PHILADELPHIA — (AP) — President Joe Biden charged in a primetime speech that the “extreme ideology” of Donald Trump and his supporters “threatens the very foundation of our republic,” as he convened Americans of all persuasions to help counter what he sketched as dark forces within the Republican Party trying to overthrow democracy.
In his speech Thursday at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Biden unleashed the trappings of the presidency in an unusually strong and sweeping impeachment of Trump and what he said became the dominant strain of the opposition party. His flank came just two months before Americans head to the polls in a hard-fought midterm election that Biden calls a crossroads for the nation.
“Too much of what is happening in our country today is not normal,” he told an audience of hundreds, raising his voice to the pro-Trump hecklers outside the building where the founding of the nation was debated. He said he was not condemning the 74 million people who voted for Trump in 2020, but added, “There is no doubt that the Republican Party today is dominated by Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans.” using the acronym for “Make America Great”. Another campaign slogan.
Biden’s explicit effort to marginalize Trump and his supporters marks a recent turning point for the president, who preached his desire to achieve national unity in his inaugural address.
Biden, who largely avoided even referring to the “old guy” by name during his first year in office, has become increasingly vocal in personally calling out Trump. Now, emboldened by his party’s summer legislative victories and wary of Trump’s return to the headlines, he has sharpened his attacks, last week comparing “MAGA philosophy” to “semi-fascism.”
Stepping onto risky political ground, Biden has struggled to balance his criticism with a call for more mainstream Republicans to make their voices heard. Meanwhile, GOP leaders were quick to accuse him of only deepening political divisions.
Delivering a preemptive rebuttal from Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Biden was born, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said it was the Democratic president, not Republicans, who was trying to divide Americans.
“Over the past two years, Joe Biden has launched an assault on the soul of America, on its people, on its laws, on its most sacred values,” McCarthy said. “He launched an assault on our democracy. His policies have gravely hurt America’s soul, diminished America’s spirit, and betrayed America’s trust.
Asked about McCarthy’s criticism, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said earlier Thursday that “we understand we’ve touched a nerve” with the GOP leader, and cited earlier statements of the Republican saying that Trump was responsible for the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol.
Trump is planning a rally this weekend in the Scranton area.
White House officials said the scathing tenor of Biden’s remarks reflected his growing concern over ideological proposals from Trump allies and relentless denial of the 2020 national election results.
“Equality and democracy are under attack” in the United States, Biden charged, making Trump and his GOP supporters a threat to the country’s system of government, its position abroad and the way of life of its citizens.
Trump and the MAGA Republicans are “promoting authoritarian leaders and fanning the flames of political violence,” he said. They “are determined to roll this country backwards.”
“Back to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to birth control, no right to marry whoever you love,” he said. , referring to social issues that Democrats have sought to bring to the fore. for voters this fall.
Biden’s appearance was promoted as an official taxpayer-funded event, a mark of how the president sees defeating Trump’s agenda as a political as well as political goal. Red and blue lights illuminated the brickwork of Independence Hall, as the Marine Band played “Hail to the Chief” and a pair of Marine sentries stood idle from the parade in the background. Yet the major broadcast television networks did not carry the address live.
The president called on citizens to “vote, vote, vote” to protect their democracy. “For a long time, we have reassured ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed. But it’s not.”
Biden has returned to the 2017 white supremacy protest in Charlottesville, Va., which he says brought him out of political retirement to challenge Trump. Biden argued that the country would face a similar crossroads in the coming months, and he framed defending the “soul of the nation” as “the job of my presidency — a mission I wholeheartedly believe in. my soul”.
But Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufman said in a statement that Biden was using authoritarian rule tactics, “trying to turn his political opponents into an enemy of the state.”
Larry Diamond, democracy expert and senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said calling Trump for attacks on democracy “can be manipulated or portrayed as partisan. And if you don’t don’t call, you are walking away from an important challenge in the defense of democracy.
The White House has tried to keep Biden out of the legal and political maelstrom surrounding the Justice Department’s discovery of classified documents in Trump’s Florida home. Still, Biden pointed to some Republicans’ quick condemnation of federal law enforcement, for asserting “you can’t be pro-insurgency and pro-American.”
His trip to Philadelphia was just one of three trips to the state in a week, a sign of Pennsylvania’s midterm prominence, with competitive races for Senate and governor. However, neither Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, the Democratic Senate nominee, nor Attorney General Josh Shapiro, their gubernatorial pick, were in attendance Thursday night.
The White House wanted the speech to unite familiar themes: Presenting bipartisan legislative victories on guns and infrastructure as proof that democracies “can hold,” pushing back against GOP policies on guns and abortion that , according to Biden, do not align with most people’s views.
The challenges have only increased since the tumult surrounding the 2020 election and the attack on the Capitol.
The lies surrounding this presidential race have sparked harassment and death threats against state and local election officials and new restrictions on mail-in voting in Republican-dominated states. County election officials have come under pressure to ban the use of voting equipment, efforts spurred by conspiracy theories that voting machines were somehow manipulated to steal the election.
Candidates challenging Trump’s loss have been inspired to run in state and local elections, promising to restore the integrity of a system that has been plagued by misrepresentation.
There is no evidence of widespread fraud or manipulation of voting machines. Judges, including those appointed by Trump, dismissed dozens of lawsuits filed after the election, and Trump’s own attorney general called the allegations false. Still, an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll showed about two-thirds of Republicans say they don’t think Biden was legitimately elected president.
Associated Press writer Zeke Miller reported from Washington. Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta contributed.
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