Joe Biden's historic speech on democracy
On Thursday, President Joe Biden will deliver a historic speech on the state of democracy in the 21st century. While Europe faces the greatest threat to its stability since World War II, Republicans in the United States have fully embraced anti-democratic principles with rhetoric that encourages continued political violence from right-wing extremists less than two years after the January 6th attack on the Capitol.
This is Biden’s biggest platform yet to draw attention to the “semi-fascism” taking hold in the GOP by way of MAGA Republicans and contrast that radicalization with Democrats’ recent policy wins, along with Biden’s continued attempts to protect American democracy.
Biden has previewed this speech on a few occasions since assuming office. Marking the one-year anniversary of the January 6th insurrection, Biden promised that he will not allow anyone “to place a dagger at the throat of democracy.” Two months later in Brussels, a reporter asked Biden about “widespread concerns in Europe” that a figure like Trump may be elected president again. Biden’s response was strong:
I had no intention of running for President again until I saw those folks coming out of the fields in Virginia carrying torches and carrying Nazi banners and literally singing the same vile rhyme that they used in Germany in the [early 1930s]. And then, when the gentleman you mentioned was asked what he thought — and a young woman was killed, a protester — he said, “There are very good people on both sides.” And that’s when I decided I wasn’t going to be quiet any longer.
And when I ran this time I made a determination: No election is worth my not doing exactly what I think is the right thing. Not a joke. I’m too long in the tooth to fool with this any longer.
So it’s not an illogical question for someone to ask. I say to people at home: Imagine if we sat and watched the doors of the Bundestag broken down and police officers killed and hundreds of people storming in, or imagine if we saw that happening in the British Parliament or whatever. How would we feel?
Biden echoed these comments in a speech on Tuesday when he flatly asked Republicans who have failed to condemn recent political violence: “for God’s sake, whose side are you on?”
It seems inevitable that right-wing political violence will continue as former president Donald Trump openly embraces QAnon conspiracies and calls for his reinstatement or a new election. At the same time, mainstream Republicans have continue their anti-FBI rhetoric, which has already encouraged attacks on federal agents, in the wake of a search warrant being executed at Mar-a-Lago.
Senator Lindsey Graham said this week that there will be “riots in the streets” if Donald Trump faces consequences for his mishandling of hundreds of top secret documents following his departure from the White House. Graham later half-walked back these remarks saying: "I'm just telling you" that Trump’s prosecution would “upset people.” Republicans, the so-called party of “law and order,” now find themselves on the defensive as the extremism of their party is laid bare.
As right-wing violence continues, Biden’s warnings of the threats to democracy will become more profound. Through the lens of history, his warnings will be viewed as the morally correct position during an era when the Grand Old Party openly embraced radical ideologies at the behest of a former reality television show star who betrayed the his oath to the constitution, refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power and inciting an insurrection against the government in an attempt to remain in power.
In Thursday’s speech, Biden will no doubt contrast his belief in the strength of American democracy with Republicans’ increasing shift toward authoritarianism. Coupled with Democrats’ recent domestic policy successes, this should be a popular message which will resonate with mainstream America. Meanwhile, Republicans find themselves defending extraordinarily unpopular policy positions on abortion, gun control, voting rights, LGTBQ+ rights, climate, health care, taxing the rich, labor unions, and ultimately, democracy.