Joe Biden’s recent declaration that “MAGA Republicans” are motivated by an ideology of “semi-fascism” may come off as merely the sort of off-hand slander Biden is sometimes known to utter.
But while assailing a random crowd member as a “lying dog-faced pony soldier” is merely offensive, Biden’s “semi-fascism” smear, aimed at the tens of millions of Americans who identified with former President Trump’s slogan of “Make America Great Again,” reveals a disturbing truth about the direction of both the Biden Administration and his perceived base.
For one thing, his administration made absolutely no effort to walk the statement back, as it has done with many of Biden’s frequent outbursts. In fact, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre chose instead to emphasize the remarks:
I think he was pretty clear and he was very powerful last night. Look, what the president said last night was that when it comes to MAGA Republicans, when it comes to the extreme ultra wing of Republicans, they are attacking democracy. Right? They are attacking, taking away rights and freedoms.
It is not clear what rights and freedoms so-called MAGA Republicans have taken away, although the one example Jean-Pierre gave was “voting rights,” presumably referring to the passage of election integrity bills in nearly 20 state legislatures. Finding fault with legislatures passing laws on a topic 83 percent of Americans consider an important issue is a strange way to define “attacking democracy.”
In a follow up with Don Lemon on the “semi-fascism” claim, Jean-Pierre also asserted that “MAGA Republicans” were attempting to “put on the chopping blocks Medicare and Social Security” which sounded less like Mussolini reborn and more like the sort of perennial complaints that Democrats usually make about Republican policies going into a midterm election.
Biden’s remarks were clearly intended to drive a wedge between those he views as political opponents, and the rest of mainstream politics, making an explicit comparison between “MAGA Republicans” and notably anti-Trump Republicans such as Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, in whose state Biden was speaking.
This portrayal of a large chunk of the American political electorate as “fascist” (“semi-” or otherwise) is motivated by the same logic that drives the street violence of Antifa; which seeks to affix the fascism label to mainstream opponents to the benefit of otherwise politically unpalatable anarcho-communists. This was the same strategy Antifa’s earliest incarnation used in the street battles of Weimar Germany, to disastrous effect.
Shortly after Biden’s remarks unknown perpetrators vandalized the Seminole County, Florida GOP offices, with the words “Eat Shit Fascists” spray-painted on the building, together with an anarchy symbol, suggesting Biden’s words were well received by the Antifa movement.
The phrase “I Am Antifa” also began to trend on Twitter promoted by self-identified liberal Twitter users who compare being “Antifa” to serving in the U.S. military, a media narrative that Antifa exploits. Meanwhile actual members of Antifa showed up in body armor and carried rifles to “protect” a drag show advertised as “kid-friendly” from lawful protesters in Roanoke, Texas.
Treating mere criticism and protest as equivalent to fascism is the same logic which led Biden Administration Attorney General Merrick Garland to identify parents (protesting school boards for permitting arguably pornographic materials in public schools) as extremists and terrorists. In both cases normal, lawful, and ultimately mainstream positions are treated as beyond the pale, while actual outlier positions are codified as the new political center.
Biden’s attempt to besmirch the tens of millions of Americans who voted for Donald Trump, and who make up the lion’s share of the Republican Party, is taking a page out of The Anti-Fascist Handbook, literally. As Handbook author Mark Bray writes:
Our goal should be that in twenty years those who voted for Trump are too uncomfortable to share that fact in public. We may not always be able to change someone’s beliefs, but we sure as hell can make it politically, socially, economically, and sometimes physically costly to articulate them.
If Biden has any advisors around him who actually care about the welfare and stability of the country, they should warn the president against the ideological forces with which his rhetoric and behavior continue to align. Targeting tens of millions of Americans who support mainstream policies while mainstreaming the views of dangerous street revolutionaries can only yield further political fragmentation and civil disorder.