By Dr. Jason Nichols
President Biden has stopped tip-toeing around the issue of protecting democracy against bad faith actors who would crush what was built and refined since 1776. The President has spent the last few weeks rightly calling out MAGA Republicans, culminating in his strongest speech since his 2020 campaign. “As I stand here tonight, equality and democracy are under assault,” President Biden said in a primetime televised speech last week. “MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards: Backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love.”
Republicans predictably took umbrage, and have been panning the speech ever since as divisive, claiming the President has smeared half the nation as extremists. But the President was very clear during the speech and since that not every Republican is a MAGA Republican—indeed, not even every person who voted for former President Donald Trump qualifies as a MAGA Republican. The President was specifically speaking of those who would subvert our democracy, who believe the election was stolen and were prepared to do something about it.
And President Biden is right that that many of Trump voters are not in that camp. Recall that Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers voted for Trump, and Rep. Liz Cheney voted with him 92.9 percent of the time in the House of Representatives. Yet neither would sit idly by while the former President attempted to subvert democracy and called up a thuggish mob to attack the Capitol.
Both Cheney and Bowers have since been ousted from office, not because of their performance as legislators but due to their lack of obsequiousness to Trump and his disregard for democracy. Despite Cheney being among the most conservative members of congress, she has now been labeled a “RINO” by her party.
It goes beyond officials. There are some Republicans who disagree so intensely with Democratic policies that they prefer Trump even if they don’t like his style. Though these people are problematic for flirting with authoritarianism in exchange for a tax cut, they are not MAGA Republicans.
MAGA Republicans are people who justify anything Trump does and distrust any effort to hold him accountable. They are the people who call January 6 a “normal tourist visit.“
It’s true that President Biden used harsh language, calling MAGA Republicans “semi-fascists” last week. But those who criticize him for it seem to have forgotten that Trump called Democrats “fascists” in 2020, and Trump did not use “semi” as a qualifier.
1/2: In 2020, Trump called Democrats “fascists” in ’20 while surrounded by military officials.
No one remembers it bc Dems didn’t feel threatened by his false claim.
Today, MAGA Republicans are angry at President Biden for a similar remark. Because they know it’s true. pic.twitter.com/ran6LASOys
— Matthew Sheffield (@mattsheffield) September 2, 2022
Trump was wrong—but President Biden is right to issue this important warning to protect our country.
Fascism was a political movement founded by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, whose groups of ex-military thugs known as Blackshirts were tasked with fighting in the streets and beating up local officials who did not support Mussolini. The Blackshirts famously marched on the Italian capital of Rome in a planned insurrection that led to the capture of the government. Thus began fascist rule.
One can easily see a parallel between the Blackshirts and some of the militia who were involved in the January 6 attack of the Capitol. Many of the insurrectionists were disgruntled former military, not representative of the masses of men and women who served our country in uniform, and per the Department of Justice, the Oath Keepers militia was involved in planning the attack, many of whose members are former servicemen.
Members of another militia called the Wolverine Watchmen allegedly plotted to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. It has been reported that the group initially wanted to storm the State Capitol in Lansing before deciding on the Whitmer plot. The would-be kidnappers were prepared to use a grenade launcher against Whitmer’s security.
The militarism of Trump’s reign is another classic aspect of fascism. Though Trump is the first President to avoid involving the U.S. in a new conflict in recent memory, his answer to many domestic issues was to send in the military. He threatened to do so during the uprisings in the summer of 2020, when, according to former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Trump inquired about shooting protesters in the legs. Former President Trump also allegedly wanted to send 250,000 service men and women to the southern border to act as immigration officials, and Trump considered using the military to seize voting machines after his decisive election loss.
Given all this, it should not surprise us that 54 percent of Republicans feel a civil war is likely in the next decade, though it should dismay us. President Biden is not the reason that they feel this way, contrary to what you will hear from conservative news pundits. He is a leader who decided he could not let the country continue down this path and not call it out.
The President’s most solemn responsibilities are to protect the American people and the Republic itself. And President Biden is right: Our people and our Republic are in danger from MAGA Republicans. We can no longer pretend that this threat doesn’t exist.
Dr. Jason Nichols is an award winning senior lecturer in the African American Studies Department at the University of Maryland College Park and was the longtime editor-in-chief of Words Beats & Life: The Global Journal of Hip-Hop Culture. He cohosts the “Vince and Jason Save the Nation” podcast.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.
Nemo me impune lacessit