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Biden's disturbing and incoherent speech.

I waited until morning to listen to Biden's nighttime speech, and I wrote about it in the previous post before studying the text. I went out for my sunrise run and thought about what I'd heard. I'll tell you some more about that later. This post is to force myself through the text and to calmly test the emotional reaction I had listening and then remembering what I'd heard. 

Standing before a glowing red background and demonizing "MAGA Republicans," Biden called up images of fire:
We, the people, have burning inside of each of us the flame of liberty that was lit here at Independence Hall.... That sacred flame still burns.... 

Fire, if it's the right fire, is good. It's sacred. But then there's bad fire, the political passion coming from the part of the country that "is not normal," the people who are not "mainstream"

I’ve been able to work with these mainstream Republicans. But there’s no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans....  MAGA force... promote authoritarian leaders, and they fanned the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country....

There are the normal, mainstream people, the people who "work with" him, and then there are those terrible other people. They "fanned the flames of political violence." Is that metaphor, referring to passion? When I try to remember literal fires, I think of the riots in the summer of 2020. Those were political. Is Biden condemning the people of the left who set hundreds of fires in political protest? Or is his condemnation reserved for the extremists of the right — and is he talking about all Trump supporters or just some of them? Who is threatening the "soul" of the country? Incoherently, his rhetoric feels incendiary and abnormal and not mainstream. 

I greatly prefer normal, mainstream politics, and that's why this rhetoric bothers me so much. He's passionate about not being passionate, fiery about avoiding fire. He's demonizing so many people, and I'm not sure why. It's stated in the abstract. We all like some personal rights and not others and have different ideas about the scope of those rights. We all like the pursuit of justice, but we have different ideas about what counts as justice. And what about "the rule of law"? Ask a Critical Race Theory person, and you may hear that the rule of law is white supremacy. It's a matter of diversity and debate. Can we have this debate? Or is an authoritarian leader going to disqualify all participants who don't accept his idea of personal rights, justice, and the rule of law? His version constitutes "the very soul of this country"? 

There are far more Americans, far more Americans from every background and belief, who reject the extreme MAGA ideology than those that accept it.

His version of the soul of America represents what "far more" Americans think, so — what? — screw those other people? Something like 47% of voters voted for Trump, but even if the Trump voters were more dramatically overwhelmed by throngs of more "normal" people, they are still part of the population. Or maybe it's not about excluding everyone who's not in the majority. Maybe it's about rejecting them because they have "extreme MAGA ideology." What is "extreme MAGA ideology"? Desire for a secure border? Pro-life? Really, what are the elements that Biden envisions as not worthy of debate but justifying denouncement as not normal and not mainstream?

And folks, it’s within our power, it’s in our hands, yours and mine, to stop the assault on American democracy....

It seems to me that it's within our power to participate in democracy and vote. Where is this "assault"? Why in the name of all that is normal and mainstream is he conjuring up violence — an "assault"? It's going on right now. Don't you see it? The "assault" I see is the effort to keep Donald Trump from running again. If the overwhelming majority of Americans reject his "extreme MAGA ideology," what's the problem? Let him run and he will be defeated.

Biden introduces the imagery of light and darkness. It's abstract and preachy:

And now, America must choose... to be a nation of hope and unity and optimism or a nation of fear, division and of darkness. MAGA Republicans have made their choice. They embrace anger. They thrive on chaos. They live, not in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies....

He sounds angry, denouncing anger. He's divisively condemning division. It's abstract, preachy, and incoherent.

For a long time, we’ve told ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed, but it’s not. We have to defend it, protect it, stand up for it, each and every one of us. That’s why tonight, I’m asking our nation to come together, unite behind the single purpose of defending our democracy regardless of your ideology.

What about the people whose ideology is "extreme MAGA ideology"? I guess he means "regardless of your ideology" as long as it's normal, mainstream ideology. No extremists! But the rest of you, if you would please, congregate in the great middle and "unite behind the single purpose."

We’re all called by duty and conscience to confront extremists who put their own pursuit of power above all else. Democrats, independents, mainstream Republicans, we must be stronger, more determined and more committed to saving American democracy.

