‘MAGA forces’ determined to ‘take the country backwards’, says Biden in speech from Philadelphia

President Joe Biden said “MAGA forces are determined to take this country back” in a first address to the nation on Thursday, calling on Americans to “stand up” to defend democracy and choose “whether to move forward or they will move backwards’.

Biden warned that “equality and democracy are under attack,” singling out the former president and his supporters who have denied the results of the 2020 presidential election. He called it “his obligation to get even with you to tell the truth.” as he accused Trump supporters of “fanning the flames of political violence.”

“Too much in our country is not normal,” Biden said in a 24-minute speech outside Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our democracy ».

Although the White House claimed the speech was not about the midterm elections less than 70 days away, the president was speaking in a crucial battleground state that could decide control of the Senate. Protesters with bullhorns interrupted the president during many of the remarks, which had clear political overtones.

“For too long, we’ve been assuring ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed, but it’s not,” Biden said. “We must defend it, protect it, defend it. Every one of us.” He said Trump and his supporters see their failure to overturn the 2020 election as “set-up for the 2022 and 2024 elections.”

Trump has signaled that he plans to run for president in 2024.

More: ‘Extremist threat to our democracy’: What Biden hopes to accomplish in Thursday’s primetime speech

Biden has taken a more aggressive tone as the campaign kicks into high gear, accusing Republicans who align with Trump of “half-fascism.” He singled out “Maga Republicans,” referring to the Make America Great Again movement spawned by his predecessor, to argue that the party has become increasingly “extreme.” He sought to differentiate the far right from mainstream Republicans, whom he said he respected.

“The MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards — backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry the one you love,” Biden said.

He said they “embrace anger, thrive in chaos, live not in the light of truth, but in the shadow of lies,” but added “together we can choose a different path.”

More: Threats to the FBI and law enforcement were already on the rise. Then came Mar-a-Lago

Philadelphia, known as the birthplace of the American republic, was a calculated location for the speech. It’s also where Biden launched his 2020 presidential campaign. The president on Thursday restated the central argument of his 2020 term, calling the stakes “the ongoing battle for the nation’s soul.”

Biden condemned the growing threats against election workers and FBI agents amid the bureau’s investigation into classified documents Trump stored at his Mar-a-Lago home. He also called out Republicans who have warned of riots in the streets, an apparent jab at Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has predicted such a scenario if Trump is impeached.

“This is inflammatory. It’s dangerous. It’s against the rule of law,” Biden said.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., pushed back at the start of Biden’s speech, arguing that Biden “doesn’t understand the soul of America.” He said the “tens of millions of hard-working, law-abiding citizens he vilifies” just want to have a say in their child’s education, gas they can afford, inflation to stop and to feel safe on their roads.

“They want a stronger, safer, more prosperous America,” McCarthy said he said in an interview Thursday on Fox News. “And all he does is vilify them to distract from the devastation and has no plan to save America from where we are today.”

More: Defunding the FBI? Why the Republican rallying cry could boost Democrats in the midterm elections

Rona McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, called Biden “the divisive leader” who “epitomizes the current state of the Democratic Party: a state of division, disgust and hostility toward half the country.”

Although the speech had a prime-time slot, network television stations did not carry it in previously scheduled programs.

An NBC News poll last week found that 21 percent of voters said “threats to democracy” were the top issue facing the country, ahead of the economy, immigration and climate change.

Democrats, who once seemed on track for a potentially disastrous midterm election, have found new reasons for optimism after congressional victories in special elections following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. Biden has seen approval ratings that have fallen over the past year finally begin to improve after a series of legislative victories and lower gas prices.

Biden said “our task is to make our nation free and fair, just, strong, noble and whole,” as he ended his speech with a sense of optimism.

“I have no doubt – none – that this is what we will be and then we will come together as one nation to secure our democracy.”

Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @Joeygarrison.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden’s speech confronts MAGA’s ‘take back the country’ agenda

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