MAGA Republicans think Joe Biden is being mean to them.
You read that right. Followers of Donald Trump, a man who denigrates his rivals as SOBs, sickos, dummies, losers, wackos and scum, a man who has accused Biden of corruption and cognitive decline, say they are affronted at the way Biden has treated them.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy even demanded an apology after Biden said MAGA Republicans embrace “semi-fascism.” Then came last week’s fiery speech from Independence Hall in Philadelphia in which Biden said MAGA Republicans -- he’s always careful to draw that distinction -- represent “an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.” Given the republic is still reeling from the day Trump sent armed MAGA Republicans to attack the Capitol, that would seem inarguable. But the right still pronounced itself insulted. Trump himself called the speech “vicious, hateful and divisive.”
Yes, you’re still reading right.
Interestingly, Biden was also dinged by The Washington Post. “You don’t persuade people by scolding or demeaning them,” it editorialized, resurrecting the tired trope that the rest of us have some obligation to “persuade” MAGA people to re-enlist in American democracy. As if anyone who still believes in that soulless grifter at this late date is likely to be moved by rhetoric. Sorry, but persuasion requires that two parties agree on facts -- and on the fact that facts matter.
So trying to persuade Trump Republicans is a waste of time.
Granted, that’s an ominous conclusion. After all, if reasoning is no longer a possibility, you are left only two options for resolving political differences: to impose one side’s will by force of arms or by weight of electoral dominance, i.e., by voting the other side into oblivion. While the first option is terrifying, if you understand that a healthy democracy requires at least two functioning political parties, and that no single ideology holds a patent on wisdom, then you understand neither option is ideal.
Yet they are all we have left. This is what Republican extremism has brought us to.
And even now, they still cry victim. As in Sen. Lindsey Graham saying Trump is being unfairly persecuted and promising “riots in the streets” if the most corrupt president in history is held to account for his manifold misdeeds. Can you imagine prosecutors declining to try some drug lord under threat of violence?
No. They’d say, Bring it on. They’d say upholding a democratic principle is worth any risk it entails. Yet Graham apparently thinks prosecutors should quail because MAGA people would be big mad if Trump were held to answer for his sins. The same MAGA people the rest of us are supposed to be “persuading.”
It boggles the mind.
Too many times, when faced with a choice between honoring its great principles or doing the expedient thing, America has chosen the latter. Too often, Biden -- like President Obama before him -- has sung arias of bipartisan bonhomie while the other side snickered in derision. Let us all, at this crossroads of peril, finally try something else: standing up for what we say we believe. That does not guarantee democracy’s salvation, but it does say we finally understand the moral and practical futility of seeking common ground with malign forces. And that we stopped coddling them.
Step one is to call them out -- thankfully, something Biden is doing now. MAGA Republicans think he’s mean?
Frankly, he’s been just barely mean enough.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. email@example.com