Somebody needed to call out the fascism, including in Utah, George Pyle writes

If you are not a fascist, then Joe Biden wasn’t talking about you.

A person holds a copy of the 'Stern' news magazine in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Aug. 25, 2017 showing U.S. President Donald Trump draped in the American flag while giving a stiff-armed Nazi salute. Stern magazine's illustration is part of a cover story headlined 'Sein Kampf' which translates as 'His Struggle' and is a play on Adolf Hitler's infamous 'Mein Kampf'. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

That is a sentiment that has been attributed to Socrates, Eleanore Roosevelt and Adm. Hyman Rickover, among others. But, as we are discussing ideas and not people, let’s not worry about who said it first.

Last week, President Joe Biden made a speech in which he told the truth about a small but vocal and frighteningly powerful movement in American politics. A movement that has far too much power over the Republican Party.

“Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” Biden said.

There can be absolutely no doubt that that is true.

It is worth wondering, though, if it would not have been better for Uncle Joe to say something more like “Trumpism and the MAGA philosophy represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.”

That would have been just as true, but might have avoided some of the blowback from some who claimed Biden had “insulted half the country,” proving they either hadn’t heard what the president said or assumed that nobody else had.

The president was attacking fascism. If you aren’t a fascist, he wasn’t talking about you. If you are a fascist, it is this president’s -- any president’s -- job to be talking about you.

Yes, Biden, and America, might have benefitted from a little more of a hate-the-sin, love-the-sinner approach. Maybe, instead of allowing himself to be heard attacking a lot of people, the president might have invited any Trump followers who remain dissatisfied to come back to their former political homes and expect to be welcomed there.

At its core, Trumpism is the belief that some white, male, pseudo-Christian dominance of the United States of America is threatened. Threatened by the growing ethnic and religious diversity of our nation, the increasing independence of women and the dawning recognition that the sexual orientation or gender identification of the person next door or at the next desk is none of your damn business.

The response to that perceived threat is a wave of sitting and would-be elected officials who claim elections their side lost must have been fixed or that, if they weren’t, they should have been. And, if that doesn’t work, it will be time to rise up, not in peaceful protest but, as Trump-backing Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the other day, “riots in the streets.”

Closer to home, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes makes an appearance for Trumpism whenever possible. In 2020, Reyes took a trip to Nevada in search of Trump votes that didn’t exist. Now, apparently speaking for the rest of the state’s governing class, Reyes has been defending a Trumpist scheme known as the “independent legislature theory.” That’s the idea that state legislatures have unlimited and unreviewable power to not only make the rules for how elections are run and who gets to vote in them but also to basically set election results aside and declare whomever they want to be the winner.

Trumpism is alive and well in Utah. True believers are most likely a small minority, but convincing them that they are half the nation gives them the courage to make a lot of noise, and threats, that they would been too shy to make before. The threat of it morphing into Jan. 6-style acts of violence is never far below the surface.

That’s why we are hearing racist slurs shouted at Brigham Young University volleyball games and on train platforms at the University of Utah. It’s why BYU LGBTQ students were verbally assaulted in a public park over the weekend, and defended by many allies dressed, properly, as angels.

It’s why U.S. Rep. Burgess Owens bases the whole of his political persona on stoking fears of immigrants, of schools teaching the truth about American history and of big, hairy men invading middle school girls track meets.

Last week, both Sen. Mike Lee, a dedicated Trumpist, and Rep. John Curtis, usually perceived as a more moderate Republican, criticized Biden’s Independence Hall speech as somehow divisive. Curtis was among many Republicans who accused Biden of failing to heal America’s political divisions and, instead, “divide and drive that wedge even deeper.”

But that is only true if pointing out a clear and present danger to the future of American democracy is divisive. Curtis misses the fact that, as chief executive, it is Biden’ job to point out, and do what he can to oppose, threats like this.

Members of Curtis’ party are running for state offices in other states on a promise to “protect” elections. They include some who have come to political prominence on the backs of anti-Semitic and racist platforms and stunts.

People who truly do support Trump and back the core of his political movement were attacked by the president last week. He was right to do so.

Everyone else -- the vast majority of us -- was simply put on notice. And not a moment too soon.

George Pyle, reading The New York Times at The Rose Establishment.

George Pyle, opinion editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, seldom votes for the winning candidates in state elections. He still keeps voting.


Twitter, @debatestate