On Thursday night Joe Biden was propped up behind the presidential seal in front of historic Independence Hall and gave the most provocative and divisive speech in modern American history. With the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence cloaked in an ominous blood red, Biden sputtered his way through an attack on “insurrectionists” he labeled as threatening American democracy, political norms, and the rule of law.
The optics of the event were likely the idea of a proud Biden staffer, fresh off receiving a $10,000 subsidy to their student loan debt, leaning into the “Dark Brandon” aesthetic that has become popular among regime loyalists on Twitter. To Americans outside of this Very Online echo chamber, the imagery drew connotations of sinister authoritarian regimes ranging as Nazi Germany, the Empire of Star Wars, or the fascist regime of V for Vendetta.
The substance of the speech supported these comparisons. It was the display of a weak regime projecting strength at a time of mass unpopularity and rising polling numbers of political opponents in pivotal midterm elections.
None of this is a surprise.
As I noted after the chaotic 2020 election, the federal government faced a threat it has not seen in over a hundred years. Concerns over the integrity of the 2020 election struck at the core of the institution’s democratic legitimacy. The result was a Biden inauguration fortified with thousands of national guard members that the Democrat Party didn’t trust with ammunition.
The path the Biden administration took could have gone one of two ways. The regime could have fallen back on the power of moderation, restoring the isolated Washington uniparty by staffing the executive branch with prominent Republicans who always preferred the Clintons and Bidens over Trump—even if the smart ones refused to say so explicitly—while pursuing a standard policy agenda of foreign intervention, reckless spending, and fortifying the supremacy of the federal government over state control. These policies would have continued American decline but could have served to lull Americans to pre-Trump apathy by reminding them that federal elections have no real consequences for Washington.
Instead, the Biden regime doubled down on the excesses of the Obama era, attacking hot-button issues such as gun rights, tying state funding to public school promotion of child mutilation and sterilization, and leveraging their control over large corporations to censor political opponents and mandate covid vaccinations of employees. Along the way, they secured funding to increase, arm, and expand the scope of federal agencies—an Imperial Guard for Washington elites to remind red states who is truly in charge.
From the golf courses of Mar-a-Lago, the specter of Donald Trump continues to animate Capitol Hill. C-SPAN hearings over January 6 have been coordinated for prime-time viewing, while his supporters have been subjected to federal prosecution, solitary confinement, and financial ruin.
These concerns may be justified. Outside of Washington, “MAGA Republicans” have found success, particularly in the high-profile senate and governor races.
In Arizona, Blake Masters and Kari Lake conquered John McCain’s former state running on a platform against the 2020 election and the anarcho-tyranny of Biden-era policies while being viciously attacked by both the corporate press and establishment Republicans. In Ohio, Peter Theil-backed J.D. Vance leaned into opposition to American financing of the Ukrainian government while overcoming two more traditional Republican candidates. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has secured the position as the only Republican with the popularity that rivals Trump by translating Trump-style rhetoric into aggressive state policy, with a particular focus on attacking the public healthy tyranny of the soon-to-debate Dr. Fauci.
A common theme of this new class of Republicans has been their explicit calls to stand against the “regime,” railing against Washington’s “administrative state,” and their interest in the intellectual works of “dissident right-wing thinkers.” They have been supported by a maligned by a vocal group of MAGA House members, such as Marjorie Taylor Green, Matt Gaetz, Thomas Massie, and Lauren Boebert, who have seized on the overzealousness of the Biden administration to normalize calls to defund the FBI and other cherished Washington institutions.
The primary success of a potential new class of MAGA Senators has created new pressures for Mitch McConnell. Long established as the kingpin of beltway Republican politics, his criticism of the “quality” of candidates has earned him strong public rebukes from Florida Senator Rick Scott—a political figure with both the ambition and financial resources to threaten McConnell.
All of this is creating a unique moment in American history.
The overreach of the Biden administration has led to the dropping of the executive mask. No longer is there any pretense of governing all Americans—the notion of liberal persuasion is dead. Brute force and the abolishment of governing norms—such as the facade of a politically independent Supreme Court, state control of elections, or the role of the filibuster in the Senate—are now accepted by mainstream Democrats as necessary to usher in a modern version of reconstruction on the parts of America that still fly Trump flags.
Meanwhile, the most vocal anti-Trump Republicans have faced brutal defeats electorally but still have a home in the comfortable confines of Washington. While Liz Cheney’s blowout primary defeat means she will be giving up the pretense of representing Wyoming, she has been welcomed to the friendly confines of AEI. The View or CBS News are willing to welcome various former Trump administration figures so long as they engage in the public ritual of condemning their previous boss. The impact of these decisions, however, is declining interest in traditional conservative think tanks, respect for corporate media, and the legacy of formerly prominent Republican legislators and dynasties.
The regime’s most powerful tool—a federal uniparty that fights on Sunday News Shows but works together and socializes in the real world—is fraying fast.
Republican Congressional offices are being flooded with calls and emails attacking once noncontroversial issues such as foreign aid, the FBI, and the security of elections. While the wiliest of Washington creatures know how to pretend to sympathize with these concerns, the more mediocre ones flounder—with numerous Republican incumbents now forced to move their office from Capitol Hill to K Street.
The real question will be what comes after 2022. While the sulfur and brimstone tones spewing from Joe Biden may spark news cycles, economic distress continues to dominate the concerns of voting Americans. At the same time, Hispanic Americans, many of which are alarmed about the cultural radicalism of the modern Democratic Party, are undermining the assumptions of the “demographics are destiny” framework that has dictated so much of the Left’s political strategy in the recent decades.
Attempts to smear new-Republican Hispanics as the new “white nationalists” is surprisingly having little impact.
While Joe Biden mocks “brave, right-wing Americans” that cling to the notion that their AR-15 can protect them from the F-15s he controls, the mentally declining commander-in-chief should pay more attention to his government’s failures in Afghanistan. The Afghan military surrounded billions of dollars in high-tech military supplies to Taliban forces not because they were out-armed but because the incompetent and kleptomaniac “liberal” regime America installed lacked the true support of the people and was not a cause many saw dying for.
Likewise, the collapse of military enlistment in the American military reflects the sincere and growing disillusionment with Washington itself. While state propaganda may be trying to make the military appeal to America’s growing transgender population, they don’t seem up to the task of replacing young, white working-class men the modern class of Generals dismisses as privileged.
As Murray Rothbard noted in Anatomy of the State, the state needs more than guns and bureaucrats to thrive. It needs the implicit consent of the people.
Thanks to Joe Biden, and his friends in both political parties, instead tens of millions of Americans are growing increasingly comfortable considering themselves enemies of the state.