President Joe Biden went to Philadelphia Thursday night to deliver what is, in effect, the kickoff and the keynote address for the Democratic Party’s midterm election campaign.
The speech he delivered was gobsmackingly dishonest and profoundly irresponsible in that its goal was to, in effect, burn the country down in order to preserve his party’s congressional majorities. It was also the sort of overproduced tribute to a leader’s vanity with dramatic lighting and Marine guards deployed in the background, a visual message that diverges from the humble boy from Scranton that Biden pretends to be.
His weasel-worded attempt to differentiate between good Republicans and MAGA extremists who are presumably guilty of what amounts to treason falls flat when you consider that the overwhelming majority of Republicans — not to mention the 74 million people who voted for Trump in 2020 — still support him and, as polls show, would still vote for him again over Biden. So, yes, he was talking about treating half the country as enemies of democracy.
In fact, it is the Democrats who are waging war on free speech and weaponizing the Department of Justice to settle scores with political opponents with their partisan investigations of the Jan. 6 Capital riot and the raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home. His claim that Trump supporters are the ones threatening violence is given the lie by the fact that it was Democrats who cheered on a summer of violent Black Lives Matter riots and, doubtless, would do so again if it served their political purposes.
And given that it was uttered in front of Independence Hall, the shrine of the republic’s origins, its disingenuous effort to demonize opponents and undermine the fabric of democracy in what he claimed was its defense, was also an act of partisan desecration.
But for all of the speech’s offensive nature and the transparent mendacity of Biden’s claims, it might also go down as one of the more astute strategic decisions in the history of American politics.
Like every incumbent going into his first midterms with control of both Houses of Congress, Biden has every reason to expect a shellacking in November. That was going to be exacerbated by the fact that his administration has been a shambles from its first moments.
Many conservatives are fond of dismissing Biden as a much diminished if not senile old man who is unfit for office. But whatever the truth about his state of mind, the political tactics he is now employing are not stupid.
To the contrary, faced with a losing hand, Biden is doing the only thing that might avert a catastrophic loss by overturning the table. In branding his political opponents as not merely misguided but as “semi-fascists” and opponents of democracy, he is seeking to turn back the clock to 2020 when he could pretend that he would bring normalcy and unity to a country wracked by polarization, the pandemic and tired of Trump’s antics.
In doing so Biden has changed the subject from his own misrule. What Democrats are attempting to do is an attempt to turn the midterms into a referendum on the party out of power rather than the one that has been running the country for the last two years.
Can this work? Logic would dictate that most voters care more about the economy and the toll that Biden’s inflation and misguided energy policy has taken on their personal finances and ability to feed their families than his rants about a mythical war on democracy from the right.
Though Democrats have spent the last 20 months trying to make the Capitol riot into a permanent disqualifying argument against Republicans, that didn’t save Biden from record unpopularity as his administration lurched from disaster to disaster.
But even if the Mar-a-Lago raid was an act worthy of a banana republic and the likelihood of a bogus indictment of Trump on a ginned-up charge about classified documents reflects the Democrats’ belief that taking down their opponent requires treating him as if he were a mafia don rather than a president, all this has changed the political conversation in the country. It has also given Biden a slight boost in the polls even if his approval rating is still deep under water.
Republicans have rightly risen up to register their outrage. They can remind voters that the Obama White House, the security establishment and the Hillary Clinton campaign attempted what was, in effect, a soft coup that sought to overturn the 2016 election results via the Russia collusion hoax. They can also point to revelations about how the FBI was used to pressure Facebook to silence discussion of Biden family corruption during the 2020 election and the White House doing the same to Twitter to deplatform skeptics of administration covid policy like Alex Berenson. Whatever you might think about Republicans who believe the 2020 election was stolen, it has been the Democrats and their deep state, corporate media and Big Tech accomplices who have been undermining democracy.
But so long as the discussion is about whether Republicans are fascists and if it’s okay to treat a former president like a criminal who must be presumed guilty of just about anything you can imagine, we’re not discussing the economy, inflation, Biden’s abandonment of the working class or the woke racist and gender ideology indoctrination that is flipping many voters from blue to red.
Biden thinks that with enough help from the DOJ and the media, the midterms will hinge on opinions about Donald Trump. That may not be a guarantee of Democratic victory but neither is it a formula for a red wave.
Republicans must remind the country about what a disaster Biden has been and speak about what they stand for in terms of conservative ideas and values, as MAGA Republicans like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are articulating. The alternative is to gamble the country’s future on a bet that Biden is more than willing to take.
Jonathan S. Tobin is a senior contributor to The Federalist, editor in chief of JNS.org, and a columnist for the New York Post. Follow him on Twitter at @jonathans_tobin.
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