Biden’s Primetime Speech: Trumpism Threatens Democracy

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — President Joe Biden is sounding the alarm Thursday night over what he sees as extremist threats to American democracy from restive forces of Trumpism. It aims to reframe the November election as part of an ongoing battle for the “soul of the nation”.

Nearly two years after defeating Donald Trump, it’s a rehash of Biden’s 2020 campaign theme, casting the midterm election stakes in terms as dire as those that sent him to the Oval Office. His prime-time speech at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall outlines what he sees as the risks of those he has dubbed “ultra-MAGA Republicans” to the country’s system of government, his position at the foreigner and the way of life of its citizens.

Biden’s explicit effort to sideline Trump and his “Make America Great Again” supporters marks a watershed moment for the president, who preached his desire to achieve national unity in his inaugural address. White House officials said it reflected his growing concern over ideological proposals from Trump allies and the relentless denial of the 2020 national election results.

“MAGA forces are determined to roll this country back,” Biden said, according to prepared remarks released by the White House. “Back to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry whoever you love.”

“For a long time, we have reassured ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed. But that’s not the case,” Biden says. “We have to defend him. Protect him. Defend yourself. Each of us. »

Biden, who largely avoided even referring to the “old guy” by name during his first year in office, has become increasingly vocal in personally calling out Trump. Now, emboldened by his party’s recent legislative victories and wary of Trump’s return to the headlines, Biden is stepping up his attacks.

Trump is planning a rally this weekend in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Biden’s birthplace.

At a Democratic fundraiser last week, Biden compared “MAGA philosophy” to “semi-fascism.”

In Philadelphia, White House officials said, Biden intended to revisit the 2017 white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Va., which he said brought him out of political retirement to challenge Trump. Biden argues that the country faces a similar crossroads in the coming months.

Biden’s allies point out that he does not reject the entire GOP and are calling on mainstream Republicans to join him in condemning Trump and his supporters. It’s a balancing act, given that more than 74 million people voted for Trump in 2020.

“I respect conservative Republicans,” Biden said last week. “I don’t respect these MAGA Republicans.”

Delivering a preemptive rebuttal of Scranton Thursday night, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy accused Biden of trying to divide Americans and lambasted the Democrats’ record in Washington, pointing to rising inflation, crime and government spending.

“Over the past two years, Joe Biden has launched an assault on the soul of America, on its people, on its laws, on its most sacred values,” he said. “He launched an assault on our democracy. His policies have gravely hurt America’s soul, diminished America’s spirit, and betrayed America’s trust.

Asked about McCarthy’s criticism, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said “we understand we’ve touched a nerve” with the GOP leader, and cited the Republican’s earlier statements saying that Trump was responsible for the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. .

Larry Diamond, democracy expert and senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said calling Trump for attacks on democracy “can be manipulated or portrayed as partisan. And if you don’t don’t call, you are backing down from a significant challenge in the defense of democracy.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – AUGUST 10: Former U.S. President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower to meet with New York Attorney General Letitia James for a civil inquest on August 10, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)

James Devaney via Getty Images

Even this week, Trump was posting on his beleaguered social media platform about nullifying the 2020 election results and holding a new presidential election, which would violate the Constitution.

Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian at New York University, said it’s not unusual for there to be tension between a president and his successor, but it’s “unprecedented for a former president to ‘actively trying to undermine the US Constitution’.

“The challenge facing President Biden is to pursue his agenda while doing what he needs to uphold the Constitution,” Naftali said. “It is not easy.”

The White House has tried to keep Biden out of the legal and political maelstrom surrounding the Justice Department’s discovery of classified documents in Trump’s Florida home. Still, Biden took advantage of some Republicans’ quick condemnation of federal law enforcement.

“You can’t be pro-law enforcement and pro-insurgency,” Biden said Tuesday in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.

Biden’s Thursday night appearance was promoted as an official taxpayer-funded event, a mark of how the president sees defeating Trump’s agenda as much of a political goal as a political one. Major broadcast television networks were not to carry the address live.

Biden’s trip to Philadelphia is just one of his three trips to the state in a week, a sign of Pennsylvania’s midterm prominence, with competitive races for Senate and governor. However, neither Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic Senate nominee, nor Attorney General Josh Shapiro, their gubernatorial pick, were expected to attend Thursday night.

The White House wanted the speech to unite familiar themes: Presenting bipartisan legislative victories on guns and infrastructure as proof that democracies “can deliver,” pushing back against GOP policies on guns and abortion that , according to Biden, do not align with most people’s views, and reject efforts to undermine confidence in the nation’s election or diminish its standing abroad.

The challenges have only increased since the tumult surrounding the 2020 election and the attack on the Capitol.

The lies surrounding this presidential race have sparked harassment and death threats against state and local election officials and new restrictions on mail-in voting in Republican-dominated states. County election officials have come under pressure to ban the use of voting equipment, efforts spurred by conspiracy theories that voting machines were somehow manipulated to steal the election.

Candidates challenging Trump’s loss have been inspired to run in state and local elections, promising to restore the integrity of a system that has been plagued by misrepresentation.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud or manipulation of voting machines. Judges, including those appointed by Trump, dismissed dozens of lawsuits filed after the election, and Trump’s own attorney general called the allegations false. Still, an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll showed about two-thirds of Republicans say they don’t think Biden was legitimately elected president.

This year, election officials face not only the lingering threat of foreign interference, but also ransomware, politically motivated hackers and insider threats. Over the past year, security breaches have been reported at a small number of local election offices where authorities are investigating whether office staff accessed or provided inappropriate access to sensitive voting technology.

Associated Press writer Zeke Miller reported from Washington. Chris Megerian in Washington and Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta contributed.


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