Last Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden gave what may have been the most important speech of his Presidency. Set against the looming November midterms, the legal difficulties of his predecessor, and a series of unlikely legislative victories, the speech illustrated Biden’s politics and his understanding of the stakes of his presidency.
It is fair to say that reaction to the speech was varied. Republicans hated it, centrists worried that it was overly partisan and aggressive, and Democrats tended to celebrate it. We need to pay more attention, I think, to understanding the speech within the context of Joe Biden’s career and the evolution of the American electoral system.
Joe Biden’s Dark Framing
At the beginning of Joe Biden’s career in politics, it might have seemed absurd to think that an anti-democratic faction would take control of one of the two major parties and thus directly threaten the health of American democracy. Indeed, while former President Richard Nixon certainly broke the law in an effort to corrupt an election, he was eventually castigated by a majority of his own party. While Nixon eventually rehabilitated himself, he did not try to re-enter the political system. He most certainly did not attempt to take control of the GOP.
The contemporary Republican Party has utterly failed to come to grips with the anti-democratic elements in its ranks. Former President Donald Trump, in contrast to Nixon, has won the allegiance of nearly all prominent GOP political figures and continues to (poorly) hand-select candidates for state and national office across the country. The former president attempted a coup (an autogolpe, technically) designed to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. Despite some early criticism from some parts of the GOP, broad majorities of the party’s elected officials and the party’s popular base have embraced the coup attempt, and the former president’s lies about a stolen election. Framing the stakes of this conflict is entirely appropriate, even necessary.
In some ways there’s nothing particularly surprising about the response of the GOP. Trump is a popular figure with voters in the party, making it dangerous to cross him politically or to point out his many egregious lies. In global terms, it is not at all unusual for democratic systems to house anti-democratic parties. Sometimes these parties win elections, while at other times, they take power through other means but still retain a significant degree of their popularity. Authoritarians in Hungary, Russia, and China seem to enjoy significant support despite their contempt for democracy. In this sense, it is not surprising to see the Republican Party effectively reject electoral democracy in pursuit of a firmer grip on power.
Joe Biden’s Clear Warning
This is the context of President Joe Biden’s speech. It should be understood as a forthright effort to make clear the stakes that face America – and by extension, the world. Biden has worked in American politics for 50 years, during most of which he has enjoyed the reputation of a moderate reformer with a predilection for bipartisanship. What has changed in 2022 is that one political party believes in democracy, while the other does not. The willingness of the GOP to tolerate and even celebrate anti-democratic authoritarians within its ranks is undoubtedly a relevant consideration for midterm voters, and it is not wrong for the president to emphasize the stakes. Democratic systems can wither in any number of ways. The presence of enthusiastic authoritarians on the ballot cannot be laughed away and should not be ignored.
Joe Biden was correct to call out the former president and his allies as a force that intends to disrupt and corrupt American democracy. He was correct that the rest of the GOP has largely failed to manage that threat internally. For Republicans concerned about the president’s tone and who feel bad when they hear a factual description of their party, the course is clear: Repudiate Trump and his cronies thoroughly, punish those within the party who enabled his rise and work out a new relationship with the anti-democratic elements of its base.
The fault, dear GOP, is not in your stars but in yourselves.
Dr. Robert Farley has taught security and diplomacy courses at the Patterson School since 2005. He received his BS from the University of Oregon in 1997, and his Ph. D. from the University of Washington in 2004. Dr. Farley is the author of Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force (University Press of Kentucky, 2014), the Battleship Book (Wildside, 2016), and Patents for Power: Intellectual Property Law and the Diffusion of Military Technology (University of Chicago, 2020). He has contributed extensively to a number of journals and magazines, including the National Interest, the Diplomat: APAC, World Politics Review, and the American Prospect. Dr. Farley is also a founder and senior editor of Lawyers, Guns, and Money.
