- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 1, 2022

Nearly two years after President Biden pledged to be a “president for all people” — including those who didn’t vote for himhe kicked off the Democrats’ fall campaign season by tearing into pro-Trump Republicans as a threat to democracy.

In a prime-time event in Philadelphia, Mr. Biden struck a somber mood, framing the upcoming midterm elections as an eternal battle for “the soul of America.” He cast supporters of former President Donald Trump and the Make America Great Again movement as a threat to the nation’s rule of law, global standing and civil rights.

“Too much of what is happening in our country today is not normal. Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundation of our republic,” Mr. Biden said.

The president took great pains to underscore that he wasn’t painting Republicans with a broad brush, but rather targeting Mr. Trump’s loyalists, whom he says have “dominated” and “intimidated” mainstream Republicans.

“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 who you love,” Mr. Biden said.

He accused so-called “MAGA Republicans” of refusing to recognize free and fair elections, talking about violence in response to political policies they don’t like and working to thwart “the will of the people.” Mr. Biden also tore into Trump loyalists for refusing to accept the outcome of the 2020 election, saying “democracy cannot survive” under their belief system.

SEE ALSO: McCarthy says ‘democracy is on the ballot’ in midterms, blaming Dems for attacking freedoms

“MAGA Republicans have made their choice. They embrace anger. They thrive on chaos. They live not in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Biden’s speech marks a significant escalation of his verbal attacks on supporters of Mr. Trump, who received 74 million votes in the 2020 election. In separate speeches over the past week, Mr. Biden condemned the platform of Trump supporters as “semi-fascism” and decried their criticism of the FBI and Justice Department as “sickening.”

Those recent remarks reflect the Democrats’ strategy of depicting themselves and Mr. Biden as heroes standing in the way of what they regard as anti-democratic MAGA forces prepared to overrun the country with authoritarianism.

“I will not let the will of the American people be overturned by wild conspiracy theories and baseless, evidence-free claims of fraud. I will not stand by and watch elections in this country stolen by people who simply refuse to accept that they lost,” he said.

Mr. Biden received applause from the audience of 300 invited guests, but was also heckled by protesters, including a guy shouting things with a bullhorn. The president said they had a “right to be outrageous,” but went off script to fire back.

“Good manners is nothing they’ve ever suffered from,” he said of the hecklers.

Republicans say Mr. Biden and Democrats are the ones promoting a divisive ideology and called him out for not recognizing left-wing violence, including the firebombing and other attacks on pro-life pregnancy centers and the plot to murder Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

Joe Biden‘s wretched attacks on millions of Americans have fueled attacks on pregnancy centers, Republican offices, and an assassination attempt on a Supreme Court Justice. His agenda has pitted neighbors against each other, rewarded the wealthy while punishing working families, and trampled on the rights and freedoms of Americans. Joe Biden is the divider-in-chief and epitomizes the current state of the Democrat Party: one of divisiveness, disgust, and hostility towards half the country,” said Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy painted a dire picture of freedom in America under Democratic control.

“We are losing our safety, our prosperity, and our freedom,” the California Republican said. “The world is more dangerous, more unstable, and more chaotic. Peace and security have been replaced by hostility and aggression. This is the record of Joe Biden. This is the record of Democrat control.”

While Mr. Biden campaigned as a uniter, who would bring the nation together, his tough rhetoric has raised fears that America has become even more divided under his watch.

A YouGovAmerica poll released this week found that 66% of Americans say the country has become split since the start of the Biden administration, with 63% saying they expect separations to increase and 62% predicting political violence to worsen over the next few years.

The poll found that more than 40% believe a civil in the next decade is at least somewhat likely.

But Mr. Biden argues that the nation’s core values are under attack and access to abortion, which is no longer a federally guaranteed right since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Those arguments are a revival of Mr. Biden’s campaign themes in which he depicted the 2020 election as a battle for the nation’s soul.

The White House said Mr. Biden had been mulling a major thematic speech for several months, in part due to concerns about the finding of the House committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Mr. Trump’s reemergence in the daily news after FBI agents searched his house this month combined with an increase in threats against federal agents and Justice Department employees likely made this the ideal time for this kind of campaign speech.

The speech, which took place 10 weeks before the midterms, was made in Pennsylvania, a crucial swing state that Mr. Biden will visit three times over the next week.

But some say the harsh rhetoric could backfire with Trump loyalists wearing his criticisms as a badge of honor, much like it did when Hillary Clinton referred to Republicans as “deplorables.”

“It is risky,” Robert Rowland, a professor of presidential rhetoric at the University of Kansas, said of the speech. “If Biden is to do this successfully, he needs to say his quarrel is not with mainstream Republicans of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole. He needs to distinguish Trump supporters from mainstream Republicans.”

Jennifer Mercieca, a professor in the school of communications and journalism at Texas A&M University, said Mr. Biden is speaking to a much larger audience than just Trump supporters.

“There other audiences here — we’ve seen massive spikes in voter registration, especially among the young and among women — perhaps Biden‘s speech will reach them and motivate them to commit to defending democracy by voting for Democrats in November. That’s the hope, I’m sure,” she said.

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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