How MAGA Fascism Shapes the Calls for Biden’s Withdrawal

I have been marveling at the utter self-destruction of Democrats in calling for an incumbent President to withdraw from the race because of one debate performance – handing a major victory to Trump. I’m mystified by the willingness to self-harm by Democrats. We all know that Biden is perfectly competent, but we all worry that voters may think he’s not; thus the calls for a preemptive withdrawal in favor of another (and certainly weaker) candidate.

I have the vague feeling that the double standards and narrative around this matter of Biden’s age and fitness are insidiously illegitimate, but I couldn’t really express the reasons for the feeling clearly.

As usual, Tim Synder has done cogently and insightfully what I could not. Here’s today’s Substack post by Snyder explaining the subtle ways fascism is shaping this controversy, and why we Democrats must resist.

Mainstream media have treated President Biden with prejudice and arrogance. Quite a few Democrats, reacting to this, treat any mention of President Biden’s fitness as disloyalty. This is mistaken, if understandable.

One source of the negative energy is Trump’s fascism. Focusing on it will not answer the question of what Democrats do, but will help us to understand the context in which the discussion is taking place. By fascism I just have in mind (1) the cult of personality of a Leader: (2) the party that becomes a single party; (3) the threat and use of violence; and (4) the big lie that must be accepted and used to reshape reality: in this case, that Trump can never lose an election.

Much more could be said (as I have done elsewhere), but it is the official big lie and the threats of violence that are dangerous to those whose job is to report truth. Trump is on the record as regarding reports as enemies of the people. What should I make — a journalist might ask — of Trump’s talk of arresting journalists? When not confronted, such questions become self-realizing fears.

That’s the subtle version. Meanwhile, those higher up in corporations might like the ratings Trump brings, or like Trump himself. And so it is easiest to keep things personal — give Trump time, on the self-deluding logic that he will discredit himself, and focus on Biden’s age rather than his achievements. For reporters it can feel like the work is being done when only Biden is at the receiving end of criticism — whereas, in fact, the ground has been shifted by fascism, or by the inability to confront it.

And so fascism spreads and settles in our minds during this, the crucial period between Trump’s first coup attempt and his second. The Biden administration is being held to standards, while the previous Trump administration is not; and Biden personally is being held to standards, while Trump as a person is not. This helps to generate a fascist aura. There must be something special about Trump such that he is different from others: a Leader beyond criticism rather than just an indebted hack or a felon from Queens or a client of a Russian dictator.

It should seem odd that media calls to step down were not first directed to Trump. If we are calling for Biden to step aside because someone must stop Trump from bringing down the republic, then surely it would have made more sense to first call for Trump to step aside? (The Philadelphia Inquirer did). I know the counter-arguments: his people wouldn’t have cared, and he wouldn’t have listened. The first misses an important point. There are quite a few Americans who have not made up their minds. The second amounts to obeying in advance. If you accept that a fascist is beyond your reach, you have normalized your submission.

When media folks describe discussions among Democrats as chaos and disarray, they are implicitly suggesting that it is better for a leader of a party to never be questioned. (Why, after all, is being part of an array a good thing?) An obvious point goes missed: Democrats can say what they want, because none of them is afraid. And that is good! Governor Maura Healey can express her dissent and Joe Biden can express his frustration with her — but no one is worried about her physical safety.

Trump, by contrast, controls his party through stochastic terror, threats issued through social media that his cult followers can be expected to realize. Republicans leave politics because they fear for themselves and their families. Those who remain all obey in advance. That is new, and it should not be normal, and it should not spread any further. But it becomes normal when we treat discussions, and not coercion, as abnormal.

If I am right that much of the energy behind the Biden pile-on is displaced fear of a regime change, much of the media will continue to generate fascist froth for Trump, whether or not Biden is the Democratic nominee — unless, of course, journalists confront their fears, and keep the issue of regime change inside the story, and provide a constructive alternative alongside personal criticism.

There are three tests of good faith for those who are proposing that President Biden step down. The first is recognition that Biden’s first term has been one of extraordinary achievement. The second is a plan for what the Democrats would do, should Biden withdraw, to select a nominee and win the election. The third is recognition that the threat of regime change is what might justify changing the nominee.

I don’t want to dodge the issue of President Biden’s candidacy — I will have something to say about that. But I found I could only enter the discussion after saying a word about how it has been warped — by fascism and fear.

Tim Synder, Thinking About…

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7 thoughts on “How MAGA Fascism Shapes the Calls for Biden’s Withdrawal”

  1. Dear Sweet Tap Dancing Jebus, there’s so much wrong with all these pro-Biden articles.

    Not just in this one, but logical fallacies abound, comparisons of Biden’s debate to Obama’s first against Romney (apples to 84 year old apples), accusations of being pro convicted rapist/felon if we don’t toe the line.*

    Too many to list and it won’t matter anyway.

    The Party has spoken, you guys win. Biden is the corporate approved candidate. Settled law, just like Roe!

    So I’m all in for Biden, no matter what, ride or die, beeches!

    Sorry anyone had opinions that weren’t in line with The Party.

    The Dems wanted to run against him in 2016, and it seems they still do. Otherwise they’d stop pulling punches.

    Dems say the convicted rapist/felon and his posse will try to turn America in Gilead, and I believe that. I truly do, based on his comments and who he surrounds himself with.

    The end of American Democracy.

    I believe that, too.

    But you guys are all 100% sure, it’s a layup, no way the convicted rapist/felon can win.

    Whew! I can sleep tonight.

    But I have a dollar that says the barrel of a fully loaded Super Soaker to your head, after the “debate”, and be honest, a lot of other moments, you’d all take his keys away.

    Of course I’ll vote the Dem, the “against Biden is pro-Trump” stuff is insulting, really, stop.**

    **Had to self censor myself, because what I started with was insulting. Ah, personal growth!

    Reply
    • There had to be some significant opposition to Biden’s 2nd term among Democratic Party leaders and wealthy donors prior to the debate. When he failed to dazzle CNN’s 51 million viewers, his opponents may have seen their opportunity to switch candidates. This internal revolt originated with them, not the rank and file.

      The story is missing some pages.

      The party faithful now have to defend Biden’s electability. And Trump escapes scrutiny in MSM.

      Reply
      • “The party faithful now have to defend Biden’s electability. And Trump escapes scrutiny in MSM.”

        Just like the MSM allowed the VTY to escape any serious scrutiny in 2016 because “But her emails!” That’s what happens when the MSM is owned by short sighted millionaires/billionaires who are concerned about getting their precious tax breaks, regardless of the harm done to the country.

        Reply
        • I fear the damage done to Biden’s campaign is irreparable. At first I thought they better stick with him because they’re running out of time, now I’m not sure.

          It was always a bad strategy to run Biden for a 2nd term.

          Reply
  2. Thanks for passing on this eloquent commentary from Snyder. I think that we should all recognize that we don’t know what the consequences will be, whether Biden is the nominee or not, but we surely must recognize that the first-order matter we should be focused on is the flaws of the would-be autocrat, the leader of what is now a cult rather than the Grand Old Party. I don’t know what the Democratic Party will do, but if Biden is the nominee, I would surely vote for him; in fact, I’d vote for him if he were 110 and on a ventilator. He’d do less harm.

    Reply

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