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We are facing an almost unimaginable situation: The current president is accusing the former president and his supporters of posing a clear and present danger to democracy, and the former president is calling the incumbent president an “enemy of the state.”

Each side is convinced that the other is evil, vicious and bent on destroying the country.

Joe Biden tries to limit his “semi-fascist” rhetoric to Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans, as if that makes kinda bipartisan–but the MAGA types, if you include those who dare not criticize Trump publicly, now comprise most of the Republican Party.

Trump keeps hurling his stolen election charges, demanding that he be reinstated or granted a new election–the Justice Department is the latest outfit he says should magically make that happen–and argues Biden “must be insane” and is the one tearing the country apart.

DOJ SAYS TRUMP LIKELY HID CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS: IS THIS A TURNING POINT?

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on what he calls the “continued battle for the Soul of the Nation” in front of Independence Hall at Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia, U.S., September 1, 2022.
(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY/File Photo)

That leaves hyper-partisans on both sides convinced that Armageddon is coming if their man doesn’t win the 2024 election. It’s like Good Spider-Man and Bad Spider-Man are battling each other.

But for those in the middle, that leaves only two options:

– Support the least bad of the two alternatives, even if you find the person badly flawed and disagree with much of their political stance. 

– A pox-on-both-your-houses approach in which both parties are deemed horrible and maybe you skip the midterms.

Matt Labash, a veteran journalist with Weekly Standard roots who describes himself as a longtime conservative, is drawing plenty of attention for this Substack column:

Forget, he says of Trump “the coup attempt he inspired and actively spurred, becoming the first president in history to sic a mob on Congress for performing their constitutional duty of ratifying the people’s will…Why, in just the last week or so, Trump has engaged in his favorite hobby: sitting at his crack-pottery wheel to repurpose barmy QAnon talking points,” and has been found “to have broken the law by squirreling away boxes-full of documents at his golf club, plenty of them top secret, with precisely zero coherent explanations as to what he was up to.”

Plus, demanding to be reinstated even suits presided over by Trump judges and investigations approved by Republican officials reaffirmed his 2020 defeat.

“If my fellow ‘conservatives,’ a term I can now only use in scare quotes in good conscience, refuse to acknowledge the realities biting them in the ass every day, that’s on them. Not on me. If failing the ideological litmus of refusing to believe and echo an obvious lie (which has become the purity test by which most Republican elected officials are judged nowadays, since Trump is still the party’s standard-bearer and prohibitive favorite to win the party’s nomination again) makes me a non-conservative, then who gives a toss? I don’t. So be it.”

And then he addresses Biden’s side:

“As for the left’s excesses? The left’s hare-brained excesses are why – despite how much I loathe what Trumpism has done to not only the country generally, but people I know and love, personally–I’m not a lefty, either. Trumpsters and the new breed of often former-lefty anti-anti-Trumpsters who make a living milking them until they moo, like to pretend that history began around half past yesterday, when the War on Wokeness kicked into high gear. But I was on it back when it was still called ‘political correctness,’ and when Trump was still a registered Democrat and only on his second wife.

The problem here, of course, isn’t that the black-pajama’ed anarchists aren’t still anarchists. They are. The problem is that Republicans, instead of combating them, have come to resemble them. It’s just that their anarchists wear golf shirts and khakis and MAGA hats, while threatening FBI agents and to overturn elections.”

Wait, he’s not done:

“I’m no Joe Biden fan. And there were perhaps many things not to like about his speech of the other night, the one that has Republican panties-in-a-bunch, as they decry Biden as a ‘divisive president…’ could’ve done without some of it myself, such as Biden mounting the dais at Independence Hall in front of red, Mephistophelean mood lighting  that made him look like he was about to kick off Death Metal Night at the senior center.

“Still, plenty of what he said was objectionable to ‘conservatives,’ not because he hadn’t removed the beam from his own eye (say, the destructive Summer of 2020 riots, which Democrats conveniently love to never acknowledge), or because he was being ‘polarizing,’ but because much of what he said was true. 

“If election-denying Republicans don’t like partisan Democrats like Biden calling them ‘semi–fascists’– here’s a novel solution: stop acting like semi-fascists!”