What about non-mainstream Democrats? Who's inside this circle and who's outside? Don't extremists get to participate? What does "saving democracy" mean? I remember when fervent Democrats occupied the Wisconsin state capitol building and chanted "This is what democracy looks like" because they didn't like the results of the 2010 election. Sometimes you get protests, and sometimes the protests break into riots. It comes from the left as well as the right, but democracy survives. 

And MAGA Republicans are destroying American democracy. We, the people, will not let anyone or anything tear us apart....

Ludicrous. He's tearing us apart while saying nothing will tear us apart. Who are "we the people" if you're excluding MAGA Republicans? As I said in the previous post, he's saying: We the People, but not you people.

We hear — you’ve heard it, more and more talk about violence as an acceptable political tool in this country. It’s not. It can never be an acceptable tool. So, I want to say this plain and simple: There is no place for political violence in America, period, none, ever....

He's saying that while standing in front of Independence Hall. No place for political violence in America, period, none, ever? That was the place! 

[T]here are public figures today, yesterday and the day before predicting and all but calling for mass violence and rioting in the streets. This is inflammatory. It’s dangerous. It’s against the rule of law. And we, the people, must say this is not who we are. Ladies and gentlemen, we can’t be pro-insurrectionist and pro-American....

Ironically, he seems to be "predicting" violence. Who is he talking about? Why is he raving about violence? How is this helping? How is it normal and mainstream? 

Eventually, he settles in to the one specific complaint: Some people don't believe the election was properly handled and they don't believe the announced results. That's not violence and chaos. It's something we've seen before, notably in 2000 and 2016. It's part of democracy — doubting and criticizing the mechanisms of democracy. 

After looking at America and seeing carnage and darkness and despair, he states that "MAGA Republicans look at America and see carnage and darkness and despair. " After pushing us to fear, he accuses them of "spreading fear." But then he presents himself as a big optimist:

But I see a different America — an America with an unlimited future, an America that’s about to take off....

We get a list of accomplishments:  

[W]e passed the biggest infrastructure investment since President Dwight D. Eisenhower... [W]e passed the most significant gun safety law since President Clinton... [w]e passed the most significant health care reform since President Obama.... More Americans are working than ever. Businesses are growing...

 He reverts to the imagery of light and darkness...

[W]e can see the light. Light is now visible. Light that will guide us forward...

... and soul: 

I ran for president because I believed we were in a battle of the soul of this nation. I still believe that to be true. I believe the soul is the breadth, the life and the essence of who we are. The soul is what makes us, us. The soul of America is defined by the sacred proposition that all are created equal in the image of God....

The quasi-religion of government becomes ludicrous or — if you actually believe in religion — offensive:  

My fellow Americans, America is an idea; the most powerful idea in the history of the world, and it beats in the hearts of the people of this country. It beats in all our hearts. It unites America. It is the American creed.... 

It installs in everyone the belief that no matter where you start in life, there’s nothing you can’t achieve....

Installs? This speech needs an editor. Where you start in life? Cue the pro-lifers. 

We can’t afford to leave anyone on the sidelines. We need everyone to do their part, so speak up, speak out, get engaged, vote, vote, vote! And if we do our duty, if we do our duty, in 2022 and beyond, then ages still to come will say we, all of us here, we kept the faith. We preserved democracy...

Is he saying vote Democratic? He's at least saying vote agains the non-mainstream MAGA Republicans. Did we the people pay for this event? Why were Marines there?  

... America is still the beacon to the world, an ideal to be realized, a promise to be kept. There’s nothing more important. Nothing more sacred....

Nothing more sacred than government? And the other guys are the fascists? 

That’s our soul. That’s who we truly are. And that’s who we must always be.... We just need to remember who we are. We are the United States of America, the United States of America....

"A building, hallowed..."/"this sacred place... We shall know the truth and the truth shall make us free."

Here's the transcript of what Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden said at the big commemoration yesterday. I didn't watch, but I will read, so I'll pick out some highlights for you.

First, Harris:
Certain dates echo throughout history... dates that occupy not only a place on our calendars, but a place in our collective memory, December 7th, 1941, September 11th, 2001 and January 6th, 2021....
The event is known by its date. After all this long history of the world, you'd think every day of the year would already have this status. Personally, I don't like negative events parking on the calendar, darkening our lives on a yearly basis, but that's her point. This is going to be an annual event for the rest of your life. 

