Biden confronts extremism at perilous moment for presidency, country
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to ramp up attacks on politicians aligned with Donald Trump in a prime-time speech in Philadelphia on Thursday, and ask Americans to push back against extremism at the ballot box.
The speech is part of a sharp turn for Biden as the Nov. 8 midterm elections approach, one that reflects a growing sense of urgency the president feels about anti-democratic trends in the opposition party, and his need to repel a Republican onslaught in the midterms and rebuild support ahead of a 2024 re-election bid, aides say.
After devoting much of his energy in 2022 to high inflation at home and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and suffering through two bouts of COVID-19 over the summer, Biden has lashed out at Trump-aligned Republicans in recent days. It’s part of do-or-die campaigning to keep Democratic control of Congress, and control his own political future.
At a fundraiser last week in Maryland, Biden described “an extreme MAGA philosophy” – standing for Trump’s Make America Great Again movement – that is “almost like semi-fascism.” On Tuesday, in the first of three visits within a week to the political battleground on Pennsylvania, Biden assailed threats against the FBI after a search of Trump’s Florida home as “sickening,” and taunted Republican Congress members who refused to condemn the Jan. 6 attacks. He did not mention Trump by name.
In Philadelphia, Biden will “speak about how the core values of this nation – our standing in the world, our democracy – are at stake,” according to a White House official who declined to be named previewing the speech.
“He will make clear who is fighting for those rights, fighting for those freedoms, and fighting for our democracy,” said the White House official.
Ahead of the speech, House of Representatives Republican leader Kevin McCarthy accused Biden of ignoring crime and inflation “to disparage hard-working Americans.” He will speak in Biden’s hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, before the president’s speech.
A Democratic fundraiser said donors are closely watching the next few months to gauge whether to back Biden in a 2024 presidential run. Some have already decided that Biden should step aside to make way for fresh leadership, but others want to see if he can move the needle.
“These next few months are critical,” said a senior Democratic official. “If we can pull it off and retain the Senate, then there will be enough voices saying he has earned it and pave the way for reelection. If we don’t, the overwhelming sentiment will be pass the torch.”
Free elections in danger?
Biden will deliver the remarks in a place weighted with history, just feet away from the location where the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution were agreed.
Historians, legal scholars and some elected officials have cast the stakes in much starker terms than Biden’s political future, raising the future of the country’s free elections and commitment to the rule of law.
They say that losing the Congress would not only make Biden a lame-duck president, it could turn control over certifying the results of the next presidential election to Trump sympathizers, some of whom never accepted Biden’s 2020 victory and who have pledged to overhaul local voting systems.
Biden ran for president on restoring the “soul of the nation” and, by implication, purging the values associated with Trump. Instead, Republican voters have mostly backed candidates aligned with the former president and more than half say they believe he rightfully won the election.
Confronted by threats after Trump’s loss, one in five election workers polled this year said they may quit before the next presidential election.
Trump as unifier — for democrats
Absent the constant presence of Trump, many top Democrats feel they have lacked the message that knit together the geographically dispersed and racially diverse coalition of voters that elected Biden in 2020.
Support for Biden among all those key groups has cratered since his 2021 inauguration, with the president’s overall public approval falling near the lows of his term in office, to 38%, in a Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Tuesday.
Those voters are increasingly anxious about the state of the country, inflamed by the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot hearings and an ongoing criminal investigation into Trump’s handling of classified documents that has led to violent threats against FBI agents who searched the former president’s Mar-a-Lago home.
In focus groups conducted by Democrats, these worries have rivaled inflation and the economy as top concerns for many voters, according to two people who have conducted such research for Democrats.
Some of those people have expressed disappointment that Biden has not done more to address those concerns, giving Democrats more confidence that an anti-extremism message from the White House would appeal.
A person working with the Democratic Senate Majority PAC who declined to be named said they fear the White House will put Biden too front-and-center in upcoming weeks. “We need this to be a referendum on extremism, not Joe Biden,” the Democrat said.
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