Washington, Sept 2 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden charged Republican allies of Donald Trump with undermining the country’s democratic foundations and urged voters on Thursday to reject extremism ahead of midterm elections in November.
Biden accused “MAGA forces” – those people devoted to Trump’s Make America Great Again agenda – as willing to overturn democratic elections and “determined to take this country backwards” to a time without rights to abortion, privacy, contraception or same-sex marriage supported broadly by Americans.
“Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” Biden said.
“As I stand here tonight, equality and democracy are under assault. We do ourselves no favor to pretend otherwise.”
The prime-time speech in Philadelphia, the birthplace of American democracy, marked a sharp turn for Biden as midterm congressional elections approach.
The president is increasingly concerned about anti-democratic trends in the Republican Party, and sees a need to repel an onslaught by the party in November and recast the stakes of his own 2024 re-election bid, aides said.
After devoting much of his energy in 2022 to high inflation at home and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and enduring two bouts of COVID-19 over the summer, Biden has begun lashing out at Trump-aligned Republicans in recent days.
Thursday’s remarks came after speeches in recent days where Biden condemned MAGA philosophy as “semi-fascism” and assailed Republican threats against the FBI after a search of Trump’s Florida home as “sickening.”
House of Representatives Republican leader Kevin McCarthy accused Biden of ignoring crime and inflation to criticize his fellow citizens.
“Instead of trying to bring our country together to solve these challenges, President Biden has chosen to divide, demean and disparage his fellow Americans,” McCarthy said in Biden’s hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania. “Why? Simply because they disagree with his policies.”
A Democratic fundraiser said donors are closely watching Biden’s performance over the next few months to gauge whether to back him in a 2024 presidential run. Some have already decided that Biden, 79, should step aside to make way for fresh leadership, while others want to see if he can move the needle.
“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 re-election,” said a senior Democratic official. “If we don’t, the overwhelming sentiment will be ‘Pass the torch.'”
FREE ELECTIONS IN DANGER?
Biden set his remarks in a venue meant to signal the historical significance of his appeal, at Independence Hall, where the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution were adopted.
Historians, legal scholars and some elected officials have cast the stakes in much starker terms than Biden’s political future, saying the country’s free elections and commitment to the rule of law hang in the balance.
They say losing Congress would not only make Biden a lame-duck president, but also turn over control of 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 voting systems.
The speech echoed Biden’s signature 2020 campaign pledge to restore the “soul of the nation” and, by implication, purge the values associated with Trump. In the nearly two years since Biden was elected, Republican voters have mostly backed candidates aligned with the former president; more than half say they believe Trump 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.