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.
In coming days, these Republicans will retreat into right-wing media safe spaces to fulminate without facing cross-examination. But when they venture into mainstream forums, they should be pressed on specifics.
Let’s take Biden’s most fundamental claim about the MAGA-fied GOP and democracy:
Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic.
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.
Some Republicans insist they do respect the Constitution and the rule of law. But Biden carefully distinguished between MAGA and non-MAGA Republicans, casting only the former in these terms.
The category of “MAGA Republicans” is vague. But we can certainly say a whole lot of them — including members of Congress — were largely supportive of Trump’s effort as president to overturn his election loss.
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.
Biden also said this:
They look at the mob that stormed the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, brutally attacking law enforcement, not as insurrectionists who placed a dagger at the throat of our democracy, but they look at them as patriots.
Biden went on to accuse “MAGA forces” of fanning “political violence.”
Republicans sometimes say those who committed violent crimes should be prosecuted. That may be sincere in some cases, but again, what Biden said just does apply to Trump and the GOP’s MAGA wing.
This week, Trump strongly suggested that if elected again, he would pardon untold numbers who violently attacked the U.S. Capitol to prevent a legitimately elected government from taking power. Trump also said he would issue a government apology, meaning the Jan. 6 defendants are persecuted victims. This drew not a peep from most elected Republicans.
Meanwhile, other MAGA Republicans actually have called the Jan. 6 defendants “political prisoners” or have otherwise described the rioters as patriots. Many continue to hand-wave away or actively cover up Trump’s own role in inciting that violence, implying it was perhaps excessive but motivated by an underlying just cause.
Here’s more from Biden on MAGA:
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.
And they see their MAGA failure to stop a peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election as preparation for the 2022 and 2024 elections.
Which part of this do Republicans deny?
Right now, dozens of Republicans are seeking positions of control over election machinery, with Trump’s active support, while campaigning explicitly on their refusal to acknowledge that Biden was legitimately elected president. All of that represents a threat to use the power of their offices to treat future Democratic election wins as subject to nullification.
And so, the openly declared intentions of Trump and those MAGA Republicans show that they undeniably do pose a threat to our democratic system at a bedrock level.
Does that mean the system couldn’t recover if all Jan. 6 defendants walked or if Trump (or an imitator) and his allies illicitly overturn a future presidential election?
Not necessarily. But their actions are plainly a threat to our foundational democratic bargain, in which electoral losses are accepted as binding and the losers live to fight another day, and a hard line is drawn at political violence.
On that latter score, in fact, some scholars of political breakdown fear that the MAGA takeover of large swaths of the GOP really does portend future political violence and instability. Not civil war, necessarily, but higher levels of violence directed at influencing or contesting political outcomes.
And so, at a fundamental level, Biden’s core claim — that Trump and the swaths of the GOP allied with him pose a foundational threat — is absolutely reasonable.
There are far more Americans, far more Americans from every background and belief, who reject the extreme MAGA ideology than those that accept it. And folks, it’s within our power, it’s in our hands, yours and mine, to stop the assault on American democracy.
That’s a call for Americans to defeat Trump and MAGA in a manner that is peaceful and democratic. Biden is saying that an anti-MAGA majority exists in this country that can and must mobilize to stabilize our system.
And the idea that this majority is out there and exists for the rousing — well, that’s what enrages Republicans most of all.