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Biden seeks Democratic elections in Trump speech on democratic elections

President Joe Biden delivered a prime-time speech Thursday night billed as defending democratic elections but unambiguously designed to help the election of Democrats ahead of November’s midterm elections.

Biden’s broadsides against an extreme wing of the Republican Party associated with former President Donald Trump, which he said did not represent a majority of the party or “mainstream Republicans,” rehashed standard liberal critiques of well-worn conservative positions, some of them out of step with public opinion and legitimate election-year targets but not on the level of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack or disputing the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

“MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards,” Biden said. “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.”


Biden, in decrying positions on abortion and same-sex marriage he once held as a senator as beyond the pale of American politics, was referencing a concurring opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas that is not actually part of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. The majority opinion by Justice Samuel Alito sought to distinguish Roe v. Wade, which the court overturned in June, from other liberal precedents.

Thomas was nominated by President George H.W. Bush and confirmed by a Democratic-controlled Senate in 1991, long before Trump was involved in politics. Biden presided over Thomas’s confirmation hearings as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The speech was reminiscent of one given in 1987 by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) savaging Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. Biden was also chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee when Bork’s nomination was voted down.

“Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy,” Kennedy said in the same year as Biden’s first presidential campaign.

Biden’s remarks were also an escalation of a Democratic tactic in this year’s elections, during which the party has denounced Trump-style Republicans as an existential threat to democracy while simultaneously helping them win primaries when they would be easier to defeat in a general election.

In many cases, these Republicans were also endorsed by Trump. This includes a Maryland GOP gubernatorial primary in which Democrats spent money to raise the profile of the candidate opposed by outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan, a rare Republican Biden and the White House have specifically said is non-MAGA. These resources proved decisive in the narrow primary defeat of Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI), who voted to impeach Trump for his actions on Jan. 6. Many of these candidates cast doubt on the 2020 election results.

This year, