May 18, 2022 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Biden asks us to pick a side

You’re with democracy or white supremacy. You can’t have both.

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The White House is correct, I think, to avoid joining the pissing match between the Democrats and the Republicans over whether Fox host Tucker Carlson is to blame for inciting Payton Gendron to travel more than 200 hundred miles to shoot to pieces 10 Black people in Buffalo. 

To be sure, that chimp-faced afreet, who never met a lie he didn’t like, might be responsible for mainstreaming “the great replacement” – that paranoid sepsis of blood and muscle according to which “them” are coming to replace “us,” a perversion of God’s natural order of things.

Last night, in fact, Carlson sold more paste to more paste-eaters: “The Democratic Party has decided that rather than convince you, people who are born here, that their policies are helping you and making the country better and stronger, they will change the electorate.”

Policy, to Biden, is secondary to politics. The old assault-weapons ban was so irrelevant to his encomium in Buffalo that the president “only briefly mentioned” it. His purpose was drawing a line in the sand.

Carlson is confessing even as he’s projecting. That’s his wont. The Democrats don’t hope to “change the electorate,” though they long dearly for an electorate soon-to-be changed by demographics. The entire program of rightwing politics seeks to “change the electorate.”

By force. 

When they talk about immigration, they mean stopping “those people” from coming. When they talk about gun rights, they mean terrorizing “those people” already here. When they talk about abortion, they mean stopping and terrorizing “those people” to buy enough time for white women (who can’t get abortions thanks to the Supreme Court) to birth enough white babies to restore an imaginary “constitutional republic.”

We can say Carlson is responsible for making clear that sadism is the point in rightwing politics, but let’s not be naive. His is the top show on Fox because millions in this country already believe democracy is in crisis on account of “them” coming to “replace true democracy.” 

The president was being generous – which is a good thing, politically – when he alleged that “the media” and “the internet” are radicalizing “lost and isolated individuals” like Payton Gendron. He was being generous, because come on. Be serious. An 18-year-old kid does not decide on his own that it’s time for a bunch of Black people to die. 

Whatever the context he grew up in, it almost certainly included plenty of white-power rhetoric about undeserving Black people (“them”) taking something away from deserving white people (“us”), and that someone ought to take care of it, if only he had the guts.

Carlson didn’t mainstream it, but he did rationalize it. That’s why Biden’s remarks yesterday in Buffalo were so significant. To my way of thinking, they suggested a break from the past. He created conditions by which the rationalizing of white supremacy is politically dangerous.

I don’t recall another sitting president using the word “terrorism” to describe a shooting massacre. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) Barack Obama didn’t after Sandy Hook and Charleston. Of course, the former president didn’t after Pittsburgh and El Paso. (He incited them, gladly.) 

Yet Joe Biden had no qualms. 

“What happened here is simple and straightforward – terrorism, terrorism, domestic terrorism,” the president said. “Violence inflicted in the service of hate and a vicious thirst for power that defines one group of people being inherently inferior to any other group.”

“I call on all Americans to reject the lie. And I condemn those who spread the lie for power, political gain and for profit,” he said. “Because that’s what it is. We have now seen too many times the deadly and destructive violence this ideology unleashes” (the italics are mine).

I read about the speech in USA Today this morning. The report noted that the president “only briefly mentioned gun control in his remarks, renewing his call for Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban.” 

That’s amazing. For Obama, the solution to white political violence was policy. He dared not engage politically. He feared it would backfire. Things are different for Biden for same reason it was hard for Obama.

Policy, to Biden, is secondary to politics. The old assault-weapons ban was so irrelevant to his Queen City elegy that the president “only briefly mentioned” it. His purpose was drawing a line in the sand.

You’re with us (democracy) or with them (white supremacy).

You can’t have both.

“We need to say as clearly and forcefully as we can that the ideology of white supremacy has no place in America. None,” Biden said. “Look, failure for us is to not say that — failure … is going to be complicity. Silence is complicity. It’s complicity. We cannot remain silent.”

Failure is silence. 

Silence is complicity. 

Complicity is terrorism.

The Republicans benefit from the Buffalo massacre. A scared population is a controllable population – at least for long enough that white women can birth more white babies, restoring “true democracy.”

They do not benefit when most people most of the time associate the party with white political violence, or domestic terrorism. The more the public sees that, the more the Republicans must duck and cover. 

Terrorism is failure.

The president has been doing this a long time. He knows which way the winds are blowing. Something is telling him that the right moral thing to do is now in alignment with the right political thing to do. 

Biden is meeting the politics of murder with the politics of liberal democracy, not neutral-sounding policy. “You can’t prevent people from being radicalized to violence, but we can address the relentless exploitation of the internet to recruit and mobilize terrorism. 

“We just need to have the courage to do that – to stand up.”

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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