You know, January 6th is a beautiful religious holiday, Epiphany — Three Kings Day. But sorry, adorers of the baby Jesus, the politicos of America need your day for their sacred solemnities.
What the extremists who roamed these halls targeted was not only the lives of elected leaders. What they sought to degrade and destroy was not only a building, hallowed as it is....
I am reminded of the Wisconsin protests, when the Wisconsin capitol was besieged and occupied. Did those protesters seek to degrade and destroy? I can tell you they chanted, over and over, "Whose house?/Our house!" The building belongs to the people. If the January 6th protesters had sought to degrade and destroy the building, they would have caused far more destruction. I think it was more of a "Whose house?/Our house!" situation. 

I'm not approving of what any of these protesters did. I like orderly protesters and deplore chaos. Just don't overreach. These are your fellow Americans, and they are only as bad as they are.

Next, Joe Biden:
[T]o state the obvious, one year ago today in this sacred place, democracy was attacked, simply attacked....

Reminiscent of George Bush's "Freedom itself was attacked...."

Back to Biden:

Our democracy held. We, the people, endured. We, the people, prevailed. For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol. But they failed. They failed... 
The Bible tells us that we shall know the truth and the truth shall make us free. We shall know the truth. Well here is the God’s truth about January 6th, 2021. Close your eyes. Go back to that day. What do you see?...

That's a very distracting Bible verse! It's not about being a good historian and getting an accurate picture of the facts in your head. Quite aside from whether the picture Biden proceeds to describe is exactly true, the truth that Jesus said will make us free had to do with believing in Jesus. 

Here's Biden's description of the violence, which I presume has been very carefully fact-checked:

A mob breaking windows, kicking in doors, breaching the Capitol, American flags on poles being used as weapons as spears, fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers. A crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers, dragged them, sprayed them, stomped on them. Over 140 police officers were injured. We all heard the police officers who were there that day testify to what happened. One officer called it “a medieval battle,” and that he was more afraid that day than he was fighting the war in Iraq. They repeatedly asked since that day, “How dare anyone, anyone, diminish, belittle or deny the hell they were put through?”...

Were multiple fire extinguishers thrown? Thrown at the heads of police officers? I'm not going to research this, but it's so hard to believe that a misstatement of fact could be in that paragraph. 

This wasn’t a group of tourists. This was an armed insurrection. They weren’t looking to uphold the will of the people, they were looking to deny the will of the people. They weren’t looking uphold a free and fair election, they were looking to overturn one. They weren’t looking to save the cause of America, they were looking to subvert the constitution....

He's characterizing the interior of the head of thousands of people. He can't really know, only purport to know, for rhetorical purposes. 

And I suspect that many of them really believed their cause was to vindicate the will of the people. In fact, that's what you'd need to say to blame Trump: He instilled the belief that Biden had not won the election. 

Of course, Biden does go on to make that accusation against Trump. How can that cohere? You'd have to say that these people were influenced and incited by Trump, but they still knew he was lying, and they chose to besiege the Capitol not because they believed Trump had actually won, but because they wanted him in power, even if he'd lost. 

Look, folks, now it’s up to all of us, to we the people to stand for the rule of law. To preserve the flame of democracy. To keep the promise of America alive. The promise is at risk targeted by the forces that value brute strength over the sanctity of democracy. Fear over hope, personal gain over public good.... We are in a battle for the soul of America, a battle that by the grace of God, the goodness, and gracious and greatness to this nation, we will win.... I did not seek this fight, brought to this capital one year ago today, but I will not shrink from it either. I will stand in this breach. I will defend this nation and I will allow no one to place a dagger to the throat of democracy.... We’re a nation of laws, of order, not chaos. Of peace, not violence.

"One year ago, a violent mob, guided by unscrupulous politicians, stormed the Capitol and almost succeeded in preventing the democratic transfer of power."

Writes Jimmy Carter — or someone writing under the name Jimmy Carter — in The New York Times.

Yes, it's January 6th at last, but I am not going to spend the day going through all the articles telling us what to think. For now, I'm only going to quote those words, the first sentence of Carter's piece — "I Fear for Our Democracy" — and ask one question.

