First Where We Agree
In my opinion, there was a fair amount of truth in President Biden’s speech to the nation last night. I agree that the single greatest threat to American democracy, at the moment, comes from Donald Trump and his loyalists, what Biden calls the MAGA Republicans.
For that reason, the Centrist Independent Voter will be endorsing a number of Democrats who would be far too left or populist for our taste, in normal times. But as Biden says, “these are not normal times.” Generally speaking, we will be endorsing the opponent of any candidate who owes his place on the ballot to a Trump endorsement.
Where Biden Missed Opportunities
It takes no courage to call out extremism in your opponent’s political party. It takes courage to call out extremism in your own political party. Liz Cheney (R) and Adam Kinzinger (R) deserve praise for having done so in the Republican Party.
If Biden had called out the extremists within his own party, he would have earned our praise. There were many opportunities to do this.
Biden mentions that political violence is never justified. I could not agree more. But the only example he points to is January 6th. He could have mentioned the riots that accompanied many of the Black Lives Matter protests. He could have condemned the violence and vandalism that accompanied protests against the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank a few years earlier. But these were examples of the use of political violence by the left. I am glad that Biden condemned all political violence. However, to gain credibility with independents and mainstream Republicans, he should have admitted that we face the threat of political violence across the political spectrum.
Am I Expecting Too Much?
You might say that if Biden were to admit to faults on the left he would have hurt his party in the upcoming mid-term elections. Fair enough. But let’s not get sanctimonious and demand that mainstream Republicans openly condemn Donald Trump, in the middle of election season. I expect politicians to be self-serving. I am delighted when they are not. Biden’s speech, while correct on many counts, was self-serving.
Another missed opportunity for Biden to call out extremism in his own party was his silence on inflation. We mention elsewhere that, in the end, inflation is a monetary phenomenon. However, in the face of accommodating monetary policy, aggressive government spending (fiscal policy) will increase inflation. Biden claims the employment benefits of the Covid relief spending without admitting its role in sparking inflation.
This would have been an excellent opportunity to reject the Modern Monetary Theorists in the Democratic Party. This crowd, which includes many in the Progressive Caucus, believe in a cornucopia theory of economics in which there is no price to be paid for ever expanding government spending.
Biden’s silence on the issue was to be expected from a self-serving politician. A simple admission that there should be limits on government spending would have given him real credibility among independents.
Democratic Party Support for MAGA Republicans
Perhaps the biggest missed opportunity in Biden’s speech was his failure to condemn cynical attempts by his own party to promote the candidacy of MAGA Republicans in the primaries. The Democratic Party, and associated PACs, did so because they believe that MAGA candidates will be easier to defeat in the general election. How can Democrats think that independents will take the threat from the far right seriously when the Democratic Party works to support these far right candidates in the primaries? How can Biden give this speech, arguing that MAGA Republicans are a grave threat to the nation, while his own party funds efforts to get them elected? The only conclusion I can draw is that he and his party are just self-serving politicians.
Even a veiled condemnation of these efforts would have given him a real boost among independents.
Yes, extremist Trump supporters, like those who participated in the January 6 attack on the Capitol, are a grave threat to the nation. We should all do what we can to make sure that they do not acquire political power. However, extremism has many faces. The President, and Democrats in general, would be more credible in calling out extremism if they were willing to admit it exists within their own ranks.