Did Biden’s speech on MAGA Republicans fail?
On Sept. 1, President Joe Biden denounced MAGA Republicans in a speech in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. While welcoming Mr. Biden’s message, “part warning, part exhortation,” Matt Malone, S.J., argued in the September issue in “Of Many Things” that it did little to sway Americans who voted for Donald Trump in the election of 2020. The majority of these voters “are not the MAGA maniacs Mr. Biden is worried about,” Father Malone wrote. “They are not intent on bringing down the republic.” The column elicited numerous comments from readers.
Such addresses with an impending election, focusing on condemnation and forecasting violence against our government by the minority party, is destructive, accusatory, divisive, somewhat misleading, and provocative. Building on intrinsic common ground to promote cooperation between people of good will, rather than uttering blanket partisan condemnations to score political points ahead of the midterm elections, should have been the president’s goal. We desperately need earnest bipartisan cooperation to improve the human condition which currently is suffering on too many fronts to list.
I agree with much of what President Biden said in his speech. I also agree with much of what Father Malone wrote. First of all, the term “MAGA Republicans” is a misnomer, since many of Mr. Trump’s supporters were independents. He should not be viewed as a party leader but rather as a cult leader. Mr. Biden’s speech at times basically “dehumanized” members of a cult that think their leader is a savior and the world is against him and them. While Mr. Biden addressed many truths, he should have spoken with the compassion due a member of a cult. Name calling or mislabeling members of a voting bloc as all alike will never get us where we need to be.
President Obama tried very hard to “reach across the aisle.” What good did that do him? The Republican-led Senate fought him on everything from health care to climate change to his moderate Supreme Court nomination. My son went to a Catholic school that in 2008 refused to allow an Obama poster on the wall of the social studies classroom. I’ve been to countless retreats where I’ve heard the left-wing agenda get villainized. I’m frankly tired of trying to “make things work” with these people. It’s a dysfunctional relationship, and it’s way past time to start calling them out from the top.
The speech also signaled to others that Mr. Biden finally understands that there is no compromising with the MAGA folks—that you can’t compromise with people who want no compromise.
I disagree that President Biden’s speech failed. He spoke the truth about MAGA Republicans, which he needed to do as president of a country whose democracy is being threatened by them. The president also mentioned the legislation his administration has been accomplishing to benefit the American people—many of whom are the poor and vulnerable. Unfortunately, Republican lawmakers have been afraid to support the laws and programs because of the toxic stronghold of MAGA on the Republican Party. This situation is harmful to our country, and the president has an obligation to call it out.
I agree, however, that the president could have left out the “right to choose” sentence, because that is another very difficult issue for another discussion and confused the very important central message of his speech.
Lydia Isabel Bobes
Mr. Biden’s speech issued a clear warning. That was the point of it. Sometimes things simply need to be said, and let the words fall on whose ears that are receptive. The speech also signaled to others that Mr. Biden finally understands that there is no compromising with the MAGA folks—that you can’t compromise with people who want no compromise. They walk around as if they have their fingers in their ears. There simply is no speech that Mr. Biden could have given that would speak to them.
I believe Father Malone was correct in calling the speech a failure because it was fundamentally a political speech, intended to stir the Democratic Party base. It was a mix of statesmanship with partisan politics. What Father Malone was doing was trying to separate the dangers represented by the former president and his most rabid supporters from the policies of either party.