biden’s remarks on Thursday were masterfully constructed. In plain language, he began by defining “MAGA Republicans” as people who were intent on destroying democracy. Biden did not resort to name-calling but stuck with facts instead:
And here, in my view, is what is true: [Pols emphasis] 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.
Biden then carefully explained that “MAGA Republicans” are a fringe minority in the United States, which had the effect of placing them in a rhetorical corner with the rest of the country on the other side:
But while the threat to American democracy is real, I want to say as clearly as we can, we are not powerless in the face of these threats. We are not bystanders in this ongoing attack on democracy. There are far more Americans, far more Americans from every background and belief, who reject the extreme MAGA ideology than those that accept it. [Pols emphasis] And folks, it’s within our power, it’s in our hands, yours and mine, to stop the assault on American democracy…
…MAGA Republicans have made their choice. They embrace anger. They thrive on chaos. They live, not in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies. But together, together, we can choose a different path. We can choose a better path forward to the future, a future of possibility, a future to build a dream and hope, and we’re on that path moving ahead.
Meanwhile, “MAGA Republicans” were busy identifying themselves and proving every one of Biden’s points.
At several moments in Thursday’s speech, we could hear protestors making noise from blocks away, including at least one idiot bellowing unintelligible nonsense from a bullhorn. This was amazingly tone-deaf and counterproductive, because it gave Biden several openings to essentially say, See what I mean? Biden deftly responded to #BullhornGuy with this:
They’re entitled to be outrageous. This is a democracy. [Pols emphasis] But history and common sense — good manners is nothing they have ever suffered from — but history and common sense tell us that opportunity, liberty and justice for all are most likely to come to pass in a democracy. We have never fully realized the aspirations of our founding, but every generation has opened those doors a little bit wider to include more people who have been excluded before.
These “MAGA Republicans” proved Biden’s points throughout the evening. Prior to Biden’s speech, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy delivered some asinine remarks. As The New York Times reports:
McCarthy aligned himself with former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to undercut federal law enforcement over the search of Mar-a-Lago, condemning the court-ordered seizure of classified documents from the former president’s home as an “assault on democracy.” [Pols emphasis]
In a half-hour speech delivered from Scranton, Pa., Mr. McCarthy sought to take the themes that President Biden was hitting in a prime-time address and turn them on their head against Democrats, in a remarkable attempt at political jujitsu aimed at muddying the waters about Mr. Trump’s conduct and his handling of sensitive government material.
If this was jujitsu, it was the kind where an inexperienced student ends up breaking their own elbow in a tangle of bodies. As Steve Benen later pointed out for MSNBC:
The political strategy behind the speech was based on a relatively straightforward idea: McCarthy knew that Biden would accuse much of the Republican Party of abandoning democracy, so the House GOP leader would effectively deliver remarks in which he said, “Oh yeah? Well I think you’re the one who’s undermining democracy.”
“I know you are, but what am I” might be popular on a grade-school playground, but it is otherwise not considered to be one of the more effective rhetorical tools for adults.
McCarthy’s dumb prebuttal may have been partly inspired by the very simple trap laid out earlier by the Biden social media team.
The official White House Twitter account tossed out some basic chum for the most simplistic of the “MAGA Republicans”:
Naturally, folks like Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren “Q*Bert” Boebert couldn’t resist the Twitter equivalent of “floor pie”:
In other words, Biden went on national television and told the nation that there is a relatively-small group of “MAGA Republicans” in the United States who are working to overthrow democracy. In response, Boebert yelled, “Hey, over here! I’m one of those people!”
The Impact in Colorado
President Biden hammered Donald Trump in Colorado in 2020, carrying the state by a nearly 14-point margin. Thus Colorado voters are already predisposed to being supportive of the sort of message that Biden delivered on Thursday. This is not good for a majority of Colorado Republicans who are running for elected office in November.
For politicians such as gubernatorial disaster
Hiedi Heidi Ganahl, Biden’s speech only increases the price for her decision to move further to the right ahead of the June 28th Primary Election. We’re guessing Ganahl would like to have this one back:
The “MAGA Republican” label is also a problem for Republican Congressional candidates Erik Aadland (CO-07) and Barbara Kirkmeyer (CO-08), both of whom have heartily embraced Trumpism and MAGAbots. Aadland is on the record saying that the 2020 election was fraudulent (or “absolutely rigged,” to be precise); in a humorous display of poor timing, his campaign Tweeted out a reminder on Thursday afternoon that Aadland has the support of Kevin McCarthy.
Even Republican Senate candidate Joe O’Dea is in more of a bind today than he was a week ago. In recent weeks, O’Dea has been trying (and failing) to rid himself of the stench of his prior support for Trump. That effort went out the window on Monday, when O’Dea FOR THE SECOND TIME called the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago last month a “political stunt.”
Hey, Joe, can you stand over there next to Kevin McCarthy and against the FBI and the Justice Department? You can?
President Biden’s strong words on Thursday night were what America needed to hear. In a fight over democracy itself, “MAGA Republicans” — who are a clear minority nationwide –are on the opposite side of everyone else in the United States. The hysterical response to Biden’s words from the MAGAbots served only to underscore this very point, and it leaves a lot of Republicans in Colorado in a very difficult space with just weeks to go until ballots start arriving in mailboxes.
Leaders lead. The truth is the truth.
It took awhile to arrive back at this place, but we’re sure happy to be here.