By Jessie Seigel / Washington, D.C.
What does it take to make politicians call a fascist a fascist? Apparently, Sen. Lindsey Graham’s inflammatory August 28 statement on Fox News, “If there is a prosecution of Donald Trump for mishandling classified information…there will be riots in the street,” finally did the trick.
It certainly got President Biden to remove his kumbaya blinders concerning Congress and to directly address the threat to democracy before us.
On August 25, he got halfway there. telling a group of Democratic donors in Bethesda, Md, that the entire philosophy underpinning MAGA is “semi-fascism.”
Minority House Leader Kevin McCarthy called for Biden to apologize. But if McCarthy and his ilk don’t wish to be called fascists, they should stop operating like fascists.
At Wilkes University on Thursday, August 30, Biden declared: "Let me say this to my MAGA Republican friends in Congress: Don't tell me you support law enforcement if you won't condemn what happened on Jan. 6." He added, "You can't be pro-law enforcement and pro-insurrection. You can't be a party of law and order and call the people who attacked the police on January 6 patriots.”
And last Thursday (September 1), in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, the cradle of our democracy, President Biden called on citizens—Democrats and Republicans alike—to make a choice. Though Biden did not use the words, the choice he laid out was between fascism and democracy.
Mincing no words, Biden openly acknowledged: “As I stand here tonight, equality and democracy are under assault. We do ourselves no favor to pretend otherwise.” He went on to charge that Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans “represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.”
However, Biden took pains to make clear that not every Republican—or even a majority of Republicans—are MAGA Republicans, but that the Republican Party today is “dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans.” He added that the MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution, believe in the rule of law, or recognize the will of the people—refusing to accept the results of a free election.
Declaring that we are “not bystanders in this ongoing attack on democracy,” Biden plainly laid out the choice between the MAGA embracing of anger, chaos, and the “shadow of lies” as opposed to a future that honors the Constitution, the rule of law, free and fair elections, and the will of the people—a nation that rejects violence as a political tool.
Biden said he is asking our nation to come together “to unite behind the single purpose of defending our democracy regardless of your ideology.” He called for people to “speak up, speak out, get engaged, vote, vote, vote!”
The description of the MAGA fascist threat set forth by President Biden is perfectly on target
In reaction to a legal search warrant properly executed on now-citizen Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, Trump and his minions have called for violence, mayhem, and intimidation of those whose work it is to carry out the rule of law.
The FBI obtained the warrant only after a long tug-of-war during which Trump and his lawyers objected, delayed and at one point grudgingly handed over 15 boxes of documents, claiming there were no others—which was false. Pursuant to the warrant, the FBI retrieved 11 more boxes of illegally taken classified material—some of it marked top secret.
The subsequent faux outrage of Trump and his cohorts provoked serious threats against FBI agents, as well as an attempted armed attack on the FBI’s Cincinnati office.
In addition, the family and synagogue of Bruce Reinhart, the federal magistrate judge who approved the warrant, have been threatened. And National Archives staff members have also been the objects of anger over the search.
As expected, the more Trump feels the law’s noose tightening, the more he twists, turns, and tries to foment increased chaos. And the more he gets his acolytes to do the same.
According to the New York Times, rather than, in January, just handing over all of the government documents he had taken , Trump used a Texas rally on January 29 to attack the investigators: “If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protests we have ever had in Washington, D.C.; in New York; in Atlanta; and elsewhere.”
After Senator Graham received public rebukes for his threat last week that there will be “riots in the street” if Trump is prosecuted, he tried, to take a momentary step back, claiming, “I reject violence.”
But, according to Politico, Graham’s threat was followed the next day (Monday, August 29), by Trump’s proposal “that he be crowned the ‘rightful winner’ of the 2020 election or that there be a do-over of the election because the ballot was, allegedly, ‘irreparably compromised.’”
According to the New York Times, Trump then spent his Tuesday morning reposting QAnon conspiracy theories as well as those of 4chan, an anonymous message platform “where threats of violence often blossom.” The Times noted, in particular, a photograph of President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi , “their faces obscured by the words, ‘Your enemy is not in Russia.’”
On Thursday morning, September 1, the day of Biden’s speech, Trump resorted to bribery, dangling the promise of complete pardons before his motley crew. He told conservative radio host Wendy Bell that if he runs and wins the 2024 presidency, he will “be looking very, very strongly about pardons, full pardons” for those convicted of crimes in connection with their roles in the January 6, 2021 insurrection—an incentive to cronies under investigation to keep their mouths shut.
Trump also claimed that he is financially supporting some of those being prosecuted for their roles in the insurrection. If I were a Proud Boy or an Oath Keeper, I would not rely on any promises made to me by Donald Trump. And if I were one of Trump’s lawyers, I’d demand payment in advance.
As for the mainstream Republican leaders—they are mostly playing deaf and mute. Apart from Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, those who do speak up appear concerned only about whether Trump’s actions may sink their party’s political fortunes, not the threat he poses to democracy. Many of them—Greg Abbott of Texas, Ron DeSantis of Florida, Brian Kemp of Georgia, and others are up-and-coming Trumps themselves.
Biden’s speech in Philadelphia on Sept. 1 most articulately expressed what I have been warning about in many past articles. And though it will likely have no effect on MAGA supporters, it might well wake up those Republicans and Independents who have not, thus far, been paying attention –If they see and hear it. But how many people did?
I was shocked to find that although President Biden gave the speech in prime time, none of the non-cable TV networks carried it--not NBC, CBS or ABC, or even National Public Television. Since when does a president of the United States giving a newsmaking speech in prime time take a backseat to a rerun of Law and Order, some reality or game show, or an episode of Young Sheldon? The failure of the regular networks to carry the speech smacks of an orchestrated corporate boycott. And as a result, many of the people who need to hear Biden’s words may not have. If you did not, I highly recommend you watch his speech in its entirety. And when November comes, as the man said: vote, vote, VOTE!
Political columnist Jessie Seigel had a long career as a government attorney in which she honed her analytic skills. She has also twice received an Artist’s Fellowship from the Washington, D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities for her fiction, and has been a finalist for a number of literary awards. In addition, Seigel is an associate editor at the Potomac Review, a reviewer for The Washington Independent Review of Books, and a dabbler in political cartoons at Daily Kos. Of this balance in her work between the analytic and the imaginative, Seigel jokes, “I guess my right and left brains are well-balanced.” More on and from Seigel can be found at The Adventurous Writer, https://www.jessieseigel.com.