To be fair, it wasn’t just Republicans who criticized Biden’s line. Full-time troll Glenn Greenwald crawled out from under his bridge to do what he always does – to purposely misunderstand a statement so he can react in mock indignation. In this case, Greenwald brought up both September 11 and Pearl Harbor. Which … doesn’t even deserve a Honorable Mention on the Greenwald Bad Takes list.
Make the easy transition from Greenwald to Leni RiefenstahlDinesh D’Souza, the spiritual heir, suggested that Congress should have laughed at the idea that the January 6 attack posed a threat to the nation. Instead, says D’Souza, it was a “passage”. A passageway that happened to be accompanied by zip ties, police attacks, and a gallows on the Capitol lawn.
Tucker Carlson also brought an extra Dander Dander to his show that night so he could mock Biden’s testimony. Rather than calling the attack on the Capitol an attack on democracy, Carlson suggested, “How about the 1965 Immigration Act?” would be on Carlson’s list of very bad things too. It also shows that Carlson believes American democracy ended four years before he was born. That explains a lot.
One statement that can cause outrage in Greenwald, D’Souza, and Carlson is simple enough. It’s called “tell the truth”. But there’s more going on here than just an uncomfortable fact.
To downplay the importance of January 6, other Conservative writers brought up the assassination attempt on Kennedy and the attempt on Ronald Reagan’s life. They trudged through the Oklahoma City bombings and protested the actions of the 1960s. In fact, at least one right-wing radio host insisted that the worst attack on our democracy was actually that “Democrats stole the elections” and that January 6th was fine – something you are apparently still allowed to say on Twitter without also just a warning.
There are three good reasons the chorus of indignation broke out over that one line in Biden’s speech.
Accepting the real impact of January 6th would mean recognizing the uniqueness of the event. This was not an attack by an outside power, an off-keel shooter, or a gathering of underground extremists. This was an attack on democracy openly nourished and openly fed by the highest levels of the Republican Party. It was the greatest threat to our democracy because, unlike any other moment, it could very well have worked out. Forgetting for a moment how incomparable the events actually are, neither September 11 nor Pearl Harbor posed a major threat to American democracy. The uprising was on January 6th.
The second reason the right (and pseudo-left Greenwald) is so focused on this line is because they are hoping to keep people from looking too closely at the rest of Biden’s speech. And it was a speech from hell. It is filled not only with promises, but also with promises. It defines a decade worth of projects that four decades sloth could undo. It’s ambitious. It’s progressive. It’s good. Go read it again.
That leads directly to the final reason why the law keeps pointing to this line: You have no plan. Of course, that’s not entirely true. You have a plan to limit Americans’ ability to cast votes. They have a plan to continue the attacks on trans teenagers. They have a plan to vote against anything Biden suggests while complaining that he is “not bipartisan”. Their plan is to keep using the word “socialism” as if it were a magical spell.
They just have no plan to do anything positive for the American people. The party of indignation has nothing left but indignation. And even that looks very small.