President Biden issued a midterm-minded message on Thursday that America’s democratic values are at risk and that former President Trump and his most ardent backers are the chief reason why as his party seeks to continue momentum ahead of the November elections.
Biden, speaking in prime-time from the perch of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, namechecked his 2020 general election opponent frequently as he sought to up the stakes for voters heading into the stretch run of the political season. During the 24-minute address, the president said that Trump “represents an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic.”
“But there’s no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans,” said Biden, who was flanked on stage by Marine guards. “And that is a threat to this country.”
According to The Hill’s Brett Samuels and Morgan Chalfant, White House officials insisted Thursday night’s speech would not be political in nature. However, that idea evaporated quickly as Biden levied multiple criticisms of his predecessor and Republicans, while rounding out the address by touting policy victories on issues such as on police funding and the pandemic.
The address came at a key time for Biden and Democrats. The party in power is on the upswing after a number of key wins over the past month — including two special election victories that have helped buoy the spirits of Democrats after spending much of the past year struggling to counter GOP messages on the economy and inflation.
Notably, the president has also grown more combative amid the Democratic resurgence. In recent weeks, he has called out “MAGA Republicans” on a number of occasions. The rhetoric hit a crescendo last week at a political rally in Maryland where he described the movement as akin to “semi-fascism” (The New York Times).
That remark has drawn rebukes from across the GOP spectrum. The latest came in a prebuttal speech on Thursday by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who said that the first line of Biden’s speech should have been an apology “for slandering tens of millions of Americans as fascists” (The Hill).
President Joe Biden charged in a prime-time address that the “extreme ideology” of Donald Trump and his adherents “threatens the very foundation of our republic,” as he summoned Americans of all stripes to help counter what he sketched as dark forces within the Republican Party trying to subvert democracy.
In his speech Thursday at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, Biden unleashed the trappings of the presidency in an unusually strong and sweeping indictment of Trump and what he said has become the dominant strain of the opposition party. His broadside came barely two months before Americans head to the polls in bitterly contested midterm elections that Biden calls a crossroads for the nation.
“Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal,” he said before an audience of hundreds, raising his voice over pro-Trump hecklers outside the building where the nation’s founding was debated. He said he wasn’t condemning the 74 million people who voted for Trump in 2020, but added, “There’s no question that the Republican Party today is dominated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans,” using the acronym for Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
The explicit effort by Biden to marginalize Trump and his followers marks a sharp recent turn for the president, who preached his desire to bring about national unity in his Inaugural address.
Biden, who largely avoided even referring to “the former guy” by name during his first year in office, has grown increasingly vocal in calling out Trump personally. Now, emboldened by his party’s summertime legislative wins and wary of Trump’s return to the headlines, he has sharpened his attacks, last week likening the “MAGA philosophy” to “semi-fascism.”
Wading into risky political terrain, Biden strained to balance his criticism with an appeal to more traditional Republicans to make their voices heard. Meanwhile, GOP leaders swiftly accused him of only furthering political divisions.
Delivering a preemptive rebuttal from Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Biden was born, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said it is the Democratic president, not Republicans, trying to divide Americans.