Biden offers a grim assessment of American democracy

(CNN) — President Joe Biden made a serious assessment of American democracy during a rare prime-time address from Philadelphia on Thursday, asserting that Donald Trump and his closest political allies “thrive on chaos” and warning that their attempts to undermine democracy could turn into violence.

“They do not live in the light of truth, but in the shadow of lies,” Biden said in front of Independence Hall, taking advantage of the historic setting to call for a reckoning on the movement led by former President Donald Trump.

It was a strident and urgent appeal to Americans months before the midterm elections that will determine control of Congress. Biden’s comments, although billed as an official speech, were markedly political in nature despite the presence of generally apolitical symbols such as the United States Marine Band and two Marines who were positioned in a spot where they were facing the camera throughout the speech.

He painted a dark portrait of his political opponents, saying that Trump and his supporters are threatening the entire American experiment.

“As I stand here tonight, equality and democracy are under attack,” Biden said outside Independence Hall.

Biden attempted to separate Trump’s most loyal supporters from the GOP as a whole. And in closing, he tried to strike an optimistic note, saying that it was still within the power of the voters to control the darkest forces in the nation.

But the heart of Biden’s speech was a roaring siren about what he called “extremism that threatens the very foundation of our republic.”

“The MAGA forces are determined to push this country back. Go back to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy. There is no right to contraception, there is no right to marry the one you love,” she said.

“They promote authoritarian leaders,” he continued. “They fanned the flames of political violence.”

After criticizing Republicans for what he calls “MAGA extremism” and “semi-fascism,” administration officials say Biden determined the time was right to provide a more serious and sober reckoning over what he sees as an increase in anti-democratic forces that are building up across the country. .

“We must be honest with each other and with ourselves: A lot of what is happening in our country today is not normal,” Biden said. “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent extremism that threatens the very foundation of our republic.”

He said the GOP of 2022 was in part “dominated, driven and bullied” by Trump and his minions.

It’s a theme that Biden has come to embrace more publicly in recent months after initially trying to ignore the fallout from his predecessor and focus instead on national unity. In essence, the speech represents the same overarching theme that defined the launch of her presidential campaign in 2019 as she set out to defeat Trump.

He remained a constant throughout high-profile speeches in places steeped in historical symbolism, including Warm Springs, Georgia, and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The prime-time speech was no different, this time against the backdrop of the site of the nation’s revolutionary beginning.

A crowd of about 300 guests — a mix of elected officials and dignitaries, along with Democratic supporters — watched Biden speak from behind panels of bulletproof glass. It was within walking distance of where Biden formally announced his run for president in 2019, addressing similar themes about the “battle for the soul of the nation.”

Thursday’s speech also served as an implicit acknowledgment that Biden’s efforts to overcome the division and chaos of former President Donald Trump have been more difficult than he could have imagined. Trump continues to dominate headlines, especially in recent weeks after federal agents raided his Florida home, revealing an investigation into the former president’s possession of classified documents after he left office. Biden’s speech will come hours after a court hearing related to that investigation.

White House officials emphasized that when Biden warns of the threat to democracy, he is not talking about Republicans as a whole, but about those who follow Trump: the “MAGA Republicans,” as the administration has deemed them.

Before the speech, Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said that Biden was dividing the nation.

“Joe Biden is the divider in chief and epitomizes the current state of the Democratic Party: one of division, revulsion and hostility toward half the country,” he said in a statement.

Biden has been thinking about making a speech on American democracy for several months, prompted in part by the revealing hearings called by the congressional commission that investigates the january 6 riots, according to an official. He, too, has watched with alarm as election deniers running for state office have been backed by Trump and was outraged by the attempted attack on an FBI field office in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“This is a speech the president has been thinking about for a long time. He’s been working on it for a while,” a senior administration official said. “It’s not a response to any news of the day. It’s a response to what he sees as a moment in this country.”

Biden seeks to seize the moment

While Biden underestimated when “the fever will break” when it comes to the GOP’s ties to Trump, recent weeks have highlighted that many of the campaign promises that seemed just as unrealistic — from big bipartisan deals to investments in manufacturing, climate, and health care—in fact, they’ve been signed into law.

The convergence of factors has created a genuine sense within the West Wing that the political winds are turning just as Americans are beginning to tune in ahead of the midterm elections.

It has also had a dramatic effect on the White House itself, where months of intra-party warfare, a resurgent and ever-present Covid-19 pandemic and countless crises that many aides considered beyond their control appear to have finally turned their tides.

Even Biden, who delights in telling the story of the doctor who called him “a congenital optimist,” was not immune to a sense of sadness and occasional doom that hung over the West Wing for months.

“It could get pretty dark,” said one person who spoke regularly with Biden about his vision of things toward the end of his first year in office. “It’s not his style, but there was a period there” when Biden’s mood mirrored that of the exhausted country he led.

However, the changing winds this summer coincided with Trump’s big resurgence in the national spotlight. Republican politicians and candidates running entire campaigns based on false claims of fraudulent elections have only become more prevalent.

As the midterm campaign season gets under way, the convergence of factors created an ideal moment for Biden to lay out what he has been thinking for a long time, officials say.

“The president saw this as an appropriate moment before the traditional campaign season begins next week to expose what he sees at stake, not for any individual political party, but for our democracy itself,” said a senior US official. management.

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