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Biden implores voters to save democracy from lies and violence


WASHINGTON — Warning that democracy itself is in jeopardy, President Joe Biden on Wednesday evening called on Americans to use their ballots in next week’s midterm elections to stand up against lies, violence and the dangerous “ultra MAGA” election hecklers trying to “succeed where they failed” to overturn the 2020 election.

Now is not the time to stay away, he said. “Silence is complicity.”

After weeks of reassuring talks on the US economy and inflation, Biden turned to a darker and more urgent message, saying in the final days of the midterm election vote that the country’s system of governance is threatened by former President Donald Trump’s election-denying lies and the violence Biden has said they inspire.

The president referred to Republicans as “ultra MAGA” – a reference to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan – calling them a minority but the “driving force” of the Republican Party.

Pointing in particular to last Friday’s attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Biden said Trump’s misrepresentations about a stolen election have “fueled the dangerous escalation of political violence and intimidation of voters over the past two years”.

“There is an alarming increase in the number of people in this country who are tolerating political violence or simply remaining silent,” Biden added. “In our bones we know democracy is in danger, but we also know this: it is in our power to preserve our democracy.”

The president’s speech – focused on the rite of the vote and the counting of that vote – amounted to a call for Americans to step back from the heated rhetoric that has heightened fears of political violence and challenges to the integrity of elections. Biden straddled two roles, speaking both as a president defending the pillars of democracy and as a Democrat trying to bolster his party’s prospects against Republicans.

He called out the hundreds of candidates who denied the 2020 election result and are now refusing to commit to accepting the results of the upcoming midterm elections.

“This driving force is trying to succeed where it failed in 2020 to take away voter rights and overthrow the electoral system itself,” Biden said.

“It’s the way of chaos in America. It’s unprecedented. It’s illegal. And it’s not American.”

The speech came days after a man seeking to kidnap Speaker Pelosi seriously injured her husband, Paul Pelosi, in their San Francisco home in the worst recent example of political violence that erupted with the insurrection of January 6, 2021 on Capitol Hill and continued with alarming if less spectacular incidents.

Election workers across the country have debated whether they should return to work following increased intimidation and harassment ahead of Election Day. At least five people have been charged with federal crimes for harassing workers as early voting began.

Reports of people watching ballot boxes in Arizona, sometimes armed or wearing body armor, have raised serious concerns about voter intimidation. Election officials across the country are bracing for clashes at polling stations. A flood of conspiracy theorists have signed up to work as partisan poll watchers.

Stressing that this is the first federal election since the Capitol riot and Trump’s attempts to cancel the 2020 presidential election, Biden called on voters to reject candidates who denied the results of the vote, which even Trump’s own administration has declared free of any widespread spread. fraud or interference.

Biden asked voters to “think long and hard about where we stand.”

“In a typical year, we are not often faced with the question of whether the vote we cast will preserve democracy or endanger it,” he said. “But we are this year.”

“I hope you make the future of our democracy an important part of your decision to vote and how you vote,” Biden added, asking Americans to consider whether the candidates they support would respect the will of the people and accept the result. of their election.

“The answer to this question is vital and, in my opinion, it should be decisive,” he said.

Biden also aimed to preempt conspiracy theories about the ongoing vote, saying Americans were voting early, by mail and by mail, and it would take time to count them “in a legal and orderly manner.” Major shifts in voting in 2020 due to the pandemic prompted more early voting and mail-in voting and saw record turnout. It took five days before the results of the 2020 presidential election were final.

“It’s important for citizens to be patient,” Biden said.

Some Republicans strongly criticized Biden’s remarks. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is expected to be Speaker of the House if the GOP regains control of the chamber, tweeted: “President Biden is trying to divide and deflect at a time when America needs to unite, because he can’t talk about his policies that have driven up the cost of living. The American people aren’t buying him.

Biden delivered his remarks from Washington’s Union Station, a few blocks from the US Capitol, just six days before polls close on November 8 and when more than 27 million Americans have already cast their ballots.

Ahead of the speech, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said he had reviewed the attack on Pelosi’s husband and believed the current political climate demands more resources and better security for people. members of Congress after a massive increase in threats against lawmakers following the Capitol riot. He also made a rare call to stop the spiteful conspiracy talk that swirled around the attack.

“Our brave men and women are working around the clock to carry out this urgent mission in this time of division,” he said in a statement. “In the meantime, one important change that will have an immediate impact will be for people across the country to turn the heat on political rhetoric down before it’s too late.”

Biden last gave a prime-time speech about what he called the “continuing battle for the soul of the nation” on September 1 outside Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, in which he condemned the “MAGA forces” of Trump and his supporters as a threat. to the American system of government.

The new remarks come as hundreds of candidates who have falsely denied the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election are on the ballots across the country, many of whom are set to be elected to critical supervisory positions. elections.

Unlike September’s remarks, which drew criticism in some corners for being paid for by taxpayers, Biden’s speech on Wednesday night was organized by the Democratic National Committee.

Many Americans remain pessimistic about the state of American democracy. An October poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that only 9% of adults think democracy works ‘extremely’ or ‘very well’, while 52% say it doesn’t. good.

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AP writer Seung Min Kim contributed.

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Follow AP coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections. And learn more about the midterm issues and factors at play at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections.

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