WASHINGTON — In harsh, combative language, President Biden denounced “extreme MAGA ideology” in a speech Thursday night at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the precepts of the American project were forged by the Founding Fathers long ago. almost three centuries.
“Too much of what is happening in our country today is not normal,” Biden said. “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.”
For much of that first year in office, Biden preferred to refer to Trump simply as “the old guy.” But in 2022, his attitude began to shift, seemingly acknowledging that no change was coming for a Republican Party still controlled by Trump and those still loyal to him. In late spring, Biden came to adapt the phrase “MAGA Republicans” — an acronym for “Make America Great Again,” Trump’s 2016 campaign-laden slogan — as shorthand for what he and d Other Democrats saw an increasingly radicalized Republican base. who had taken fringe positions on a number of issues, ranging from voting to vaccination.
Thursday night saw the culmination of this change. Biden was careful to acknowledge that “not all Republicans embrace their extreme ideology,” a likely reference to relative moderates like Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio. But he also made it clear that these mainstream Republicans have been overtaken by the party’s energetic pro-Trump wing, represented by the likes of Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.
“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. They refuse to accept the results of free elections,” Biden said, referring to to the reluctance of Trump and many of his supporters to admit that the 2020 presidential race was decided fairly. “And they’re working right now, as I speak, state after state to give the power to decide elections in America to supporters and cronies, which gives power to elections.” Holocaust deniers to undermine democracy itself.
The president also used the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision to argue that a conservative movement emboldened by a Supreme Court he now effectively controls was planning to deny Americans the rights they now take for granted.
“The forces of MAGA are determined to take this country back – back 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. They promote authoritarian leaders and fan the flames of political violence,'” Biden said.
There were no new proposals in the speech. Instead, the goal was to draw a Manichean contrast to Republicans embracing what he described as “wild conspiracy theories” about election integrity. And he has repeatedly denounced political violence, which he claimed Trump and his supporters have continued to encourage, even as the Jan. 6, 2021 riot on Capitol Hill remains fresh in the country’s collective memory.
Last week, Governor DeSantis appeared to call for a physical assault on Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s top pandemic adviser, while Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina predicted riots if Trump faced threats. federal charges for handling sensitive documents recovered by federal law enforcement. from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago resort last month. Shortly after Operation Mar-a-Lago, a Trump supporter was fatally shot after firing a nail gun at an FBI building in Cincinnati and engaging in a firefight with agents.
“They embrace anger. They thrive in chaos. They don’t live in the light of truth, but in the shadow of lies,” Biden said of Trump’s staunchest supporters. Speaking with passion, he avoided the kind of stumbles that marked other occasions and gave his critics a hard time on social media. This time, White House press officers were not dispatched, as they often have been, to provide clarification or explanation.
At one point, he recognized the hecklers whose taunts could be heard throughout the speech. “Good manners are nothing they’ve ever suffered from,” Biden said, turning in their direction.
A more substantial challenge to Biden’s acerbic attacks came from Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader. Speaking ahead of the president’s speech, McCarthy complained that Biden had backed down from earlier promises in a bipartisan approach. “President Biden has chosen to divide, belittle and denigrate his fellow Americans,” McCarthy said.
Democrats argued that it was Republicans who rejected their pleas by continuing to embrace Trump and his approach. “History tells us that blind loyalty to a single leader and willingness to engage in political violence are fatal to democracy,” Biden said.
And while the location of the speech was historically significant, there were also more immediate considerations at work. Biden had visited Pennsylvania earlier this week and will return Monday for a Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh. Democrats are fiercely battling for a seat in the state Senate, as well as to retain the governor’s mansion. Biden has made it clear that he intends to campaign aggressively for Democrats in the coming months as their hopes of at least retaining the Senate, if not the House, appear to rise. Crucial to this strategy, Biden’s speech made clear, is to cast the midterms as a referendum on Trumpism and Trump.
“America must choose to move forward or backward. To build a future or to obsess over the past. To be a nation of hope, unity and optimism, or a nation of fear, division and darkness he said, describing the choice as a choice not of political differences but of differences over the future of an American democracy now as in jeopardy as it once was.
Accordingly, the President advised his audience to participate in this most American institution when he concluded his remarks: “Vote, vote, vote.”