September 7, 2022 at 3:10 pm
Check out this writer’s blog. It tells you all you need to know:
September 7, 2022 at 5:06 pm
Thought this was some kind of parody article. Surely, no one sane would possibly defend the Nazi-Soviet display by Biden’s Obama handlers let alone the uncivil attack on tens of millions of Americans.
The only coup in America is the one ongoing since 2016 when an outsider took a major party nomination and promised to actually fulfill promises made in a national campaign to the American people.
The coupsters were not Russian; they were Deep State intel operatives working with Hillary Clinton and her campaign. Then they continued their illegal spying on a duly elected American President.
Was that sufficient? No! They used dark money from one of their party supporters to the tune of over $440 million to “fortify” the 2020 election and change election law – on the fly while stuffing the ballot box with all manner of illegal ballots.
Was that it? No! They had to have the intel arms, their own NKVD-KGB further interfere with the 2020 election to protect the Biden Crime Family and rig the election.
Was that it? No! They then had to bury the Hunter Biden laptop for years (almost three to date) and the American people still don’t know the full details on the millions paid by the ChiComs to the Biden Crime Family. Then there’s millions less but nevertheless, millions paid to the Biden Crime Family by a Putin-connected Oligarch among other countries.
This Robert Farley person hasn’t come to grips with any of this. He thinks Americans questioning and voting on any and all of this anti-American election action not to mention the destruction of the nation at home and abroad by his Fascist Left heroes are the problem.
Truly, the mutterings of the insane. The Fascist Left.
September 7, 2022 at 5:21 pm
Farley, I believe I asked you earlier to stop sniffing glue.
September 7, 2022 at 5:23 pm
The fascist leader of the far right is in a really dark place. He continues to fan the flames of insurrection and riots if he is held to the same standards as everyone else.
Biden set a trap for the fat guy and he took the bait with an unhinged rant in Pennsylvania. All the threats of violence directed at judges and the FBI aren’t coming form the left, but leave to wing nuts to try to twist reality.
Do you really think you’d be running free if you had stolen those governments docs, got cute with the FBI refusing to return them and lied about the existence of additional documents. Very sensitive nuclear docs were found at Mar-a-Lardo.
The porky is going to be spending an inordinate amount of time in court and hopefully prison.
September 7, 2022 at 6:05 pm
Because sleepy Joe said it, that makes it true? Meanwhile he gives a Reichstag speech that Hitler himself would be proud of.
Also lets ask who the fascists are. Who’s banning speech? Who’s eliminating opposing political views from all of our colleges? Who’s dictating to business who they should and shouldn’t do business with? Who locked us the fuck down? Who sends the FBI after political opponents? Who has their media hide stories that will be negative to them and their party?
I mean seriously. The Democrats are on the road to fascism and their clear goal is to claim that it’s really the Republicans who are so it distracts everyone until it’s too late.
I highly recommend The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. You’ll be amazed at how the Democrats of today parallel the Nazis of the 30s. Straight down to their claim that math is racist. The Nazis said the same things.
September 7, 2022 at 6:06 pm
On the surface, it seems Biden dislikes maga republicans.
Until I hear differently that is most or all republicans.
I think not.
He hates disapproval and opposition. I am prepared for mud slinging between politicians. Insulting millions of citizens seems
Really really bad…
September 7, 2022 at 6:30 pm
Hear, hear! Well said!
September 7, 2022 at 8:22 pm
19fortyfive would do itself a great favor if it would abandon political themes and return to its former strength in discussing military/national defense topics. It would gain an over-the-top win amongst its readerships by dumping Farley (AKA resident useful idiot).
September 7, 2022 at 9:34 pm
I started visiting this site in hopes if finding rational discussion on policy with an emphasis on international and defense policies. I am finding instead the contributors leaning evermore towards partisan hacks.
As for this article’s contributor, an intellectually honest individual would acknowledge the very questionable events that underpin beliefs that the sitting president obtained the office as the result of illegal activities. Rather, we have some PhD preaching his moral superiority from a pulpit of relative insulation fir the purpose of what, exactly? pitiful.
