When President Joe Biden accused MAGA Republicans of being “a threat to this country” in his Sept. 1 primetime address at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, Democrats’ prospects of retaining control of the U.S. House and capturing the U.S. Senate in November’s midterm elections appeared to be on the upswing.
Democratic candidates in congressional races were seeing renewed enthusiasm among supporters following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June repeal of Roe v Wade and were entering the post-Labor Day stretch run under the full-sail momentum of legislative victories by the Biden administration.
After criticizing Republicans for “MAGA extremism” and “semi-fascism” earlier this week, Biden doubled down on the rhetoric in his primetime speech, claiming the GOP had been hijacked, “dominated, driven, and intimidated” by former President Donald Trump and his supporters.
Reaction from Republicans and Trump himself after being accused of being threats to democracy was immediate—and continues the morning after—and predictable in refutal and recrimination.
But the immediate fallout left some Democrats, especially those engaged in contentious campaigns against Trump-endorsed or MAGA-supporting Republicans, trying to tamp down Biden’s harsh words.
New Hampshire Democrat incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), who is likely to face Trump-endorsed retired U.S. Army Gen. Don Bolduc—the overwhelming favorite in the state’s Sept. 13 GOP primary—distanced herself from Biden’s speech in comments to WMUR-TV in Manchester, New Hampshire.
“I have concerns that some people seem to think that violence is an appropriate way of resolving disputes in our democracy, but I think President Biden’s comments just painted with way too broad a brush,” said Hassan who is regarded among Senate incumbents most likely to be unseated in November.
Bolduc, meanwhile, in a Twitter post, shared a widely circulated photoshopped image of Biden in an Adolf Hitler-like oratory pose. “@JoeBiden yelling at the clouds while he insults half of our country. I’m America First,” he wrote.
New Hampshire’s Republican governor, Gov. Chris Sununu—who has been a critic of the former president and is facing reelection—called Biden’s speech “horribly insulting” to GOP voters.
Biden’s “trying to stir up controversy, he’s trying to stir up this anti-Republican sentiment right before the election, it’s just—it’s horribly inappropriate,” Sununu told reporters.
Trump in a series of Truth Social posts said Biden “must be insane” or addled by dementia.
“Someone should explain to Joe Biden, slowly but passionately, that MAGA means, as powerfully as mere words can get, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! If he doesn’t want to Make America Great Again, which through words, action, and thought, he doesn’t, then he certainly should not be representing the United States of America,” he wrote.
“If you look at the words and meaning of the awkward and angry Biden speech tonight, he threatened America, including with the possible use of military force. He must be insane, or suffering from late stage dementia!” Trump continued.
House Minority Leader Rep, Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called on Biden to apologize to the millions of Americans he called “fascists” in his speech.
“Instead of trying to bring our country together to solve the MANY problems he has created, President Biden has chosen to divide, demean, and disparage his fellow Americans—Why? simply because they disagree with his policies,” he said in a Twitter post. “Mr. President: you owe millions of Americans an apology.”
McCarthy said Biden’s enmity for “America First” Republicans makes it even more imperative that the GOP retake both chambers of Congress in November.
“What is clear to me and clear to you is that Washington and the White House aren’t listening. They just don’t get it,” he said. “Our best days are ahead of us not behind us. Our nation can flourish again and under a new historic Republican majority, it will. For the past two years have been a time of trial for Americans everywhere.”
McCarthy said Americans are more alarmed about the FBI’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property than with the “threat to democracy” posed By MAGA-inspired patriots.
“Joe Biden often says our democracy is under threat. He’s right, but not for the reason he thinks,” McCarthy said. “Joe Biden and a politicized DOJ launched a raid on the home of his top political rival, Donald Trump. That is an assault on democracy.”
Former House Speaker and podcaster Newt Gingrich said Biden’s speech will cost Democrats at the polls.
“Biden has created a real opportunity for Republicans to appeal to all Americans!” Gingrich said in a Twitter post. “As David Harsanyi tweeted: ‘Basically a smear of 70 million people—in front of the flag and military on primetime tv’ GOP should seek to unify Americans tired of lies and hate from Biden.”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) compared Biden to Hitler while sharing another widely circulated video of Biden’s speech with Biden modified to look like Hitler.
“I guess when President Butterbeans is frail, weak, and dementia ridden, the Hitler imagery was their attempt to make him look ‘tough’ while he declares war on half of America as enemies of the state,” Greene said in a Twitter post. “Joe Biden just declared all of us enemies of the state. Biden is a danger to us all. Joe Biden MUST BE IMPEACHED!!”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) expressed disbelief at what he’d heard from Biden. “Did Joe Biden just declare war on Red State America?” he asked in a Twitter post. “I sure hope not!”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in a Twitter post called Biden’s speech a distraction from real issues facing the nation.
“With all due respect Mr. President, there’s nothing wrong with America’s soul. The American people are hurting because of your policies. Rampant inflation. Out of control crime. Terrorism on the rise. Broken borders. Stop lecturing & change your policies before it’s too late,” Graham said.
“What would help the ‘soul of the nation’ much more than a condescending lecture from President Biden is getting inflation under control instead of actively spending more money to make it worse,” said Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) in a Twitter post.
“Joe Biden went from ‘unity’ to calling Republicans ‘semi-fascists,” added Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) in a Twitter post.
Before Biden made his speech, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel in a statement called him “the divider-in-chief” who “epitomizes the current state of the Democrat Party: one of divisiveness, disgust, and hostility towards half the country.”
“Joe Biden’s wretched attacks on millions of Americans have fueled attacks on pregnancy centers, Republican offices, and an assassination attempt on a Supreme Court Justice,” she said. “His agenda has pitted neighbors against each other, rewarded the wealthy while punishing working families, and trampled on the rights and freedoms of Americans.”
McDaniel said when Biden assumed office, he vowed to restore unity. “Since then,” she said, “Biden has used the office to label those who didn’t go along with his agenda as dangerous, semi-fascist, and reinstating a ‘Jim Crow era.'”