Joe Biden has warned that American democracy is under grave threat from Republican forces loyal to donald trump who “fan the flames” of political violence in pursuit of power at all costs.
In a prime-time speech from Philadelphia, the city where American democracy was born, the US president said the United States was in an ongoing battle for the “soul of the nation”.
He picked up on a theme that had animated his campaign for the White House in 2020 to frame the stakes of the November election as an existential choice between his party’s agenda and the “extreme Maga ideology” of Republicans.
“Donald Trump and the Maga Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic,” Biden said in a speech at Independence Hall.
Maga is short for “Make America great again” – a slogan from Trump’s 2016 election campaign.
Biden stressed that not all, not even most, Republicans are “extremist maga,” but there was no question, he said, that the party was “dominated, driven and intimidated” by its predecessor in the White House – and possibly successor.
These Trump Republicans, he said, “feed on chaos” and “don’t respect the constitution” or the rule of law. They “promote authoritarian leaders and fan the flames of political violence”, he continued, adding that they believe there are only two possible outcomes to an election: either they win or they lose. been deceived.
“You can’t love your country when you’re the only one winning,” Biden said to thunderous applause.
The ruthless speech was part of an aggressive new line of attack Biden unleashed on Republicans ahead of the midterm elections, as his party enjoys a bright political prospect helped by a series of significant legislative victories and the public reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision to end the constitutional right to abortion.
It also comes as Trump, once again at the center of a criminal investigation – this one involving classified documents – lays the groundwork for a possible presidential election in 2024.
“The Maga forces are determined to roll back this country,” he said. “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.”
Biden also criticized Republicans for amplifying violent political rhetoric, including language targeting federal agents after the FBI seized boxes of classified documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last month.
Protecting democracy was a guideline of Biden’s rise to the White House, which he said was motivated by racist violence in Charlottesville. Despite pledging to build national unity as president, the forces unleashed by Trump’s lie about a stolen 2020 election have only grown stronger in the nearly two years Biden has been in power.
Polls suggest a majority of Republicans do not believe Biden is the legitimately elected president. Holocaust deniers stand for election make appointments for key positions with power over how future elections will be conducted. National and local election officials have become targets of harassment and threats.
“History tells us that blind loyalty to a single leader and willingness to engage in political violence are fatal to democracy,” Biden said, vowing to defend the country’s system of government with “every fiber of my being”.
Thursday’s prime-time speech was the second of three visits by the president in less than a week to the battleground of Pennsylvania, which will host back-to-back races this election season.
Among the most worrying, warn democracy experts, is the appointment of Doug Mastrianothe far-right Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania who played a leading role in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in the state and helped transport people to Trump’s rally in Washington on January 6 which preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
In Pennsylvania, the governor appoints the secretary of state, giving the next governor enormous influence over how the 2024 presidential election plays out in the state.
Without mentioning any candidate by name, Biden said election deniers view their failure to prevent the peaceful transfer of power in 2020 as “preparation” for future elections.
Still, Biden sought to avoid labeling this fight partisan, arguing it was his “duty” as president to speak clearly about threats to the nation, regardless of their origin. Instead, he hoped his remarks would serve as a call to arms for the majority of Americans who reject Trumpism, and urged them not to be “spectators in this ongoing attack on democracy.”
“For a long time, we have reassured ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed. But that’s not the case,” Biden said. “We have to defend him. Protect him. Defend yourself. Each of us. »
Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader and a staunch Trump ally, delivered a “pre-buttal” to the president’s speech from Biden’s birthplace of Scranton, Pennsylvania. In his remarks, McCarthy accused Biden of “doing everything in his power to crush the soul of America” and demanded an apology from the president for accusing Republicans of being beholden to a philosophy of “semi -fascism”.
McCarthy made no mention of the Jan. 6 assault or the widespread election denial embraced by most of his party’s supporters and many of their candidates for public office.
It was more like Trump who spoke about the events of January 6 Thursday, pledging pardons and apologies to those who participated in the deadly attack on the US Capitol if he were re-elected to the White House.
“I mean full pardons with apologies to many”, he said to Wendy Bell, a conservative radio host on Thursday. “I’m going to look very, very strongly at pardons, full pardons.”
Trump is due to hold a rally in Scranton on Saturday.
Critics say the president’s combative rhetoric shows he has failed in his promise to bring the nation together. Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, called Biden a “chief divider” who has “played neighbors against each other” with his divisive agenda.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said it was clear Biden had “stripped a chord” and made Republicans uncomfortable with his urgent call for Americans to reject Trumpism.
But America’s political divisions run deep. As Biden spoke outside Independence Hall, he was repeatedly interrupted by a heckler shouting profanity. Biden said he had a right to be “outrageous” because “this is a democracy.”
“We are still a grassroots democracy,” Biden said, ending his speech with the rallying cry: “Democracy!”