Five key takeaways from Biden’s speech on the threat to democracy

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<p><figcaption class=Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

More aggressive tone on Trump and “Dude” Republicans.

Joe Biden — who routinely makes references to the “former guy” and his “predecessor” — specifically named and called out Donald Trump during his speech. The president warned that Trump and the “Make America Great Again” Republicans “represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our democracy.”

Saying that “not every Republican” is an extremist, he went on to directly address his predecessor’s dominance of the party, saying: “There is no question that the Republican party today is dominated, led and intimidated by Donald Trump. ” He even touched on the turmoil surrounding the Justice Department’s discovery that Trump kept classified documents at Mar-a-Lago — something he has largely avoided discussing. Biden’s directness tonight was the culmination of a new, aggressive approach he has taken recently, aiming to marginalize Trump’s agenda as well.

A call to America’s best nature

Biden planned to provoke a battle for the “soul of the nation,” and throughout his speech he aligned himself with the country’s founding ideals — viewing Trump and extremist Republicans as an existential threat to the nation.

Speaking in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall – where the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were signed – Biden began his speech with the words: “I speak to you tonight from holy ground.” Backlit in red, white and blue, and welcomed on and off stage by a sailor band playing hymns from the 1800s, it was a night that leaned heavily on patriotism. “America is an idea,” he said at one point, flanked by Marines at a parade rest. “The most powerful idea in the history of the world.”

“I know your hearts. And I know our history,” he said, addressing the “American people.” “This is a nation that honors our constitution,” he said.

A campaign for the American people

Tonight’s speech was billed as an official speech, but it also had the feel of a campaign appeal. Biden championed his and the Democrats’ policy goals — urging Americans to “vote, vote, vote.”

During a rare upbeat speech in an otherwise dark speech, Biden touted his administration’s progress on health care, combating climate change and dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. “I’ve never been more optimistic about America’s future,” he said. “We will end cancer as we know it. We will create millions of new jobs in the clean energy economy. We’re going to think big, we’re going to make the 21st century another American century.”

The threat of election deniers is great

The president issued stark warnings that the integrity of US elections was vulnerable. Condemning Trump and other Republicans for denying the legitimacy of the 2020 election — and threatening to do so in the interim — Biden called on Americans to join him in resisting election misinformation and the rollback of voting rights.

“We cannot allow the integrity of our elections to be compromised,” he said. “We cannot allow the normalization of violence in this country,” he added, referring to the Jan. 6 uprising.

A missed opportunity?

Biden may have missed an opportunity to highlight public outrage over the Supreme Court’s decision to revoke the constitutional right to abortion. The issue galvanized Democrats ahead of the midterms, and abortion rights advocates have expressed frustration at Biden and other Democrats for not speaking more directly and forcefully about it.

Biden did mention that the “Republican Dudes” want to take the country “back to an America where there is no choice. No right to privacy. No right to contraception.” But he missed an opportunity to directly play the issue as an urgent example of rights at stake.

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