It was a month ago today when President Joe Biden stood alongside Barack Obama at a White House event about the Affordable Care Act. The incumbent Democratic president, in an unscripted moment, referred to congressional Republicans as “good folks“ with misguided ideas.
As we discussed soon after, I heard from a few Democratic sources who expressed frustration with the offhand comment — not only because they don’t see GOP lawmakers as “good folks,” but also because the more voters see Republicans as “good folks” with bad ideas, the more comfortable the electorate will be putting GOP candidates in power.
As the Republican Party moves sharply to the right, and Democrats want voters to repel from the GOP’s extremism, it falls on the nation’s most powerful Democrat — the only one with a White House platform — to deliver an accurate and candid message to the American electorate about what’s become of the rival party.
That may not be Biden’s first instinct — villainizing opponents isn’t his go-to move — but it would almost certainly be smart politics.
It’s against this backdrop that Politico reported on Monday that the president and his team want to turn the 2022 midterm election “into a contrast” between the two major parties, spending the next several months “drawing sharp distinctions with Republicans.”
Yesterday, there was plenty of evidence of Biden doing exactly that. U.S. News reported:
President Joe Biden Wednesday cast Republicans as a bunch of extremists bent on taxing low-income families, putting popular programs like Social Security in peril and threatening the rights of women and LGBTQ people. “This MAGA crowd is really the most extreme political organization that’s existed in recent American history,” the president said in remarks at the White House.
The ostensible point of the event was for Biden to tout his administration’s record on job creation and deficit reduction. But it wasn’t a dry recitation of statistics: The president slammed Florida Sen. Rick Scott’s “extreme” agenda and its regressive impact it would have on American taxpayers, while expressing fears about how far GOP policymakers would go if/when Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices overturn Roe v. Wade.
“What happens if you have a state, changes the law saying that children who are LGBTQ can’t be in classrooms with other children?” Biden asked. “Is that legit under the way the decision is written? What are the next things that are going to be attacked?”
A few hours later in the White House briefing room, a reporter asked press secretary Jen Psaki about the shift in presidential tone. Referring to Republicans, she replied, “They are at war with Mickey Mouse, they’re against allowing women to make choices about their own health care, against lowering the cost of prescription drugs. And if that remains their platform, the president’s view is: That is out of whack with the mainstream of the country.”
There were no references to Republicans as “good folks.”
As The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin put it, “Democrats are mad. Maybe Biden is catching up.”