Biden asks Americans to defend democracy in elections, politics

The president took direct aim at former President Trump and efforts from his supporters in the Republican Party

President Joe Biden speaks about the soul of the nation Thursday at  Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)
President Joe Biden speaks about the soul of the nation Thursday at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)
Posted September 1, 2022 at 8:44pm

President Joe Biden warned of dire threats to American democracy from some Republicans at a prime-time address in Philadelphia on Thursday, as midterm elections approach and former President Donald Trump faces legal woes over handling of classified records.

In a televised speech outside Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, Biden tore into Trump and so-called “MAGA Republicans,” a reference to supporters of the former president’s “Make America Great Again” campaign, as posing an assault on American democratic institutions.

The president called on Americans to respect the rule of law and the institutions that were created in the Constitution written at that spot, and not follow the “total war” politics of Trump and his supporters who he said have worked to undermine the integrity of elections.

“Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threaten the very foundations of our republic,” Biden said of the former president who is contemplating another run at the White House.

Biden stressed he did not mean every Republican, or even a majority of Republicans that he described as “mainstream,” and which he has been able to work with as president.

“But there’s no question the Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by the MAGA Republicans. And that is a threat to this country,” Biden said.

He also referenced the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol as well as Republican-led efforts to give “partisans and cronies” the right to overturn the results of elections.

The country is at “an inflection point,” he said, where America “must choose, to move forward, or to move backwards.”

“Democracy endures only if we the people respect the guardrails of the republic, only if we the people accept the results of free and fair elections,” he said. “Democracy cannot survive when one side believes there are only two outcomes to an election: either they win, or they were cheated. That’s where the MAGA Republicans are today.”

Biden pledged he would “defend our democracy” and “not stand by and watch elections in this country stolen by people who simply refuse to accept that they lost.”

Even still, he said he has “never been more optimistic about America’s future,” referencing efforts to beat cancer and create more jobs in the clean energy economy.

Republican responses

It’s a message the president has championed before. In his inaugural address in January 2021, Biden pledged to “unit[e] our nation” and “restore the soul and to secure the future of America.”

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said before the speech that instead of unity Biden has used his position to call those who didn’t go along with his agenda as dangerous, semi-fascist, and reinstating a “Jim Crow era.”

“Joe Biden is the divider-in-chief and epitomizes the current state of the Democrat Party: one of divisiveness, disgust, and hostility towards half the country,” McDaniel said.

In a “prebuttal” ahead of the address Thursday evening, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., criticized the Biden administration’s governance over the past year and-a-half, citing inflation, high gas prices and crime rates.

Speaking from Biden’s hometown of Scranton, Pa., McCarthy laid out what he sees as threats to democracy, naming the recent government raid at Trump’s property in Florida, movements to defund the police and the administration’s immigration policies.

“Joe Biden is right. Democracy is on the ballot in November,” McCarthy said. “And Joe Biden and the radical left in Washington are dismantling America’s democracy before our very eyes.”

Biden’s call to protect democracy comes just over two months before Americans will head to the polls to vote in key midterm races that will determine which political party controls Congress next year — and set the course for the administration’s agenda.

Republicans still are favored to retake the House of Representatives, but control over the Senate will be more of a toss-up, according to Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.

Trump investigation

Meanwhile, more details are emerging about the Justice Department’s investigation into Trump’s alleged withholding of classified documents, even as the former president teases a possible White House run in 2024.

In a late night Tuesday filing, DOJ lawyers said that before seeking a search warrant for the former president’s Mar-a-Lago hotel, the government had evidence that records were “likely concealed and removed” from a hotel storage room and that “efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation.”

The government’s search at Mar-a-Lago, conducted last month, ultimately yielded more than a hundred unique documents marked as classified, which the DOJ said was more than double the number of records turned over by the Trump team earlier this summer in response to a subpoena.

The DOJ’s submission also included a photograph of classified documents spread over the floor at the former president’s hotel, an image likely to endure throughout the midterm elections.

Trump’s attorneys have slammed the government raid on Mar-a-Lago in a court filing as “unprecedented, unnecessary, and legally unsupported.”