Biden backtracks on ‘threat’ to America

One day after condemning Trump supporters as an extremist threat to America, the president has walked back his attack

US President Joe Biden has apparently made a 180-degree turn on the alleged dangers posed by Donald Trump supporters, saying he doesn’t consider his predecessor’s backers to be a threat to America.

“I don’t consider any Trump supporter to be a threat to the country,” Biden told reporters on Friday at the White House. “I do think anyone who calls for the use of violence, fails to condemn violence when it’s used, refuses to acknowledge an election has been won, insists upon changing the way in which the rule you count votes, that is a threat to democracy.”

The comment was a far cry from the political rhetoric that Biden has used in recent days, including a scathing speech he gave on Thursday night at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. He argued that “MAGA forces” – referring to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan – are an existential threat to American democracy.

“Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” Biden said in the speech. He added in a Twitter post that “Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans are a threat to the very soul of this country.”

Biden altered that message dramatically on Friday, saying he was only talking about people who fail to condemn political violence, those who try to manipulate electoral outcomes and those who refuse to acknowledge the results of an election.

“When people voted for Donald Trump and support him now, they weren’t voting for attacking the Capitol,” Biden said. “They weren’t voting for overruling an election. They were voting for a philosophy he put forward.”

However, just last week, Biden likened Trump’s “MAGA philosophy” to “semi-fascism.” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre essentially confirmed the president’s view when challenged on his controversial attack, saying Biden is “never going to shy away from calling out what he sees.”

Biden is apparently trying to stoke fear of pro-Trump Republicans as this November’s midterm congressional elections approach. But the strategy may be risky, given reaction to past condemnations of large voting blocs. For instance, Hillary Clinton may have helped energize her opponent’s supporters when she said during the 2016 presidential election that half of Trump backers belong in “the basket of deplorables.”

More than 74 million Americans voted for then-President Trump in the 2020 election. A Yahoo/YouGov poll conducted late last month found that 54% of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents prefer Trump as the Republican nominee for president in 2024. Biden, by comparison, is preferred as a 2024 candidate by just 32% of Democrats.