WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden rejected criticism Monday that he is smearing Republicans by calling supporters of former President Donald Trump extremists and threats to democracy.
Republicans and some Democrats have accused Biden of fueling division by likening Trump’s Make America Great Again movement to “semi-fascism.”
“I want to be very clear up front. Not every Republican is a MAGA-Republican. Not every Republican embraces this extreme ideology. I know because I’ve been able to work with mainstream Republicans throughout my career,” Biden said at a Labor Day . speech in Milwaukee.
“But the extreme Republicans in Congress have chosen to go back, full of anger, violence, hatred and division, but together we can and must choose a different path.”
Biden said the United States was able to overcome challenges because it was a “nation of unity, hope, optimism, not a nation of division and violence and hatred that some people preach.”
Biden last week warned in a speech in Philadelphia that equality and democracy are “under attack” in the United States and singled out Trump by name. He accused the former president and his supporters of encouraging political violence by refusing to accept the results of the 2020 elections.
“Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our democracy,” Biden said in his speech in Philadelphia.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican who served as U.N. ambassador under Trump; she was critical of Biden’s speech in tweets.
“He has done nothing to unite the nation. Nothing to bring healing. Nothing to ease the pain that millions of Americans feel every day. He has been a divisive leader and in November he needs to hear from all of us,” he said.
Sen. Maggie Hassan, DN.H., said after Biden’s semi-fascist comment that while she is concerned about political violence, “I think President Biden’s comments were too broad.”
In remarks Monday in Wisconsin, Biden referred to some Republicans in Congress as “Trumpies” and said they would pursue policies that would undermine the social safety net.
“But here’s the thing: The biggest contrast to what MAGA Republicans want to go — the far right, the ‘Trumpies’ — those MAGA Republicans in Congress are coming for your Social Security, too.”
Biden’s remarks at Laborfest — an event organized annually by the Milwaukee Area Labor Council and the AFL-CIO — came shortly after a judge approved Trump’s request to appoint a special master to review documents obtained from the his home in Florida by the Department of Justice.
The president did not comment on the court’s decision during his remarks.
Biden invoked Trump and his supporters visiting a United Steelworkers of America chapter in the Pittsburgh area later in the day, saying democracy is on the line in America and the country faces a choice in the midterm elections.
“Trump and the MAGA Republicans have made their choice,” Biden said.
Unofficial midterm start
Although Wisconsin was his first stop on Monday, it has been a place like home for Biden when it comes to the Pennsylvania-born politician’s midterm election journey.
The battleground state that Biden just won has emerged as a focal point for the president, whose Labor Day trip to the Pittsburgh area marks the third time in a week that he has made Pennsylvania the stage for campaign events.
Competitive gubernatorial, House and Senate races and key states for the presidential election have been a draw for Biden, who is increasing his travel as the summer draws to a close and the country’s focus turns to the fall election.
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who is competing for an open U.S. Senate seat against Republican candidate Mehmet Oz, met with Biden while the president was in Pittsburgh.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic candidate for governor, attended one Biden gave a crime-oriented speech in Pennsylvania last week, while Fetterman, who did not, said before the Labor Day event that he would push the president to decriminalize marijuana during his visit to Pittsburgh.
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Both Democrats are in a tight race against candidates backed by former President Donald Trump. GOP state Sen. Doug Mastriano is running for the governor’s mansion and appeared alongside Trump and Oz at a rally Saturday night in Wilkes-Barre.
Trump won the state in 2016 and rallied supporters Saturday in a county from Biden’s hometown of Scranton. Biden beat Trump in 2020 by less than 100,000 votes, but lost the county that includes Wilkes-Barre, which he also chose as the site for his public safety speech last Tuesday.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers spoke at a Biden event in Milwaukee, a county Biden won handily in 2020. Evers is seeking re-election and will face businessman Tim Michels in the general election.
Biden said Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin could not be at the event. Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is competing against incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson for the U.S. Senate, was also unable to attend the rally, Biden said in his remarks.
Locking arms with work
Labor has been an important base of support for Biden, and the AFL-CIO says it will strengthen its pro-worker agenda this fall.
Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio, which Biden plans to visit Friday, are among nine states where the AFL-CIO says it is mobilizing voters in the coming months with an eye toward 2024 and future elections. All three states have gubernatorial and Senate races on the ballot this year.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who is seeking to drum up support from the labor movement, also spent Monday at events in the Northeast.
He spoke at the Boston Labor Council’s Annual Breakfast and met separately with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and union members.
Harris’ office didn’t say why she chose Boston, but the city has a media market that conveniently stretches across the border into New Hampshire — another state with a crucial Senate race on the ballot this year.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: President Biden rejects criticism of Republican comments MAGA