Divider in chief? Biden likens Trump supporters to fascists after promising to unite country

A spokesman for the Republican National Committee, Nathan Brand, called Biden's remark "despicable," according to NBC News.

Updated: August 26, 2022 - 11:16pm

President Biden declared in his inaugural address that the central mission of his presidency was to unify the country.

"Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: Bringing America together, uniting our people, and uniting our nation," said Biden. "I ask every American to join me in this cause ... With unity we can do great things."

At another point in his speech, Biden listed an array of challenges facing the country and declared that in order to overcome them, to "restore the soul and to secure the future of America, requires ... that most elusive of things in a democracy: unity."

Biden went on to say "there is no peace, only bitterness and fury" without unity, which he described as "the path forward" in "our historic moment of crisis and challenge."

In short, Biden made a pledge to be America's unifier in chief.

Some 19 months later, on Thursday night, Biden was speaking at a fundraiser for Democrats in Bethesda, Md., an affluent suburb just outside Washington, D.C. At the event, Biden vilified the Make America Great Again movement aligned with former President Trump and his administration as "semi-fascist."

"What we're seeing now is the beginning or the death knell of an extreme MAGA philosophy," Biden reportedly said. "It's not just Trump, it's the entire philosophy that underpins the — I'm going to say something, it's like semi-fascism."

A spokesman for the Republican National Committee, Nathan Brand, called Biden's remark "despicable," according to NBC News.

The MAGA movement, which has the support of a large segment of the country, especially among conservatives and Republicans, has become synonymous with Trump's political agenda and Trump himself, who received more than 74 million votes in the 2020 presidential election.

It's unclear how Biden likening so many Americans and Trump supporters to fascists fits with his stated mission to unite the country.

"We must meet this moment as the United States of America," Biden said during his inaugural address. "If we do that, I guarantee you we will not fail. I promise you: I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did."

However, Thursday was hardly the first time that Biden has attacked Trump supporters as radicals since taking office.

"This MAGA crowd is really the most extreme political organization that's existed in American history, in recent American history," Biden told reporters in May.

More broadly, Biden has repeatedly demonized Trump supporters and other Americans who disagree with his political agenda.

In January, for example, Biden said Trump "and his supporters" want "to suppress your vote, to subvert our elections," and "to disenfranchise anyone who votes against them," describing Republican election reforms as "Jim Crow 2.0," a reference to laws that enforced racial segregation in the South.

"That's the kind of power you see in totalitarian states, not in democracies," he continued. "Will you stand against election subversion? Yes, or no? Will you stand for democracy? Yes, or no? ... Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?"

Biden has made similar comments throughout his presidency, describing Republican-led voting laws as "un-American" and grounded in autocracy.

Biden and his allies have similarly described those involved in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, or who support legal fair play and humane treatment for Jan. 6 prisoners, or who question the results of the 2020 presidential election as insurrectionists and threats to American democracy.

"I've said it before: We're are facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War," said Biden. "That's not hyperbole. Since the Civil War. The Confederates back then never breached the Capitol as insurrectionists did on January the 6th."

Biden's administration has similarly labeled political opponents who oppose critical race theory, question the results of the 2020 election, or refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine as potential domestic terrorists disseminating disinformation.

Biden also attacked those unvaccinated against COVID-19 for not doing the "right thing" and "costing all of us." He accused them of causing "a lot of damage" by "making people sick and causing ... people to die" and standing in the way of "getting back to normal."

When announcing his vaccine mandates last year, Biden warned those hesitant to receive the vaccination: "We've been patient, but our patience is wearing thin."

Such rhetoric has led Americans to say Biden is doing more to divide than unite the country, according to polling.

A Quinnipiac University poll from earlier this year, for example, found 49% of U.S. adults think Biden is doing more to sow divisions, compared to 42% who think he's doing more to unite the country.

A Fox News poll from last year found a majority of Americans believe the nation has become less united since Biden took office.

Meanwhile, a host of other polling has shown Americans believe the country is severely divided. According to one poll released by Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service earlier this year, a plurality of Americans say civility in politics has declined since Biden took office.

There are two areas, however, where Biden seems to have largely united the country: his job performance and the current direction of the country.

Despite a recent uptick in Biden's approval rating according to Gallup, polling has consistently shown for months a strong majority of Americans disapproving of his job performance. One Quinnipiac poll from last month placed Biden's approval rating at just 31%.

Polling also indicates the American people overwhelmingly believe the country is on the wrong track.

An astounding 88% of Americans, for example, say the country is on the wrong track, and only 10% believe it's heading in the right direction, according to a recent survey from Monmouth University.

For months, pollsters have found between 70% and 90% of Americans see the country heading in the wrong direction.

In a sense, it seems, Biden has lived up to his inaugural pledge — just not in the way he intended.

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