September 7, 2022 at 10:08 pm
In Biden’s senate campaigns, his style was divisive, slash & burn, designed to keep the state’s Democrats “on side,” and that worked in a blue state.
The “Dark Brandon” speech was par for the course.
It doesn’t surprise me.
It will test what is the lay of the land, politically in this country.
It does seem that Biden’s speech, in all it’s dark tapestry, and denouncements of millions of Americans has set a standard.
Will it become the norm?
I hope not.
September 7, 2022 at 10:20 pm
Republicans have an opportunity to repudiate fascism. Right now, they seem disinterested. That is their loss.
September 7, 2022 at 11:22 pm
A British soldier meets a angry old
Lady in the ashes of post ww2
Germany. She tells him ”
All this could have been avoided
If you had just surrendered in 1940″
Some people actually think like that.
September 7, 2022 at 11:54 pm
Trump tried to organize slates of fake electors to vote him into office despite his defeat; he tried to prevent the Secret Service from disarming the attendees at his January 6 rally; he struggled with is own Secret Service detail trying to lead the rallygoers in their attack on the capitol; and now we learn that he stole extremely sensitive classified documents from the government when he finally left office. A more direct attack on the Constitution and our national security is hard to imagine. And the Republican Party, and many of the commenters on this site, still defend him, and insist that none of that happened. Apparently, reality does not exist.
Biden’s speech seems unprecedented because nothing like this has ever happened before. Biden refuses to ignore the ugly reality in front of our faces. Perhaps the closest parallel, ironically, is a speech delivered by the future first Republican president, addressing the fanatical defenders of slavery who would soon form the Confederacy:
“Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events.”
September 8, 2022 at 12:28 am
Farley, you need a better class of readers than the half-wit knuckle-draggers around here.
September 8, 2022 at 4:07 am
Biden is totally unfit to be president of America.
This coming winter will lay bare the great folly of deep state rigging Nov 2020 election results for the 80-yr-old piece of dross.
September 8, 2022 at 6:41 am
Absolutely the best article I’ve read on this site so far. Nails it, which clearly makes some of the more immature commenters throw a tantrum (which is good).
Farley is consistently the best writer on this site.
September 8, 2022 at 6:53 am
Trying to jail a political opponent you don’t think you can beat in the next election is a far larger threat to democracy than anything Trump has done. Which is saying something since Trump has don’t a lot of sketchy stuff.
September 8, 2022 at 7:52 am
Love the CHICOM comments on here praising Farley. “You nailed it”!… How’s the weather in Beijing.
September 8, 2022 at 8:22 am
MAGA is a threat to the entrenched, unelected, and unaccountable bureaucracy. But that is about all.
Dwight Eisenhower would be considered a MAGA today.
September 8, 2022 at 8:57 am
If I wished to read the babbling of a liberal pseudo intellectual toady for the DNC, I would be on the Huffington Post site. 1945 beclowns itself by publishing the likes of Farley. Now I must treat all it’s articles with a high degree of skepticism.
September 8, 2022 at 9:17 am
Biden is destroying america’s democracy. that begun with obama. Trump appears their only obstacle to realise ther their faschism agenda
America people should wake up to destoy democrat tyranny.if not it will be late america is lead to another civil war which will destructive.time to stop democrat for america goodness has come
September 8, 2022 at 9:47 am
Farley is a an absolute clown and the kind of person American academia exemplifies – spineless, malicious, and dumb all while being extremely smug.
It’s Biden who has ramped up Big Tech censorship, brought us to the brink of war with Russia and China, and labeled half the country extremist simply because they opposed this madness. So enough of these lectures about democracy from you Farley.
September 8, 2022 at 9:51 am
Dementia Joe gave a Reichstag Fire speech, he is the real Enemy of democracy.
September 8, 2022 at 11:28 am
America was created as a Republic which might be considered the anti thesis of democracy. Totalitarian Democrats, who openly admire China’s control of its population, want the majority rule of democracy to achieve one party rule. Populism, signified by Trump, is indeed a threat to the Democrat one party totalitarian rule. Democrats are still the plantation owners who want ownership control of people via big government allied with big corporations. Democrats are the fascists using political violence. Democrats are criminals looting America. Support for Democrats is support for lawless evil.
