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Trump's new line: Actually, Biden is the real fascist

After another speaker pledged to "end democracy," Trump accused Biden of authoritarianism at the Conservative Political Action Conference.


At the annual Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend, a far-right media personality called for an end to democracy to loud cheers, two South American strongman leaders gave speeches, self-described Nazis openly mingled at mixers, and other guests celebrated the violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, including one who made a bespoke pinball machine arguing it was a government setup.

Amid this anti-democratic fervor, Donald Trump took the stage to argue that the real authoritarian threat facing the country was President Joe Biden.

During a speech on Saturday, the former president claimed without evidence that Biden is “surrounded by very bad fascists,” saying electing him would be voters only' "passport out of tyranny.” 

As The Independent reported:

Trump said in National Harbor, Maryland on Saturday that “Joe [Biden] and his henchmen have you trapped and it’s an express train barreling toward servitude and to ruin — it’s moving at a speed that Joe doesn’t understand because Joe ... I don’t think he knows what the hell’s going on, to be honest with you, but he’s surrounded by some very bad fascists."

It’s certainly not the first time Trump has dubiously deployed the “f word” against his opponents. Trump, however, is just about the worst person to make a credible argument, given his open praise for antidemocratic leaders, his goading of political violence, his demonization of antifascist protesters, his rhetoric that immigrants are "poisoning the blood" of the country, and his clear disdain for democratic processes.

And this year’s CPAC was just about the worst place for Trump to make such an argument. As I reported last week, conservatives invited two Latin American strongmen to speak at this year’s conference despite both men being known for their allegiances to violent political forces. One of them, Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, has even branded himself the “world’s coolest dictator.” Bukele staged a successful coup-like event in a congressional building back in 2020 that some have compared to the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. Javier Milei, the far-right Argentinian elected in 2023 who wielded a chainsaw to symbolize his plan to disembowel his country’s government agencies, was a CPAC invitee, as well. 

Milei has downplayed violence carried out by Argentina’s dictatorial regime from the late 1970s to the early 1980s, and has allied himself with the regime’s sympathizers. 

Here he is hugging Trump behind the scenes at CPAC. 

If these appearances weren’t a clear enough sign of the annual conference's antidemocratic vibe this year, NBC News reported the event was also heavily attended by Nazis — self-identified "national socialists," the name of Hitler's political party in Germany — who mingled "openly" with other attendees. 

According to NBC: 

But this year, racist conspiracy theorists didn’t meet any perceptible resistance at the conference where Donald Trump has been the keynote speaker since 2017. At the Young Republican mixer Friday evening, a group of Nazis who openly identified as national socialists mingled with mainstream conservative personalities, including some from Turning Point USA, and discussed so-called “race science” and antisemitic conspiracy theories.

That's not to mention far-right activist Jack Posobiec, infamous promoter of conspiracy theories, who gave a welcome speech saying the gathering was "the end of democracy" and that Jan. 6 was the start of a mission to overthrow the government. (He later told NBC News his remarks were meant to be satirical.)

None of us should be surprised that Trump railed against purported fascism from Biden at an event featuring actual authoritarians. But those of us invested in democracy should continue to call out this deflection tactic whenever we see it.