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MAGA gone wild: Biden sharpens his tone against the GOP
As Republicans blame the president for inflation, violent crime spikes and a fabricated border crisis, he’s honing a midterm message that warns even darker days if conservatives return to power.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday morning stepped to a lectern in the Roosevelt Room of the White House to take a victory lap.
His administration had just released new data projecting it to cut the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion by the end of the fiscal year, which it says would be the biggest decline ever in a single year in American history. The cuts, Biden added, would build on top of the $350 billion drop in the deficit in his first year in office.
That’s not all: The Treasury Department announced plans to pay down the national debt this quarter, something that didn’t happen in a single quarter under his predecessor who oversaw yearly increases in what the government spent versus how much revenue it generated during his term.
But it was comments he made at the end of the speech in response to a question about the recent leaked draft opinion on Roe v. Wade that made the most news.
“What are the next things that are going to be attacked?” Biden asked. “Because this MAGA crowd is really the most extreme political organization that’s existed in recent American history, in recent American history.”
And he name-checked Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida who released what Biden described as the “ultra-MAGA agenda” for its controversial positions on issues of race and the social safety net. (MAGA, of course, stands for “Make America Great Again,” the political slogan used by Donald Trump during his 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns and a representation of the far-right views of many of the people who supported him.)
“It’s extreme, as most MAGA things are,” Biden said. “It will actually raise taxes on 75 million American families, over 95 percent of whom make less than $100,000 a year.”
It’s worth noting that Biden’s comments came at the end of his speech, where Biden has been known to improvise.
A White House spokesperson did not respond when asked if the president’s comments were ad-libbed or included in his prepared remarks.
“I think that the president and members of the Democratic Party are starting to realize that trying to negotiate with people and a [Republican Party] that is not interested in negotiating is not serving them,” Brandi Collins-Dexter, a senior visiting fellow at the Harvard University Shorenstein Center and the author of the upcoming book, Black Skinhead: Reflections on Blackness and Our Political Future, said to Supercreator.
Collins-Dexter told me she thinks the leak around the Roe v. Wade decision has helped bring Biden’s reality into focus. But that’s of little solace when you consider the unwillingness of the Republican Party writ large to condemn the actions of the insurrectionists and members of Congress who incited the Capitol riot to still be in positions of power without accountability.
“And for them to not only be there but actively working against the president’s agenda, I think he has no choice but to be more aggressive in naming the ways that is playing out and the impacts on our country — especially since there are midterm elections coming up.”
White House officials have mentioned in recent weeks that Biden would intensify his rhetoric against Republicans as campaign season kicks into high gear.
“For those of you who’ve been covering him for some time, you’ve heard him say, ‘Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative,’” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said to reporters on Wednesday. “And I would expect you will hear him with that mantra much more out there over the next coming months.”
Psaki said beyond the words themselves is an attempt by Biden to highlight the fact that if congressional Republicans like Sen. Scott have their way, they’ll raise taxes on half of Americans, causing budgets to tighten even more in the process.
But Biden’s comments were a stark departure from his unflinching commitment to bipartisanship — cooperation between the two parties despite their policy differences — on the campaign trail.
“If the American people want a president to add to our division, to lead with a clenched fist, closed hand and a hard heart, to demonize the opponents and spew hatred, they don’t need me — they’ve got President Donald Trump,” Biden said in May of 2019, less than a month after he launched his presidential bid. “I am running to offer our country — Democrats, Republicans and independents — a different path.”
Republicans, for the most part, have been uninterested in such designs. And at times, it’s rankled Biden, a career politician used to a bygone era where lawmakers could disagree without being disagreeable.
Collins-Dexter said much of this is the result of an unresolved history that dates back to the early to mid-1900s.
“Large cultural and social shifts in society and a perception of economic gains for marginalized communities will always lead to a backlash by those in positions of power under the guise of returning us to a simpler time.”
She added that algorithmic segregation and the loss of community-based media, and other infrastructure have allowed certain types of messaging to take hold in increasingly publicly violent ways that are not new but are certainly sending the country backward at an accelerated rate.
Psaki told reporters that President Biden’s comments don’t preclude him from still looking for common ground on issues.
“Now, at the same time, he’s always believed in working with Republicans in good faith and finding ways to do that,” she said. “And he will continue to do that, but he is going to also call out — and you will see him call out more — places where he feels there are extreme policies and extreme comments and extreme positions that are, unfortunately, overtaking far too much of the party.”
But Republicans are counting on voters to punish Democrats for costly inflation, high violent crime in cities and a manufactured border crisis. Plus, there’s much more political upside in appearing as adversaries to instead of partners with the other side.
Collins-Dexter told me that both parties are to blame in the eyes of younger people and communities of color who want the government and public institutions to work but have seen too many insufficiently fulfilled promises.
“If there’s anything I’ve learned or seen in the last several years, it’s that anything can happen. But a tonal shift isn’t enough,” she said. “I think there has to be a lot done between now and November that people feel in tangible ways — in their pocketbooks, in their daily life — in order to get an outcome that validates the president’s work and agenda.”