Warning that democracy itself is in peril, U.S. President Joe Biden called on Americans Wednesday night to use their ballots in next week’s midterm elections to stand up against lies, violence and dangerous “ultra MAGA” election disruptors who are trying to “succeed where they failed” in subverting the 2020 elections.
This is no time to stand aside, he declared. “Silence is complicity.”
After weeks of reassuring talk about America’s economy and inflation, Biden turned to a darker, more urgent message, warning in the final days of midterm election voting that democracy itself is under threat from former president Donald Trump’s election-denying lies and the violence he said they inspire.
Pointing in particular to the attack on U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, he said that Trump’s false claims about a stolen election have “fuelled the dangerous rise of political violence and voter intimidation over the past two years.”
Six days before major midterm elections, Biden said, “As I stand here today, there are candidates running for every level of office in America, for governor, for Congress, for attorney general, for secretary of state, who won’t commit to accepting the results of the elections they’re in.”
“That is the path to chaos in America,” he declared. “It’s unprecedented. It’s unlawful. And it is un-American.”
‘Think long and hard’
Pointing to mounting concerns over political violence as well as threats of America’s long tradition of hard-fought but peaceful and accurate elections, he said these Republicans are “trying to succeed where they failed in 2020 to suppress the rights of voters and subvert the electoral system itself.”
The speech came just days after a man seeking to kidnap House Speaker Pelosi severely injured her husband, Paul Pelosi, in their San Francisco home and as physical threats have rattled members of Congress and election workers.
“There’s an alarming rise in the number of people in this country condoning political violence or simply remaining silent,” Biden said. “In our bones we know democracy is at risk, but we also know this: It’s in our power to preserve our democracy.”
Emphasizing that it is the first federal election since the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and Trump’s attempts to overturn the will of voters in the 2020 presidential election, Biden called on voters to reject candidates who have denied the results of the vote — which even Trump’s administration declared to be free of any widespread fraud or interference.
Biden asked voters to “think long and hard about the moment we are in.”
“In a typical year, we are not often faced with the question of whether the vote we cast will preserve democracy or put it at risk,” he said. “But we are this year.”
“I hope you’ll make the future of our democracy an important part of your decision to vote and how you vote,” Biden added, asking Americans to consider whether the candidates they are supporting would respect the will of the people and accept the outcome of their election.
“The answer to that question is vital and in my opinion it should be decisive,” he said.
Republican calls Biden divisive
Biden also aimed to get ahead of conspiracy theories about the ongoing vote, saying Americans were voting early, by mail and by absentee ballot and it would take time to tally them “in a legal and orderly manner.”
Major changes in voting in 2020 because of the pandemic prompted more early voting and mail-in voting and saw record turnout. It took five days before the results of the 2020 presidential election were final.
“It is important for citizens to be patient,” Biden said.
Some Republicans sharply criticized Biden’s remarks. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who stands to be Speaker of the House if his party retakes control of the chamber, tweeted, “President Biden is trying to divide and deflect at a time when America needs to unite—because he can’t talk about his policies that have driven up the cost of living. The American people aren’t buying it.”
Biden delivered his remarks from Washington’s Union Station, blocks from the U.S. Capitol, just six days before polls close on Nov. 8 and as more than 27 million Americans have already cast their ballots.
Before Biden’s speech U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said he’s reviewed the attack on Pelosi’s husband and said he believes today’s political climate calls for more resources and better security for members of Congress after a massive increase in threats to lawmakers following Jan. 6. He also made a rare call to stop the conspiracies that have swirled around the attack.
“Our brave men and women are working around the clock to meet this urgent mission during this divisive time,” he said in a statement. “In the meantime, a significant change that will have an immediate impact will be for people across our country to lower the temperature on political rhetoric before it’s too late.”
2020 election deniers running in midterms
Biden last delivered a prime-time speech on what he called the “continued battle for the soul of the nation” on Sept. 1 outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, in which he condemned the “MAGA forces” of Donald Trump and his adherents as a threat to America’s system of government.
“They promote authoritarian leaders, and they fan the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country,” Biden said then.
The new remarks come as hundreds of candidates who have falsely denied the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election are on ballots across the country, with many poised to be elected to critical roles overseeing elections.
In contrast to the September remarks, which drew criticism from some corners for being paid for by taxpayers, Biden’s Wednesday night speech is being hosted by the Democratic National Committee.
Many Americans remain pessimistic about the state of U.S. democracy. An October poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that just nine per cent of respondents said they think democracy is working “extremely” or “very well,” while 52 per cent said it’s not working well.