An election day tweet from Joe Biden sparks fiery debate online: ‘You aren’t a King, Mr President’

“‘You don’t get to dissent from the U.S. government’ is one heckuva closing message,” wrote one stunned online observer

Johanna Chisholm
Tuesday 08 November 2022 20:12 GMT
Donald Trump and Joe Biden make final appeals to voters on eve of US midterms

The Twitter account of US President Joe Biden sparked a fiery debate online as the nation prepared to head to the polls in a high-stakes election that his administration has pitched will “shape our lifetime”.

“You don’t get to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars in pandemic loans and then attack my Administration for helping working folks get some relief,” tweeted the president’s Twitter account late Monday night.

The message came just hours after Mr Biden rallied with fellow Democratic candidates in Maryland to send a message of optimism, despite ever present concerns about his party’s showing in Tuesday’s midterms hanging in the air.

The tweet, which was one of several posted hourly on Monday night, seemed to only incense the political right, who seized upon it as supposed proof of the president’s authoritarian leanings.

“Now Biden tweets that Americans don’t ‘get to’ speak out against his failed administration? Wrong. Today’s the day we get to let him know what we really think,” tweeted Republican congressman Darrell Issa of California.

“Actually, people do get to do exactly that, if they want to. You aren’t a King, Mr. President. You are a public servant,” tweeted another online observer, while a couple of other posters simply asked: “Did an intern write it?”

The tweet in question seemed to be harkening back to one of the president’s earlier, and better received, Twitter takedowns. In August, his account clapped back at elected officials who had admonished his administration for announcing his student debt cancellation policy that would forgive up to $20,000 in student debt.

In that rebuke, the White House called out six GOP members of Congress who had publicly shamed the policy for being unfair by sharing how much each of those individuals had received in federal Paycheck Protection Loans. Loans, which the White House tweets noted, were forgiven and provided to struggling businesses at the onset of the pandemic to help keep employees on staff.

Those six lawmakers included some of the student debt cancellation plan’s most outspoken critics, including representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene, Vern Buchanan, Matt Gaetz, Markwayne Mullin, Kevin Hern and Mike Kelly.

Whether it was the delivery or the timing of the tweet on election eve, when tensions for the high-stake midterms were at a fever pitch, the same tactic from the White House’s social media playbook didn’t play out as well as it did last summer.

“Am I to understand that the president’s Twitter account is telling people who had their business forcibly shut down by the government he runs is also now telling people they ‘don’t get to’ speak out against him because of it?” wrote one enraged observer.

“Still blown away by this tweet. The idea that taking PPP loans Congress passed to *keep Americans on payrolls when the government shut down their business* disqualifies anyone from criticizing EGREGIOUS policy like the student debt bailout is DEEPLY un-American,” fumed another.

Some pointed out how backwards this seemingly innocuous tweet may be to the Democrats’ grander goal of actually getting voters out to polling stations, with some writing: “Telling Americans they don’t have the right to criticize the president’s policies is a hell of a closing argument,” while another wrote: “‘You don’t get to dissent from the U.S. government’ is one heckuva closing message.”

In a more measured tone, Matt Glassman, a senior fellow at the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University, commented on how, regardless of the outset goal of the tweet, the language was entirely “unbecoming” for any elected official, particularly the president, to use.

“IMO, it is unbecoming of the POTUS to use this sort of language. And it serves no productive purpose,” he tweeted, adding: “(I am well aware Trump said many, many things far, far worse than this. That is not the bar we should use for appropriate POTUS behavior.)”

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