President Joe Biden called on Americans to take seriously the threat election deniers pose to democracy in a prime-time speech to the nation on Thursday, honing his message against “extremist” Republicans ahead of the November elections.
The president spoke outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, drawing upon the gathering place of the nation’s Founding Fathers to cast the coming midterm elections as a referendum on democracy itself.
“For a long time, we’ve reassured ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed. But it is not. We have to defend it. Protect it. Stand up for it. Each and every one of us,” Biden said.
“MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution. They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people, refuse to accept the results of a free election,” he warned.
Biden and his team have sharpened their attacks on the GOP in recent days, calling out “MAGA Republicans” for attacking law enforcement and supporting efforts to overturn election results, which the president dubbed “semi-fascism.” The latter comment infuriated Republicans, who called for an apology.
The president said Thursday that he doesn’t believe every Republican ascribes to that ideology, but that “mainstream” Republicans are nonetheless “dominated and intimidated” by the extreme Donald Trump-supporting wing of the party.
Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Biden has also sought to draw a clear contrast with Republicans who oppose abortion rights and to highlight measures that Democrats passed in Congress like COVID-19 relief, police funding, prescription drug reform, and green energy investments. He continued on that theme on Thursday.
“MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards ― backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love,” Biden said.
Biden is ramping up his travel schedule in support of Democratic candidates in battleground states. But some Democrats in competitive races are reluctant to appear with the president on the campaign trail, likely due to his lagging approval rating.
Republicans, meanwhile, are desperately trying to keep economic issues at the forefront of voters’ minds and avoiding talk of Trump and his failed effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election, which led to the bloody Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Trump’s hoarding of classified documents and the FBI search at his Florida estate have dominated headlines, however, spoiling those efforts.
On Thursday, Trump said he would issue full pardons and a government apology to people charged over the riot at the Capitol. He also claimed he was offering financial assistance to some defendants.
In a prebuttal to Biden’s address, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who stands to become speaker of the House if the GOP wins the chamber in November, argued that the president should focus instead on kitchen table issues. McCarthy also called on Biden to apologize for “slandering tens of millions of Americans as ‘fascists.’”
“In the past two years, Joe Biden has launched an assault on the soul of America, on its people, on laws, on its most sacred values. He has launched an assault on our democracy,” McCarthy said in the president’s hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, a city located in a competitive district Republicans are hoping to flip in November.
McCarthy voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election on Jan. 6, 2021, despite no evidence of widespread fraud. After the attack on the Capitol, McCarthy said that Trump bore responsibility for the riot and even told associates that he planned to urge Trump to resign. But he quickly changed his tune and mended his relationship with the former president, whose support he will need if he is to become speaker one day.
Republicans are still expected to win a majority in the House next year, but Democrats are gaining momentum after a string of legislative victories in Congress. The Supreme Court decision overturning federal abortion rights in June has energized Democratic voters, helping them win several special House elections this year, most recently in Alaska and upstate New York. The party is hoping that trend will continue in November.