I suspect we’ll hear a lot about “MAGA Republicans” between now and Nov. 8, about how they’re “a threat to our democracy,” or as President Biden has put it, how they “represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.”
Joe Biden, understandably, wants to be taken seriously, especially when he goes public on weighty matters. But he’s making it awfully difficult to take him seriously when he likens “MAGA Republicans” to “semi-fascists” and uses them as a shield to deflect attention from his own failures.
Should we take Biden seriously, knowing that he failed to tell Democrats to stop spending millions of dollars to buy ads that help nominate the most extreme Republican candidates in primaries, the very ones he claims are “an existential threat to democracy”? What if they wind up winning in November’s general election, thanks to money from Democrats? Then they’d be an even bigger threat to democracy, wouldn’t they? Yet, Joe Biden hasn’t condemned this because his party has made a hardball political calculation that those “MAGA Republican” candidates will be easier to beat in the midterm elections.
That was the calculation this week in New Hampshire, where Democrats paid for ads supporting GOP Senate candidate Don Bolduc, a retired Army general and Donald Trump supporter who said at a debate last month, “I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying that Donald Trump won the election and, damn it, I stand by [it].” He ran against a moderate Republican, state Senate President Chuck Morse, who was tarred as “another sleazy politician” in an ad paid for by a Democratic Super PAC.
Democrats figured Morse would have a better chance of defeating Maggie Hassan, the Democratic incumbent. But Bolduc, the “MAGA Republican,” won. Chalk up another “victory” for Democrats.
And if the president believes that “MAGA Republicans” are a threat to democracy because they refuse to acknowledge that Biden really did win the 2020 presidential election (fair enough), he might want to do some acknowledging himself — that Democrats have also tried to undermine faith in our elections, when it suits their purposes.
“After Republican victories in 2000, 2004 and 2016, Democrats in Congress used the formal counting of electoral votes as an opportunity to challenge election results,” Derek Muller, a law professor at the University of Iowa, wrote in a New York Times opinion piece in 2021.
In January 2001, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) joined several other Democrats challenging George W. Bush’s victory, claiming Florida’s electoral votes were “fraudulent.”
In January 2005, after Bush’s re-election, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) formally challenged Ohio’s electoral vote — even though Bush won Ohio by more than 118,000 votes.
In January 2017, after Trump’s victory, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said there was “the malfunction of 87 voting machines.” And Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said there were “confirmed and illegal activities engaged by the government of Russia” in the 2016 election.
“Then, as now, each member of Congress was within his or her rights to make an objection,” Muller wrote on — of all days — Jan. 6, 2021. “But the objections were naïve at best, shameless at worst. Either way, the readiness of members of Congress to disenfranchise millions of Americans was disconcerting.”
And now there’s Stacey Abrams, the Democrat who’s running for governor of Georgia, who claims that Brian Kemp, the Republican who beat her four years ago, “won under the rules of the game at the time, but the game was rigged against the voters of Georgia.”
Fraudulent electoral votes. Malfunctioning voting machines. Rigged elections. Sound familiar?
And while Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats like to talk about the Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021, and how political violence is another threat to democracy (which it is), they might be taken more seriously if they brought up the riots in the spring and summer of 2020, the ones that Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media were calling “mostly peaceful.”
Or, they might weigh in — with more than the boilerplate “violence is never acceptable” — on the vandalism at pro-life pregnancy centers after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
If Biden really wants to unite the country, he ought to at least try to do the difficult work of reaching out to the other side. But that would be risky since the left-wing of his party isn’t in any mood for making peace with Republicans, “MAGA” or otherwise.
Joe Biden has been a politician almost his entire adult life. Expecting him to suddenly become a statesman would be wishful thinking, at best — especially with a referendum on his presidency just two months away.
He talks about “MAGA Republicans” and how they’re a threat to democracy because it’s one more weapon in his political arsenal — a way, he hopes, to win over those crucial swing voters come November.
As a cynical political strategy it may work; we’ll know soon enough. But, please Mr. President, spare us the sanctimony. It makes it really hard to take you seriously.
Bernard Goldberg is an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist. He was a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” for 22 years and previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and as an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Substack page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.