WASHINGTON — In recent days, President Joe Biden has stepped up his attacks on Donald Trump and so-called MAGA Republicans for posing a threat to democracy. He likened the philosophy behind the dominant strain of the modern GOP to “semi-fascism.”
And Democrats are taking notice.
Biden’s no-gloves, no-holds-barred approach of late has emboldened Democrats across the country, rallying party loyalists ahead of the November election, even as his harshest rhetoric makes some vulnerable incumbents visibly uncomfortable. .
Biden’s increasingly stern warnings about Trump-fueled elements of the Republican Party form the central part of his midterm message, combined with repeated reminders to voters of recent Democratic achievements and the promise that democracy can yet produce results for the American people. But it was Biden’s scathing statements about his predecessor and followers of the “Make America Great Again” philosophy that gave many Democrats a boost as they campaigned to retain control of Congress.
“This is an especially important issue for our base,” said Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, who heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the official campaign arm of Senate Democrats. “People want us, want people to show that there is a clear contrast in the election between the position of the Democrats and the position of the Republicans.”
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California, noted that “politics is kind of like a team sport, and the president is the quarterback.”
“The team isn’t going to fight hard if they don’t see the team leader fighting hard,” said Khanna, who backed Bernie Sanders in the 2020 presidential primaries but has since been a staunch liberal Biden defender. .
Biden’s forceful posturing during the campaign year comes as Democrats feel more optimistic for midterms, when the party controlling the White House has historically faced losses in Congress. A combination of legislative achievements, polarization of Republican candidates and voter fury fueled by Roe’s toppling of Wade has left Democrats feeling they could see smaller losses in the House than originally expected, while retaining their majority in the Senate.
The president began testing his midterm message at a rally in suburban Washington late last month as he railed against a Republican ideology he said largely resembled the “semi -fascism”. The White House chose Philadelphia’s Independence Hall as the backdrop for last week’s speech which highlighted the danger Trump’s “extreme ideology” posed to the functioning of US democracy.
And at two Labor Day events on critical mid-term battlegrounds, Biden continued to hammer home the contrast while becoming even more comfortable invoking his predecessor, whom he had avoided referring to as his name for much of his presidency.
“You can’t call yourself a democracy when you’re not, in fact, counting the votes that people have legitimately cast and counting that as who you are,” Biden said Monday to a union crowd in Pittsburgh. “Trump and the MAGA Republicans have made their choice. We can choose to build a better America or we can continue down this slippery path of oblivion to where we don’t want to go.”
Biden will headline another political event on Thursday, hosted by the Democratic National Committee in suburban Maryland. There, the President will speak about “choosing before Americans” on the issues of abortion, Social Security and Medicare, democracy, school safety and climate, and how “extreme MAGA Republicans are working to take away our rights,” according to a Biden adviser. who requested anonymity to preview his remarks. That will be followed by a trip to Ohio on Friday, a state where the Senate contest between Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican JD Vance is getting increasingly competitive.
Those close to Biden say the president has never been shy about fighting politically.
“He’s always pleaded very aggressively when he thinks the other side is wrong,” said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who has known Biden since the 1980s. “I think he always tried to lift the country up and call on our best angels while advocating for when he thinks the other side is on the wrong track.”
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said democracy issues, as well as Trump himself, are increasingly becoming issues of concern to voters.
“More and more people feel that, you know, this former president broke the law again and again, and the people around him continue to do whatever they want to undermine our democracy,” he said. she stated. Stabenow praised Biden’s recent approach, noting that “threats are only going up, not down.”
Still, Biden’s more edgy posturing has been more complicated for Democrats in some of the most contested Senate races this cycle as they seek to garner support from voters who might have backed Trump in 2020.
While stressing that she was “concerned about the attacks on our democracy,” Sen. Maggie Hassan, DN.H., said in an interview with WMUR News 9 in New Hampshire that “I think the comments of President Biden have just been painted with too broad a brush.” Hassan is seen as one of the party’s most vulnerable incumbents, although she won’t know her Republican opponent until the September 13 primaries.
Asked about those same Biden remarks, Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Arizona, told The Associated Press he hadn’t seen them.
“I think a president has the right to speak his mind,” added Kelly, who faces Republican Blake Masters in one of the most watched Senate contests this fall. “You know, I don’t share all of his opinions. But he has the right to state his opinion.”
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he didn’t like the term “semi-fascism,” calling it “awkward.”
“But are they leaning toward fascism? Certainly,” Durbin said. “When you deny the results of an election, when you talk about crowds in the streets taking power, I mean, to me, that’s not in line with democratic values.”
Republicans have accused Biden of divisive rhetoric in his series of speeches, particularly with his speech in Philadelphia. They say the president has branded tens of millions of Americans who have backed Trump as threats to democracy, though the president and his aides have been careful to distinguish elected officials from the voters themselves.
GOP officials still believe Biden remains a liability in competitive districts and states, though his approval ratings have improved somewhat in recent weeks as the White House lands a string of accomplishments and legal troubles of Trump — starting with the FBI’s search at his South Florida estate — have grabbed headlines.
“Hopefully Biden will continue to travel the country,” Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said in a Fox News interview Tuesday night. “I hope he goes to every swing state and gives his crazy speech all over the country.”
Yet in these swing states, more Democrats who had initially been reluctant to join Biden are increasingly comfortable doing so. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat in one of the most contested gubernatorial races nationally, joined Biden in Milwaukee on Monday, though Democratic Senate candidate Mandela Barnes stayed behind. the gap.
After avoiding further presidential visits to the state, Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman, a Democrat, appeared with Biden in Pittsburgh.
Peters, the DSCC chairman, said it was up to each Democratic candidate to decide whether to run alongside Biden, but said he thought the president was an asset. Peters noted that he was the only Democratic candidate in 2014 to actively campaign with President Barack Obama during a very Republican-friendly midterm year.
“Everybody ran away. I got him in and I won,” Peters said. “So that’s my data point.”