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President Biden Condemns Trump as Dire Threat to Democracy in a Blistering Speech

President Joe Biden on January 5 delivered a ferocious condemnation of former President Donald Trump, his likely 2024 opponent, warning in searing language that the former President had directed an insurrection and would aim to undo the nation’s bedrock democracy if he returned to power. On the eve of the third anniversary of the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by former President Trump’s supporters, President Biden framed the coming election as a choice between a candidate devoted to upholding America’s centuries-old ideals and a chaos agent willing to discard them for his benefit. “There’s no confusion about who Trump is or what he intends to do,” Biden warned in a speech at a community college not far from Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, where George Washington commanded troops during the Revolutionary War. Exhorting supporters to prepare to vote this fall, he said: “We all know who Donald Trump is. The question is: Who are we?”

In an intensely personal address that at one point nearly led President Joe Biden to curse former President Donald Trump by name, the President compared his rival to foreign autocrats who rule by fiat and lies. He said former President Trump had failed the basic test of American leaders, to trust the people to choose their elected officials and abide by their decisions. “We must be clear,” Biden said. “Democracy is on the ballot. Your freedom is on the ballot.”

President Joe Biden’s harshness on his rival illustrated what his campaign believes to be the stakes of the 2024 election and his perilous political standing. Confronted with low approval ratings, bad head-to-head polling against former President Donald Trump, worries about his age, and lingering unease with the economy, President Biden is turning increasingly to the figure who has proved to be Democrats’ single best motivator. Former President Donald Trump, speaking at a campaign rally in Iowa soon after President Joe Biden’s appearance, quickly lashed back, calling the president’s comments “pathetic fearmongering” and accusing him of “abusing George Washington’s legacy.”

President Joe Biden’s remarks carried echoes of the 2020 campaign when he presented himself as the caretaker of “the soul of America” against a Trump presidency that he and Democratic supporters argued was on the verge of causing permanent damage to the country. The 31-minute speech was President Biden’s first public campaign event since he announced in April 2023 that he would seek re-election and was, in tone and content, arguably his most forceful public denunciation of former President Donald Trump since the two men became political rivals in 2019.

President Joe Biden’s appearance, meant as a kickoff to help define the 2024 campaign, was an early effort to revive the politically sprawling anti-Trump coalition that propelled Democrats to key victories in recent elections. Mr. Biden’s task now is to persuade those voters to view the 2024 contest as the same kind of national emergency that they sensed in 2018, 2020, and 2022. He began with an extensive recounting of former President Donald Trump’s actions before, during, and after the January 6 attack. The country, President Biden said, cannot afford to allow Trump and his supporters to present a whitewashed version of that day and spread falsehoods about the violent outcome of their effort to undo the 2020 election results. Upholding the nation’s democracy, Biden said, is “the central cause of my presidency.”

President Joe Biden made no mention of the 91 felony charges the former president faces in four jurisdictions, sticking to a vow to steer clear of his rival’s legal problems and focusing squarely on Trump’s actions rather than any potential criminal consequences for them. “Trump exhausted every legal avenue available to overturn the 2020 election. The legal path took him back to the truth, that I won the election and he was a loser,” Biden said. “He had one act left, one desperate act available to him, the violence of January 6.”

For a president who has faced intense scrutiny over his vigor in public appearances, the speech was a deftly delivered, focused argument about this year’s stakes. It was President Joe Biden’s latest attempt to build his political identity around the ideas of restoring national unity and upholding fairness, democracy, and collective patriotism. He has come back to those themes many times, during his brief push for voting rights legislation in early 2022, then as the midterm elections approached, and most recently in September, during a speech in Arizona honoring former Senator John McCain.

In the speech, President Joe Biden sought to frame former President Donald Trump as the leader of a cult of personality, and his Republican allies as sycophants. The president mentioned the recent $148 million judgment against Rudolph W. Giuliani for his lies about Georgia election workers, as well as the $787.5 million that Fox News was ordered to pay to settle a defamation case about its role in spreading election lies. Biden lamented that Fox News hosts and Republican officials who condemned Trump’s January 6 behavior in the moment had since changed their tune and repeated his falsehoods. “Politics, fear, and money all intervened, and now these MAGA voices who know the truth about Jan. 6 have abandoned democracy,” Biden said.

What remains unclear is how much President Joe Biden’s democracy pitch will resonate with voters who remain nervous about an improving economy, and wary of re-electing an 81-year-old who is already the oldest president in US history. Even some who have expressed deep fears about Trump’s authoritarian impulses are skeptical that the subject will be a winning message in 2024. “As a Biden campaign theme, I think the threat to democracy pitch is a bust,” 2012 Republican Presidential nominee, prominent Trump critic, and Utah Senator Mitt Romney, wrote in a text message to a New York Times reporter. “January 6 will be four years old by the election. People have processed it, one way or another. Biden needs fresh material, a new attack, rather than kicking a dead political horse.”

President Joe Biden threaded his speech with warnings that former President Donald Trump and Republicans would threaten not only democracy but also major Democratic priorities, abortion rights, voting rights, and economic and environmental justice. Ian Bassin, the executive director of Protect Democracy, a nonprofit dedicated to combating authoritarianism, said he had stressed to Biden’s aides that the president needed to connect democracy to voters’ personal experiences on other issues, in the same way Trump repeats to his supporters that prosecutions of him are persecutions of them. “Democracy is not just a way of structuring elections for order in our government,” Mr. Bassin said. “It’s a set of values about the kind of communities we want to live in and the way that we want to live as neighbors.”

President Joe Biden warned in his speech that former President Donald Trump was not being shy about what he would do in a second term. “Trump’s assault on democracy isn’t just part of his past. It’s what he’s promising for the future,” President Biden said. “He’s not hiding the ball.” Biden then recounted, in exacting detail, how a Trump campaign rally last year began with a choir of rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6 singing the national anthem while a video of the damage played on a big screen. Trump had watched with approval. The scene, Biden suggested, would be the nation’s fate if Trump and his allies returned to power. “This is like something out of a fairy tale,” Biden said. “A bad fairy tale.”

Matthew Rosehttp://ourpolitics.net
Matt studies and analyzes politics at all levels. He is the creator of OurPolitics.net, a scholarly resource exploring political trends, political theory, political economy, philosophy, and more. He hopes that his articles can encourage more people to gain knowledge about politics and understand the impact that public policy decisions have on their lives. Matt is also involved in the preservation of recorded sound through IASA International Bibliography of Discographies, and is an avid record collector.

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