Opinion

Is American democracy really at risk?

The sharpest opinions on the debate from around the web

President Biden is going on the offensive against former President Donald Trump and his MAGA base ahead of the fall midterms, trying to help Democrats hold onto their narrow majorities in the House and Senate. "Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic," Biden said last week in a primetime speech slamming election deniers. On Labor Day, he doubled down on the attacks, saying in campaign rallies in Midwest swing states that "Trumpies" and "MAGA Republicans" were "coming for your Social Security" and "destroying democracy." Biden stressed that he wasn't referring to all Republicans, just those who embrace the "extreme ideology" of Trump's "Make America Great Again" movement.

Trump responded with broadsides of his own. He wrote on his Truth Social platform that the August FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida, part of an investigation into his handling of classified documents, was a "sneak attack on democracy (our Republic!)." Over the weekend, Trump appeared at his first rally since the search, and called Biden's speech "the most vicious, hateful, and divisive speech ever delivered by an American president, vilifying 75 million citizens." Trump said Biden had essentially told Trump supporters they're "all enemies of the state. He's an enemy of the state, if you want to know the truth." Is this heated rhetoric just part of the fight for control of Congress, or is the future of the nation, and democracy, really at risk?

America really is in peril

"Biden was right: This is an emergency," says Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. Trump has condoned political violence, saying in a recent interview that, if elected again in 2024, "he will 'look very, very favorably' at pardons for the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrectionists." And his allies at the Republican National Committee have shown they feel the same way by trying "to whitewash that bloody attack on the citadel of our democracy as 'legitimate political discourse.'" Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has warned there will be "riots in the streets" if Trump is charged with a crime for "hoarding top secret documents" at Mar-a-Lago. Trump-drunk state legislatures are imposing abortion bans and making it harder for Democrats to vote. If "the MAGA cult prevails," Trump allies in state legislatures and Congress could "disregard the will of their voters" and install "Trump or some puffed-up Trump wannabe to the White House," even if they clearly lose the election. "It was Biden's duty to sound the alarm. We had all better pay attention."

Biden is pushing for one-party rule. Be afraid.

Biden came into office promising to heal the nation, says Matthew Boose at American Greatness, but his "Stalinistic rant" made it clear he really just wants to force "'MAGA Republicans' who comprise a third or more of the electorate" off the political stage, like a "surgeon excising a tumor." Biden is labeling anyone "who might dare to put up any kind of meaningful resistance to himself and his political party" as a traitor. And leftists are lapping up Biden's "authoritarian" offensive, because they're fine with living in a "one-party state," as long as it's their party, and their "Dear Leader," who are in charge. Like any tyrant, Biden is an expert "scapegoater," blaming the unvaccinated for COVID, gas-station owners for high pump prices, and MAGA Republicans for, well, everything. Biden and his allies "believe that anything is justified if it keeps Trump and the 'MAGA Republicans' out of power. It's scary to think what people this self-righteous might do if they are not chastened in November, supposing they can be chastened."

Democrats don't really believe democracy is at risk

Many Americans "may believe that American democracy is threatened as at no other point since the Civil War," says Ross Douthat in The New York Times. But Biden isn't one of them. He and his fellow Democrats "are running a political operation in which the threat to democracy is leverage, used to keep swing voters onside without having to make difficult concessions to the center or the right." If Biden really thought the republic was in peril, he would have offered the "conciliation and cultural truce that a real crisis would require," without easing up on Trump. He could have conceded that "his own party has played some role in undermining faith in American elections, that the Republicans challenging the 2020 result were making a more dangerous use of tactics deployed by Democrats in 2004 and 2016." Or he could have mentioned, when he was condemning political violence, the May and June George Floyd 2020 riots, or the threats against pro-life pregnancy centers and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Instead, he and his party are trying to "boost Trump within the GOP" because they've calculated that making Trump the issue will help them win in November.

MAGA Republicans are the ones who've gone too far

"It is sweet to think, as some do, that if [Biden] tacked right or talked up his Catholicism more, deep-Red America would meet him halfway in a 'cultural truce,'" says Janan Ganesh at the Financial Times. Such fantasies might appeal to swing voters who think Biden has governed too far to the left, but "the militant right" has zero interest in working with Biden, or anyone in his party. "His legitimacy was questioned before he took a single executive decision. And the president who felt the first modern blast of rightwing rage, Bill Clinton, was a budget-balancing southerner and crime hawk." That's why it's wrong to compare Democrats' excesses with those of Trump and the MAGA crowd. "The Democrats are a party with some wild activists and cockamamie ideas," but they are not the "one whose leaders are at odds with the rules of the political game." The United States has to come to terms with the fact "that a third or more of the electorate is simply unreachable. If so, isn't there value in some presidential frankness about the scale of this problem?"

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