- “Joe Biden calls for political purges and law enforcement crackdowns on his political opponents, and state media cheer him on,” said Fox News’s Tucker Carlson on Tuesday, inventing something Biden didn’t actually say.
- Biden is “the most condescending president of my lifetime,” said former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley.
- “Angry man smears half of the people of the country he is supposed to lead & promised to unite,” tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
- A Wall Street Journal columnist condemned the speech as an “attempt both to marginalize the opposition and to intimidate it into submission and silence,” claiming it contained an “implicit threat” that the powers of the federal government “may be deployed against disfavored beliefs.”
- One well-known conservative author with 1.6 million followers on Facebook and 350,000 on Twitter tweeted, “I don’t think Hitler ever said anything about the Jews that was as straightforwardly evil as Biden said about me, as a [FPOTUS] supporter.” (He deleted the tweet.)
This transparently phony whining was then taken at face value by many in the press, on the unspoken assumption that the complaint itself is proof of Biden’s failure to treat his opponents — who regularly call him a senile communist attempting to destroy America — with the proper empathy and concern. Reporters keep asking the White House spokesperson about whether the speech was too unkind to Republicans, even though Biden took pains to avoid criticizing all of them, instead addressing just the most extreme ones.
Every article about this topic is apparently required to make reference to two old supposed insults to conservatives’ tender feelings. Did you know that 14 years ago, Barack Obama said that some people cling to guns and religion as a focus of their political identity when they lose hope that either party will help them economically? Of course. You’ve seen that quote repeated a million times as proof of Democratic unkindness.
And in case you’ve somehow forgotten, Hillary Clinton once said half of [FPOTUS] supporters were deplorable! These days, conservatives are proving that she was, if anything, too generous.
These are the very same people who worship [FPOTUS], who can’t open his mouth without slandering people in the most vicious of terms. Some of them argue for censorship in schools by saying that people among their opponents would be fine if students were molested by pedophiles. But their feelings, we’re told, have been hurt.
Persuading the media to amplify their griping and put Democrats on the defensive is only part of Republicans’ strategy. They know the double standard reporters have: They expect Republican leaders to be ferociously partisan, so take no particular note of it when they are; yet they demand that Democratic leaders be polite toward the other side’s voters, and scold them when they aren’t. When was the last time you heard a reporter ask whether Republicans were showing the proper empathy and respect toward Democratic voters?
What’s even more important for Republicans is that the whining unites all their party’s factions, from establishment plutocrats to QAnon conspiracists. The stance of victimhood is absolutely central to conservative identity at the moment — something everyone can agree on: We’re being censored, canceled! White men are the most oppressed class in America! You’re not allowed to be a Christian anymore! [FPOTUS] says he is “the most persecuted person in the history of our country”.
This has become the all-purpose answer to any argument conservatives don’t like: We’re the real victims here. It’s supposed to be a moral get-out-of-jail-free card, and it can be used to justify even the most repugnant behavior…. When you hear conservatives pretend to be insulted by the latest thing Biden or some other Democrat said, remember: You don’t have to give it any more respect than it deserves.
Next, from Jamelle Bouie of The New York Times:
Should Biden have used more conciliatory rhetoric? No. He was divisive — just as he was when he called MAGA Republicans “semi-fascist” the week before — but this is a moment that calls for a perfect contrast between the two parties. If [FPOTUS] is leading an assault on the institutions of American self-government and if that assault implicates much of the Republican Party, then there’s no way that Biden can make his defense of the constitutional order without dividing people.
What matters is the nature of the divide. To divide against a radical minority that would attack and undermine democratic self-government is to divide along the most inclusive lines possible. It is to do a version of what Franklin Roosevelt did when he condemned “organized money,” “economic royalists” and the “forces of selfishness and lust for power.” It’s also a version of what Abraham Lincoln did when, in his first inaugural address, he took aim at those who would subject the country to minority rule. “A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations … is the only true sovereign of a free people,” he said. “Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism.”
“You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the government,” Lincoln added, “while I shall have the most solemn one to ‘preserve, protect, and defend it.’ ”