How did the mob "almost succeed[] in preventing the democratic transfer of power"? 

Is there some idea that if the mob could have occupied the building, it would have taken over the government? What is the mechanism? 

I would "fear for our democracy" if a mob could seize power by seizing the Capitol, but only a little, because I don't think a mob could seize the Capitol. I saw my state's capitol occupied by protesters — with the intent to obstruct the operation of government — for 4 months, back in 2011. They delayed legislative action for quite a while, but they didn't take over governmental power. Their presence was tolerated — it didn't need to be — and eventually the law was passed and the group went home.

The Wisconsin protesters characterized what they were doing — interfering with the duly elected government — as "democracy," chanting, endlessly, "This is what democracy looks like." That is, those who win the elections should be subjected to continual criticism, vigorous protest, and friction every step of the way as they try to carry out the agenda that won the election. That's real democracy.

Is Carter pushing the idea that everyone is required to believe the announced results of the election are true and that democracy is endangered if they don't? If so, how does he handle the "Russian collusion" theory that dogged Trump for years? 

"An 'insurrection,' as the dictionary will tell you, is a violent uprising against a government or other established authority."

"Unlike the violent riots that swept the country in the summer of 2020—riots that caused some $2 billion in property damage and claimed more than 20 lives—the January 6 protest at the Capitol lasted a few hours, caused minimal damage, and the only person directly killed was an unarmed female Trump supporter who was shot by a Capitol Hill Police officer. It was, as Tucker Carlson said shortly after the event, a political protest that 'got out of hand.'" 

Writes Roger Kimball in "The January 6 Insurrection Hoax" (Real Clear Politics). 

When I see "uprising," I think of this:

Sometimes people want to be thought of as insurrectionists. Sometimes the political protesters that got out of hand want the bigger concept to apply to them. They use it to brag about the scope and significance of what they accomplished. 

It goes both ways, this spin. But it's funny to me to see leftists using "insurrection" against the protesters they hate when they — some of them — used the same notion to vaunt their 2011 takeover of the Wisconsin Capitol.

And don't forget Occupy Wall Street. 

Am I failing to distinguish "insurrection" and "uprising"? I've dabbled in researching the difference if any. I think the 2 words mean the same thing, though "insurrection" might have somewhat more of a connotation of armed rebellion. I don't think any of the things discussed above were armed rebellion. So I'd just use the word "uprising" and use it consistently to refer to the takeover of the Wisconsin Capitol and the takeover of the U.S. Capitol. If you don't want to use that word for both things, just don't use it for either. Or be exposed as a propagandist.

"But the Democratic Party establishment distanced itself from the Wisconsin uprising. Notably, President Barack Obama did not go to Wisconsin..."

"... during the Act 10 protests, betraying a campaign promise to 'put on a comfortable pair of walking shoes myself' and 'march on that picket line with you' if collective bargaining rights were ever under attack. (Vice President Biden did not go to Wisconsin either.) Outrage over Act 10 prompted an effort to recall Mr. Walker that garnered nearly a million signatures and forced him to face a new election in 2012. But Mr. Obama deliberately avoided campaigning with Tom Barrett, the governor’s Democratic opponent. 'This is a gubernatorial race with a guy who was recalled and a challenger trying to get him out of office,' Stephanie Cutter, Mr. Obama’s deputy campaign spokeswoman, told NBC News. 'It has nothing to do with President Obama.' The fallout from the financial crisis, and Mr. Obama’s tepid economic response to it, helped enable the Tea Party backlash, allowing the movement’s funders to realize long-held ambitions of weakening the labor movement and the public sector under the guise of austerity. That effort was made easier by the Democrats’ embrace of their framing. A few months before Mr. Walker announced Act 10, his predecessor, Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, bragged that he made steeper cuts to size of the state employee work force than any governor in Wisconsin’s history. Mr. Obama, too, championed public austerity, imposing a two-year wage freeze for federal workers just after the 2010 election...."

From a NYT op-ed titled "Scott Walker’s Wisconsin Paved the Way for Donald Trump’s America."

"An 'insurrection,' as the dictionary will tell you, is a violent uprising against a government or other established authority."This is what it's like...

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