Can Biden be FDR and stop the Trumpist chaos?

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Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) said of Joe Biden, “Nobody elected him to be F.D.R., they elected him to be normal and stop the chaos.” White House advisor Cedric Richmond disagreed, saying that Biden was elected to “do big things” which are “FDR-like.” After all, this is a time of unparalleled health, economic and civilization-threatening climate crises.

Biden talked constantly about Franklin Roosevelt in the campaign. After he was elected, he sat down with prominent historians to discuss lessons from the New Deal.

Ironically, many voters wanted Biden to be both FDR and to “be normal and stop the chaos.” Spanberger was undoubtedly remembering our four year wild and crazy roller coaster ride with a president who was a sociopathic buffoon.

But what is “normal” when everyday life turns upside down? When FDR became president, the country was in immense turmoil. The economy had collapsed with many millions unemployed and homeless. Early on, wealthy rightwingers attempted a clumsy military coup to overthrow Roosevelt. Many fascist groups sprang up.

In his first inaugural address, Roosevelt tried to reassure Americans. He said that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. “ Ordinary Americans had plenty of things to be afraid of. If FDR hadn’t done “ big things,” the fascists might have won.

Today, the Republicans have become an an authoritarian party promoting fear and chaos. In 2018, Stephen Bannon, talked about his strategy as Trump’s campaign manager in 2016. He said, “The Democrats don’t matter. The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.” He boasted that Trump’s campaign “was pure anger. Anger and fear is what gets people to the polls.”

Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman says that “flooding the zone” means “to create informational bedlam, throwing up so much attention-grabbing material—the more bizarre and outrageous, the better—that it would be impossible for sanity to gain a foothold.”

Trump-supporting politicians have learned how to “flood the zone.” Arizona GOP congressman Paul Gosar was censured by the House of Representatives for posting a gruesome staff-edited anime cartoon video showing characters with the faces of Gosar and fellow GOP reps Lauren Boebert (Colorado) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia) fighting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Dem-NY) and Joe Biden. Gosar kills Ocasio-Cortez’s character with a sword.

Boebert used the censure proceedings to launch personal attacks on various House Democrats. She accused Rep. Ilhan Omar. (Dem-Minn) of incest and of being a member of a terrorist supporting “Jihad Squad. Omar is a black woman and a Muslim who came to the U.S. as a Somalian refugee before becoming a citizen. Which makes her a perfect punching bag for the far right.

Boebert mentioned Omar’s “brother-husband.” This is a lie spread for years on the internet by the far right. It is claimed that Omar’s ex-husband is actually her brother and they married so he could get a green card. 

Boebert’s attack on Omar outraged Kyle Clark, TV anchor for Denver’s 9NEWS. In an on-air commentary, Clark said news outlets hold Boebert “to a far lower standard” than other lawmakers. He went on:

“If we held her to the same standard as every other elected Republican and Democrat in Colorado, we would be here near-nightly chronicling the cruel, false and bigoted things that Boebert says for attention and fundraising.”

Clark didn’t directly mention the Bannon strategy of manipulating the media by “flooding the zone” but he touched on the problem. He said:

“This is not about politics assuming politics is still about things like taxes, national security, health care, jobs and public lands. This is about us, as journalists, recognizing that we’ll hold a politician accountable if they say something vile once, but we won’t do it if they do it every day.”

The next night, he asked viewers how to deal with politicians like Boebert without always spreading their “cruel, false and bigoted” B.S. 

Clark is a bit too polite. He doesn’t mention the question of violence. In a disturbing piece, New York Times reporters Lisa Lerer and Astead W. Herndon recently noted that historians and scholars who study democracy warn that “the Republican Party is mainstreaming menace as a political tool..”

Very few Republican leaders have spoken out against the violent speech and behavior. The GOP’s rich donors are silent as well. Meanwhile, the far right propagandists of Fox News, Newsmax and One America News amplify the lies and disinformation.

Threats against members of Congress have jumped by 107 percent compared with the same period in 2020, according to the Capitol Police. School board members, public health officials and election officials have faced a wave of threats. 

The stench of fascism is in the air. 

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.