Last week, President Joe Biden gave a speech highlighting the danger posed by MAGA Republicans who do not support American democracy, the rule of law, the Constitution or see the need to respect the results of free and fair elections. He said MAGA Republicans who harbor hostility to democracy are "semi-fascists." It was one of the best speeches Biden has ever given.
Biden's use of the label "MAGA Republicans" was intended to target Trump supporters for their autocratic, anti-democratic views, while dividing them from other Republicans and independents who support American democracy. Making up only 35% of the electorate, MAGA Republicans cannot win most elections unless they get the support of non-MAGA Republicans and independents. This fact was demonstrated in 2020 when then President Trump lost re-election because in every swing state, a significant percentage of Republican-leaning voters cast ballots for Biden, before returning to the GOP column for the down ballot races. As a result, Trump ran behind virtually every Republican in the country.
And that's what Biden did.
On the Bulwark podcast, Charlie Sykes often speaks of Trump's reptile-like political cunning. I have never bought that. Every time Trump has a political move to make, he almost always chooses the one that hurts him politically. The obvious political play after the Biden MAGA attack was to play the role of the victim, to earn sympathy. Many Republican elected officials did exactly that after the Biden speech. Not Trump.
At a rally the following Saturday, Trump attacked the FBI and called Biden "an enemy of the state." The ex-President said that, if re-elected, he might pardon the January 6th insurrectionists who did his bidding in violently storming the Capitol (Will someone please point out that he had a whole two weeks to pardon them in January 2020 but chose not to do so?). The Trump rally in Pennsylvania also featured Cynthia Hughes, the leader of a group supporting the January 6th insurrectionists. During the speech, Hughes promoted the case of Timothy Hale-Cusanelli, a supporter of Adolph Hitler, who has been in jail following his arrest on charges related to the assault on the Capitol. The judge is fearful that Hale-Cusanelli, who has said he looks forward to a civil war and said Hitler "should have finished the job", will go after an informant who gave the FBI information to arrest him. Hale-Cusanelli was convicted of five counts earlier this year.
In addition to dividing Republicans, Biden's speech was also aimed at making the mid-terms about Donald Trump. Again, Trump always takes the political bait. The Democrats mid-term fortunes have improved dramatically and the chief reason why is that Trump is back in the news doing crazy things like attacking law enforcement officials who are simply doing their job. That won't sit well with non-MAGA Republicans and independents.
OOP's short takes:
- Interesting polling results from Trafalgar this weekend. In New York, Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul leads Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin by just 5 points (48-43) in the governor's race. In the Washington Senate race, Democratic incumbent Patty Murray leads Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley by just 3 points (49-46). While Trafalgar's methodology has always seemed more favorable to Republican candidates, the polling outfit has proven to be fairly accurate in recent years.