Democrats say the Supreme Court is Roe v. After overturning Wade, winning several special elections has given it some momentum in this election cycle.
And as the FBI searched the former president’s Florida home, Trump returned to front and center again. Many of his candidates have won controversial primary elections. He strengthened his base. And his new presence threatened to make the November election an election, not a referendum, for President Biden.
Biden and the White House spent Thursday night with an unusual prime-time speech with no news and no big announcements. Instead, Biden used the opportunity to elevate Trump, allowing him to choose between what Biden and Democrats support and MAGA Republican extremism.
In front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the same city that launched the 2020 presidential campaign, President Trump said, “I think America is at an inflection point. And now America has to choose whether to go forward or retreat.”
On the eve of Labor Day weekend, the traditional pivot to the final sprint of the national general election offers three implications from Biden’s speech.
1. Biden tried to reinforce the idea that this election is a choice, not a referendum…
Elections, especially midterm elections, are traditionally a check on the president. Inflation is high, Biden is unpopular, and people are pessimistic about the direction of the country. It usually means annihilation in the first midterm election of a president.
So this gave Biden a chance to get out of it and make a choice.
“The MAGA military has decided to retreat to the United States, where we have no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry a loved one,” Biden said.
He stressed that the threat to democracy is urgent and that Trump is agitating it. Biden doesn’t use Trump’s name very often, but he confirmed Trump’s name three times in this speech. Doing so will look and sound political. And it was clearly intentional.
As Trump reappears in the news, he gives Biden a way to elevate him, support him as a jockey for the GOP, what that means, and draw a line in the sand.
“It’s clear they’re trying to amplify the MAGA message,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne. “It feels like a pre-debate over what the Republicans are going to do over the next two years, and it sets a broader narrative of how he’s fighting to stop the Republicans from thwarting anti-democratic movements.”
2. It may be a political statement, but it is not without a real threat.
If you confuse Biden’s speech for the convention address, you’ll be forgiven. Because there it contrasts with the other and presents a vision for the country.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t real or imminent threats. Electoralists are closer to controlling elections in key venues, and as we’ve said many times during our January 6 hearings, the democratic system may have been held in 2020, but it’s only because of the people who run it.
Now many of these structures are run by Trump supporters, and his elections continue to lie.
We have witnessed political violence, the FBI is under threat, and so are polling place workers and local elections officials. There is no doubt that the conspiracy elements of Trumpism are working more potentially now than before the 2020 presidential election.
“Democracy cannot survive when one party believes that there are only two outcomes,” Biden said.
And with elections two months away, the White House will emphasize that the threat is key.
3. Biden’s Strategy Has Some Risk
The Democrats’ recent impetus in a number of special elections has been largely because of the right to abortion, rather than a threat to democracy.
Yes, in a recent NBC poll, the threat to democracy emerged as the number one issue, and it is significant in that it surpassed the second place, the cost of living. However, it was only 21% of the respondents. When economic items such as cost of living, jobs, and economy are combined, 30% is higher than the threat to democracy.
Moreover, when we break down those who say the threat to democracy is the biggest problem, 53% are Democrats, 32% are Republicans, and 11% are independents. And Democrats and Republicans certainly see “threats to democracy” very differently. Democrats clearly see Trump and “MAGA extremism” as a threat, while many Republicans who believed Trump’s election to be false believe that Democrats and (no) rigged elections are the problem.
So the White House may over-read the polls here.
Republicans who are now sympathetic to Trump are outraged.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the president should apologize for insulting former Vice President Biden’s speech and the millions of Americans who voted for Trump.
It certainly shows that McCarthy has changed 180 degrees in her journey to becoming a member of the House of Representatives since January 6th. But it also underscores the high standards Biden has to make it clear that he’s talking about a Republican elected official and not a voter.
Former Vice President Joe Biden said: “Neither the majority of Republicans are MAGA Republicans. “Not all Republicans embrace their extreme ideology. I know because I have been able to work with these mainstream Republicans. But today, Republicans are dominated, led, and threatened by Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans. There is no doubt that it is a threat to this country.”
It is a very fine line for a president who cannot speak well to walk. The GOP will certainly use this to bolster its base for Democrats and Biden in this midterm election, but the White House is betting that a conservative who hates him has already been fired, and the Democrats must keep their base.
“There is a risk of going too far with this,” Payne said.
But, he added, “I think it also helps to lay the groundwork for the moral clarity that saves democracy.”