September 8, 2022 at 11:39 am
This article sounds like a case of TDS. Trump is not a threat to democracy nor are his supporters. They are more invested in America as it was founded than the democrats.
September 8, 2022 at 12:03 pm
Re: Biden’s speech.
Just replace the term “MAGA Republicans” with the word “Jews” and its 1930’s Germany
September 8, 2022 at 3:22 pm
Intellectually dishonest “article”. I would challenge the author to list all the authoritarian and fascist actions and ideas MAGA represents.
And for you leftist idiots, a point for you all: understanding the 10th Amendment isn’t fascism. Nor is it sexist or racist. Pretending it is is.
September 8, 2022 at 4:14 pm
I also surely thought this article was satirical, as it is the left, not the right, which is fascistic here in the United States. It is the left which seeks to impose its morality and values on the rest of the country by force. It is the left which seeks to disarm the American people and consolidate in the Federal Government a monopoly on military force by destroying the second amendment. It is the left which spent over 120 nights in violent insurrection to overthrow an elected government and senatorially confirmed judges in Portland and around the country, causing billions of dollars of damage and dozens of deaths. It is the fascistic left which seeks military adventurism and imperialism abroad, profligate big government spending, and an expansion of the military industrial complex. It is also Biden who labels me; an officer in the United States Armed Forces, as an enemy of the state and domestic terrorist. It is the fascistic left which declares half the country the enemy of democracy—though they themselves are open declared enemies of our federated constitutional republic and our constitutionally mandated separation of powers/federalism/equal representation in the Senate (we do not have a democracy)
The fascist left openly champions zwangshwirtschaft, the conjugal joining of government and business to serve state ends—it seeks to suppress domestic dissent through manipulation of the public square on social media and communication mechanisms. The fascistic left continues to fan the flames of insurrection and riots they championed a year and a half ago, and they deny that the Rule of Law means equal treatment under the law—seeking to restore an openly racist collectivist system which treats people as members of a collective instead of individuals based upon merit. The fascist left openly champions as “justice” the attribution of a perceived attribute of an individual member of a group sharing an immutable characteristic to the entire membership of that group—the very definition of injustice and violation of the fundamental principle of equal treatment under the law. The fascistic left openly celebrate applying different standards to similarly situated persons based upon a “group membership” in some group unpopular to the fascist left.
The fascistic left has directed violence at judges, law enforcement, and the FBI for years, with the President, that fascist in chief, supporting open political violence in the streets and the tarring and targeting of judicial officers and law enforcement for intimidation and threats.
As an officer in the United States armed forces, my oath is not to such a radical fascistic ideology hell bent on subverting our constitutional order and the rule of law, and I believe most officers share my sentiments—particularly at the company and field grade levels of command.
Messr Farley’s “analysis” is just what I would expect from an intellectual descendant of the “intellectual bodyguard of the House of Hohenzollern“, those professors of the University of Berlin who created intellectual justifications for the authoritarian fascistic administrative state of the late Prussian monarchy. Disappointing but not sad to see from an authoritarian interventionist apologist.
This officer strongly dissents. Contra to the author and the administration’s smears, is not fascist to seek preservation of the Rule of Law, individual liberty, equal treatment under the law, constitutionally limited governance, – sound monetary system, and a realist foreign policy.
September 8, 2022 at 5:06 pm
September 8, 2022 at 8:00 pm
What nonsense. 1945 is now officially Communist crap.
September 9, 2022 at 7:52 am
Biden should use the Klu Klux Klan act of 1871,to bring MAGA under control Google MAGA Klu Klux Klan Act of 1871
September 13, 2022 at 2:09 am
Yrral, what you propose would ignite civil war, and not one in which the armed forces could be relied upon to support the government over the constitution.