Plenty to unpack here, but let’s give Labash his final conclusion:

“Both behaviors evidence stupidity, petulant temper-tantrum throwing, and nods toward totalitarianism.  But only one of those behaviors – the former – could permanently undo my ability to punish and eject the jackasses who embrace such stupidity.”

Capitol Hill on a sunny day in Washington, D.C.

Capitol Hill on a sunny day in Washington, D.C.
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

So he doesn’t like Biden’s woke party and invented pronouns and lots of other Democratic left-wing stuff. And he doesn’t like folks in the once-law-and-order party slamming the FBI or vowing to defund it.

But the bottom line for Labash is he can’t tolerate those who won’t support fair elections because it ends his ability to throw-the-bums-out.

I’ve talked recently to three prominent Republicans–one a member of Congress – who say Trump’s relentless focus on his grievances is hurting the party’s midterm prospects. But few want to speak out because of the risk of incurring Trump’s wrath and being knocked off by a hard-right challenger.

On the other hand, we’re in sort of a bizarre universe where both Biden and Trump want to talk about Trump. In a weird confluence of interest, they need each other.

That’s why Biden trotted out the F-word and mentioned MAGA Republicans so many times in his Philly speech you’d think they were the barbarians at the gate. And if he was baiting Trump, it worked, since his predecessor unleashed a Truth Social barrage that once again had him dominating the media coverage.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

IN SOCIAL MEDIA ERUPTION, TRUMP DEMANDS A NEW ELECTION OR IMMEDIATE REINSTATEMENT

In Politico, Rich Lowry calls it a “symbiotic relationship,” saying both presidents “clearly benefit whenever Trump is a focus of attention and topic of conversation. Who says we’re heading for a civil war when two such diametrically opposed figures can, against all expectations, find a deep mutual interest? The White House has also gone out of its way to underline Trump’s continued presence and vitality” with the semi-facsism slam.

Whether Trump formally declares a White House bid is “almost irrelevant — Democrats and the Department of Justice have effectively announced for him.

Trump is something everyone wants to talk about — people who love him, people who hate him, journalists whose work gets more clicks and viewership when Trump is in the news, and of course, above all, Trump himself, who has never found any other topic quite as compelling or important.”

Lowry, the editor-in-chief of National Review, says “to the extent the president can define himself as the last, best obstacle to Trump returning to the White House, it helps quell the extensive doubts about him within his own party. Biden is barely above 40% approval in polling averages, a nightmarish position that should doom his party in the midterms and himself in 2024, and yet he’s only down 2.2% in the RealClearPolitics average in a hypothetical rematch with Trump in 2024. Trump is his life preserver and comfort blanket, providing a political boost based on the easiest political argument in the world — ‘See that guy over there obsessed with fanciful theories about the 2020 election? I may not be a very good president. But at least I’m not him.’”

Not a great bumper sticker, but there you have it.

SUBSCRIBE TO HOWIE’S MEDIA BUZZMETER PODCAST, A RIFF ON THE DAY’S HOTTEST STORIES

President Biden (right) has suggested Donald Trump's political base is "semi-fascist."

President Biden (right) has suggested Donald Trump’s political base is “semi-fascist.”
(James Devaney/GC Images/Alex Wong/Getty Images)

At the same time, says Lowry, “the more Trump is called names and investigated, the better… If Trump is bolstered by Biden’s hostility, he also benefits from Biden’s weakness. Trump’s favorable rating is about 40%, a poor showing that would be enough to make him the underdog against any president who hadn’t been cratering over the past year.”

So Trump and Biden both want to see Trump nominated, with very different motives. 

And by the way, 47% of voters in a CBS poll say their feelings about Trump will have “a lot” of influence on how they vote. Which is remarkable for a guy who’s been out of office almost two years.

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Whether you’re in the both-parties-suck camp or the-other-party-is-satanic camp, the dynamic points to a Biden-Trump rematch. Unless, of course, Biden, who will soon turn 80, develops health problems, or Trump is indicted, or both face contested primaries, or any other of a hundred scenarios come to pass.

But for now, it’s clear that the “danger to democracy” and the “enemy of the state” need each other.

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