Democrats, activists and historians have been urging the president for months to fight Republicans who continue to spread lies about the 2020 elections and to protect democracy from constant threats.
Joe Biden responded Thursday in his most direct and compelling speech on the subject to date. Biden not only addressed the violent acts committed that day by supportive rioters of Donald Trump who sought to cancel the election, but also detailed the ongoing efforts of Trump and his allies to undermine the national electoral system in the future.
“The President has demonstrated today that we are going to act more decisively than in the past,” Rep. Jim Cliburn (Democratic Doctor), the third-seat Democratic in the House of Representatives, told POLITICO. “Today’s speech could very well be a turning point in what I think will be a big surprise for a lot of people in November.”
Rather than mentioning Trump’s name, Biden only referred to the “former president,” explaining the dire stakes facing the country from his predecessor and GOP members. He said that he “did not seek this battle, which was fought in this Capitol a year ago.” But speaking from the Sculpture Hall of the Capitol, through which the rebels marched on January 6 last year, he added: “I will not refuse it either. I will stand in this gap. I will defend this nation. I will not allow anyone to thrust a dagger into the throat of democracy. “
Some Democrats and their supporters hope Biden’s speech marks a turning point in the administration’s focus on what many see as the most important and existential threat facing the country. Democratic lawmakers and civil rights advocates hoped Biden would use his platform on Thursday to bridge the dots between the uprising, Trump’s and state’s ongoing campaign to restrict voting access, and attempts by those who continue to criticize the legitimacy of the 2020 election. to take key positions in power ahead of the 2022 elections.
Along with focusing and prioritizing voting rights legislation, many Democrats are also calling on the White House to take the lead. fight the republicans more directly for not confronting Trump’s lies about the election. While Biden and his vice president are set to make high-profile statements about voting rights in Atlanta soon, party leaders want to see a sustained campaign that will increase pressures similar to Biden’s previous efforts to help Covid, as well as social and climate spending.
“What they are doing is right,” Clyburn said of Biden’s speech on the January 6 uprising and forthcoming voice announcements. “It remains to be seen whether it is adequate.”
The South Carolina Democrat, who is a close ally of the president, said that as recently as Thursday morning he told Biden, Chief of Staff Ron Klein and White House adviser and PR director Cedric Richmond that the problem for Democrats is not their message. and convincing their base that they will cope with the task.
“The problem is the image, which I think the president took a big step today to help change. There are people who just think that we are not tough enough, ”added Cliburn, noting his conversations with voters.
“If they continue this not only in Georgia, but also in Florida, go to Texas, go to North Carolina, go to places where people think they have a free hand. [to restrict access to the ballot]- said Cliburn. “And I think we’ll see a flustered base.”
When Biden announced his candidacy for president in April 2019, he presented it as a battle for the soul of a nation. His advisers would later say there was a direct link between the White Nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which prompted him to flee, and the January 6 riots, which were his opponents’ latest attempt to deny victory. The White House sees the uprising not as the end of the Trump presidency, but as a dangerous crystallization of the lingering threats posed by the former president’s attacks on the electoral system.
As Biden waited for his opportunity to speak, Vice President Kamala Harris detailed the administration’s response to the threat. “We have to pass the voting rights bills that are currently under consideration by the Senate. And the American people also need to do something more, ”she said. “We cannot sit on the sidelines. We must unite to defend our democracy. “
Historian Lawrence Tribe, who has known Biden since the 1980s and has occasionally advised the president, spoke with Klein after Biden’s speech, expressing his confidence that Biden’s speech was at its best.
“Equal to everything that John F. Kennedy did, or everything that Obama did,” Tribe recalled, telling Klein.
“There were no rose-colored glasses, the president did not cover the difficulties we face,” added Tribe. The tribe, like others, has long wanted Biden to make such frank remarks. “I certainly waited, and I’m so glad he finally did it.”
Moving forward, the Tribe hopes that Biden’s Thursday speech and his upcoming speech in Georgia next week will “dislodge the resistance” of Senators Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) and Kirsten Cinema (D-Ariz.) And “open their minds a little to the importance of exclusion “For the legislative obstructionist. However, to date, there is no indication that any senator would support such a change, allowing for a law on voting rights to be passed by a simple majority.
In addition to a rhetorical campaign to warn Trump and his followers, some local officials are demanding more substantial action from the administration.
“My question is: what follows?” said Rick Hasen, an electoral law expert and professor at the University of California, Irvine.
“We have [Attorney General] Merrick Garland spoke yesterday and talked about the persecution of those who attacked our democracy at any level. And today we have a vice president and a president who say that action is needed to protect our democracy and a peaceful transfer of power, ”Khasen continued. “The question is what the administration can and will do to truly deliver on these promises to protect our democracy.”
White House aides dismissed any view of civil rights defenders and Democratic lawmakers that Biden was not aggressive, describing threats from Trump and Republican election fraud as lies.
Beyond action in Congress, however, the most specific responsibility likely comes from the Justice Department, rather than Biden’s independent actions. Asked Thursday what consequences Biden believes Trump should suffer for the uprising, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the president “is going to leave it to his own Department of Justice, which is independent.”
Christopher Cadelago contributed to this report.