In Defense of Joe Biden (and America)

Joe Biden is not the most exciting, dynamic politician we have ever seen, but his heart is in the right place. He believes in the Constitution and he believes in the promise of America, even though he rightfully acknowledges that promise has never been fulfilled as it should be. I believe, like him, that the far-right-wing MAGA Republicans who have dominated their party the last several years are an existential threat to the United States. They have thrown out all the unwritten rules that the country has lived by for years. Those unspoken yet important things, such as graciously conceding an election, confirming most judgeships and political appointments unless there was a major reason to withhold it, and more allowed us to keep moving the country forward, inch by inch, through compromise, honest debate, and parties working together for the good of the country and not just for the good of individual pocketbooks, their own specific belief systems, or the people they agree with only.

This country is not a theocracy and was never intended to be. The founding fathers understood that as human beings we have myriad belief systems and that allowing one religion to govern over all others would diminish or destroy any possibility of equality for all. Understood, despite their lofty words, the founding fathers were wealthy landowners and a powerful elite who did not allow women to vote, owned slaves, and were hypocrites, but the ideals they set forth are worthy goals that we continue to strive to achieve.

About a week ago Joe Biden called the far-right wingers in the Republican party “semi-fascists.” While those who were most guilty and most deserving of the label screamed the loudest about the President calling them such a horrible name, he was right. My only qualm with it was his use of the prefix “semi.” People like Donald Trump, cultist followers like Marjorie Taylor Green, and their ilk are fascists, plain and simple. They want a leader in complete control, probably for life, who will give them everything they want politically. They believe they are above the laws because the laws don’t fit their concept of what America should be or their brand of Christian ideology. They espouse violence, both overtly and subtly, to achieve their ends. They are racist, as they always have been, but their bigotry, which used to be well-hidden to other white people, is now on open display. They proudly express the belief that the country should be a Christian theocracy, but, of course, with their specific extreme version of Christianity and not any others. They are truly the American Taliban. And finally, they are absolute nationalists.

In his speech last night Biden called them out and named them for what they are, the threat they are to equality and democracy, and he said that, “We do ourselves no favor to pretend otherwise.” Many of us have stated this for years and have not pretended otherwise and believe that it is about time that politicians who are appalled by them finally speak out. Last night, Biden gave his clarion call and made it clear what a threat these people are to our election system, which has never before had anything but minor issues at a local level (and also didn’t in the last Presidential election), but which may have many issues if the MAGA Republicans running for offices that oversee elections actually win, giving them power to subvert the will of the people.

After the speech the pundits immediately started talking about how the speech was a campaign speech to try to ensure the Democrats stay in power in November rather than a Presidential speech. But they are wrong on that. To me, the speech was akin to John F. Kennedy standing up to the Russians during the Cuban missile crisis. It was like Franklin Roosevelt encouraging the nation during a world war. The difference is that this time the threat is from within our own political framework. Last night, it was the man at the helm of the Republic in a time of crisis naming the enemy and asking true American patriots to stand up and resist the radicals trying to take over the country to make it in their own image and their own concept of God’s will. Even if it were designed as a political speech, the words and the ideas expressed desperately needed to be spoken. It was truly a patriotic speech about the absolute need to work diligently to prevent these dangerous people from gaining any more ground. This does not mean that all Republicans are bad. It doesn’t even mean that all people who voted for Trump are bad. It is in reference to those who would undermine our Constitution and democracy for their own gain and to satisfy their lust for power.

Immediately, those who were most guilty (again), started crying foul. They tweeted, screamed, and made the rounds on news shows accusing Biden of painting half of all Americans as fascists. The reality is that is not what he said. He was very specific that he was talking about the MAGA wing of the Republican Party and that old-line Republicans were not the target of his words. He was not attacking half of America. In the most recent Gallup poll on party affiliation (July, 2022), 29% of Americans identified as Democrats, 28% as Republicans, and 41% as independents, and those numbers have been fairly consistent for several years. The MAGA adherents are a loud and active segment of the Republican party, but they are a small and vocal minority even in that party. They have gotten more reasonable Republican leaders to cow-tow to them out of fear, not out of sincere belief in what they represent. They have managed to secure powerful positions within the party and temporarily control it, but they do not represent most of the party and they certainly do not represent most Americans.

It is time–it is past time–that these nationalist, bigoted, loud-mouthed usurpers are called out for what they are–a threat to the very existence of this country and our democracy. This is what Biden did with his epeech. If my liberal friends are unhappy with the country as it is now–and there are lots of reasons to be unhappy and much work to be done–they do not even want to imagine what it would be like if these MAGA supporters take power of all three branches of government. We have already seen the results of Trump’s first four years in power with the overturning of Roe v. Wade and other draconian court decisions and legislative destruction of the last decades of progress toward our promised future. If they are not stopped, we are in for an unimaginable future. Those who are in minority groups–people of color, queer folks, and others–know that the slow erosion of rights will become an all-engulfing landslide of repression. We must shore everything up now. Biden was right to call on us to do so.


About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s