Biden’s speech was a closing argument for Democrats, who will face an uphill battle in next week’s election: While the Senate race remains a draw, the House is expected to swing in favor of Republicans.
The roughly 20-minute address, delivered at Washington’s Union Station, represented the president’s clearest attempt in recent times to inject spiraling threats against democracy, lies of conspiracy and malice, and violent intimidation. in the mid-terms. Biden spoke of the location so close to the US Capitol, which he called “the citadel of democracy”, citing the violent January 6, 2021 insurrection, which he periodically returned to, including in a speech earlier this fall. in Philadelphia and one marking the anniversary of the attack.
Like these, he was framed under a global banner that formed the basis for his own return to politics when he ran in 2020 – the battle for America’s very soul. Indeed, some of the lines he used on Wednesday about that fight appeared in earlier remarks on the subject.
“Violence against Democrats, Republicans and nonpartisan officials who are just doing their job is the consequence of lies told for power and profit, lies of conspiracy and malice, lies repeated over and over again to generate a cycle anger, hatred, vitriol and even violence,” he said.
Along with the broader themes, Biden suggested that Americans should watch two possible upcoming developments closely: He issued a warning about possibly dozens of Republican officials and activists trying to undermine Tuesday’s vote, and he set expectations that it would take time to expect to vote legally.
“We know that many states don’t start counting those ballots until after the polls close on Nov. 8,” he said. “This means that in some cases we won’t know the winner of an election until a few days after the election. It takes time to count all legitimate ballots in a legal and orderly manner. »
It was a familiar tone from the president, who has previously warned of threats to democracy. But with the midterms just days away, it took on a sharper note. Biden blamed his predecessor, Donald Trump, for stoking divisions in the country and fueling election denial. And he warned that Trump cronies who deny the election “are showing up at every level of power in America.”
But he was also careful to add that much of the danger was being spurred on by MAGA Republicans, in particular, whom he described as an obvious danger despite being just a distinct minority in the country.
“This is the path to chaos in America,” Biden said. “It’s unprecedented, it’s illegal and it’s un-American.”
GOP candidates for secretary of state in Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota and Nevada have questioned the 2020 election results, POLITICO has previously reported.
Prior to Biden’s speech, some Democratic advisers had stressed the importance of balancing economic issues — ranked by many voters as their top priority in the midterm elections — and threats to democracy, such as election denial. generalized and conspiracy theories.
But in his remarks on Wednesday, the president only mentioned the economy in passing, opting instead to focus fully on the democratic process. “We must vote knowing what is at stake, not just in the politics of the moment,” he observed.
Biden said voters should ask each candidate on their ballot, “Will this person accept the legitimate will of the people?”
“The answer to this question is vital and, in my opinion, should be decisive,” he said. While issues such as the economy are on the ballot, Biden said, “there is something else at stake: democracy itself.”
At another point, he sought to clarify that the timing and tenor of the speech were independent of his own presidency.
“It’s not about me,” he said. “It’s about the sustainability of our government. … We can no longer take democracy for granted.
Biden opened the speech by addressing the attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on Friday at their San Francisco home.
David DePape, the man accused of beating Pelosi with a hammer, reportedly made a statement threatening to attack senior US Democratic officials. Social media posts showed DePape was embroiled in conspiracy theories, including the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen. But since the attack, some Republicans have engaged in their own conspiracy theories or downplayed the role of GOP rhetoric.
“We don’t settle our differences in America with a riot, a mob, a bullet or a hammer,” Biden said at one point.
On Twitter, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) took issue with Biden saying the speech was not about himself.
“Incorrect @POTUS,” McCarthy tweeted Wednesday, “[I]THAT’S ALL FOR YOU… You refuse to address the main concerns of Americans. Why? Because your policies and inept administration have FAILED.
Herschel Walker, the former soccer star who is now the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Georgia, earlier on Wednesday called the Democratic alarm bells for democracy “nonsense.”
“Joe Biden in charge in Washington, in the White House – that’s a bigger threat to democracy, isn’t it?” Walker said, in a speech peppered with references to sports and the Bible.
Walker also touted spending, inflation, immigration, crime, a “woke military” and his own opponent, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, as bigger “threats to democracy” than Republicans.
“They’re going to sue you,” Walker said of the Democrats, before a crowd in Georgia. “They’re going to come after your family.”
The president has made threats to democracy a central part of his Democratic election argument: He gave a speech in Philadelphia defending ‘the soul of the nation’ against so-called MAGA Republicans at the start of the season the country.
In his Wednesday remarks, delivered just blocks from the Capitol, Biden said a vote shouldn’t be seen as “a partisan tool, counted when it helps your candidates and set aside when it doesn’t.” the case”.
“You can’t love your country only when you win,” he said.