Opinion

Did Biden go too far by calling 'extreme' MAGA Republicans semi-fascist?

The sharpest opinions on the debate from around the web

President Biden has gone on the offensive ahead of the fall midterm elections, framing the November vote as a choice between Democrats and "extreme MAGA" Republicans. He said at a fundraiser that former President Donald Trump's most staunch supporters are "a threat to our very democracy" because they still refuse to accept the result of the 2020 presidential election, and implicitly endorse political violence by criticizing the investigation of the Capitol attack by a mob of Trump supporters. Biden said the same group is attacking the FBI as it faces threats for searching Trump's home for mishandled top-secret documents. "It's not just Trump," Biden said. "It's the entire philosophy that underpins the — I'm going to say something: It's like semi-fascism."

Numerous Republicans called on Biden to apologize for the remark. "The fact that the president would go out and just insult half of America [and] effectively call half of America semi-fascist," New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said on CNN's State of the Union. "He's trying to stir up controversy. He's trying to stir up this anti-Republican sentiment right before the election. It's horribly inappropriate." Sununu said Biden's remarks would only further "polarize the country." Is Biden right, or did his "fascism" comment cross a line?

Biden was right

Good for Biden, says Dana Milbank in The Washington Post. His "harsh words" were right on target. "Those who cherish democracy need to call out the proto-fascist tendencies now seizing the Trump-occupied GOP." Republican candidates in a broad range of races "up and down the ballot," enthusiastically boosted to primary victories by Trump's MAGA base, "reject the legitimate outcome of the last election — and are making it easier to reject the will of the voters in the next." The same camp, led by GOP leaders, has unloaded "violent anti-government rhetoric" targeting the FBI and the Justice Department in the wake of the Aug. 8 search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago home in Florida as part of an investigation into his handling of government secrets after leaving the White House. The MAGA crowd also has gone after the IRS. "A systemic campaign of disinformation makes their supporters feel victimized by shadowy 'elites.' These are hallmarks of authoritarianism."

Biden is the one ruling by decree

If anyone has gone authoritarian, it's Biden, says David Harsanyi at The Federalist. He's the one with a tendency to rule by fiat when he can't get the people's elected representatives to bend to will, like last week when he "unilaterally 'forgave' student loans by executive decree." His use of the word "fascism" was the latest example of the left confusing, or conflating, "the blood-and-soil European variety with American nationalism — the kind that a few Nazis in Charlottesville embraced, but which is not even close to the predominant position of Republican voters." He seems to be forgetting that "it is the left that champions government intervention in the economy, with never-ending regulations, subsidies, and mandates that effectively allow for controlling the means of production." Leftists are the ones who want to nationalize things like health care and the energy sector. "If progressives have any limiting principles when it comes to intervention in our economic lives, I'd love to hear about them."

This name-calling is a smokescreen to hide Biden's 'wretched record'

It's pretty clear what Biden is trying to do with his "deeply cynical" and historically inaccurate name-calling, says Tim Black at Spiked. "He is trying to position the Democrats as all that stands between America and fascism. A tactic that turns voting in the midterms from an important but mundane political act into a hyper-moralized choice between Good and Evil, between liberal democracy and fascist tyranny." He's pulling a fire alarm to distract Americans from the "actual issues at stake." When pressed, Biden couldn't even explain what "semi-fascism" means. That's because what he and other Democrats are trying to do by dismissing anyone who challenges them as fascist is remove "the need for Biden and Co. to defend their actual policies, not to mention the incumbent president's wretched record in office."

Biden's bold remarks are energizing Democrats

Biden IS defending his record, says Ja'han Jones at MSNBC. When a reporter asked him whether his student debt forgiveness was fair, he responded to the "hackery" by asking whether it was fair to people who don't own multi-billion-dollar businesses when their owners get tax breaks. It's "great to see" Biden "challenging right-wing lawmakers and their talking points." Biden's "willingness — dare I say, an eagerness — to fight for his policies with the sharp tone many progressives have been hoping for." Besides, he's "absolutely right" to call out Republicans for "their reverence for authoritarian regimes like those in Russia and Hungary. We see it in their efforts to suppress votes. And we see it in their allegiance to figures who spread fascist conspiracy theories." This is leadership progressives want to see, which is why Biden's "brutal honesty seems to be injecting new vigor into the Democratic base."

Right or wrong, this could backfire

Biden might wind up regretting using this geopolitical "F-bomb," says Matt Lewis at The Daily Beast. It doesn't matter that he's right to say that "the Jan. 6 Capitol riot ('Hang Mike Pence!'), and the more widespread phenomenon of election denying candidates winning subsequent GOP primaries, demonstrates this is not your father's Republican Party." But, whatever the "veracity or seeming political utility with the base," these broadsides could backfire the same way Hillary Clinton's "basket of deplorables" comment about the GOP base did in 2016. Or the way Mitt Romney's 2012 claim that 47 percent of President Obama's supporters were "dependent on the government." Both of those candidates lost, because it's political suicide to "write off" tens of millions of voters all at once. Republicans were desperate for a way to regain momentum as "the promised red tsunami" in the midterms was "starting to look more like a red ripple," and "Biden might just have handed it to them." 

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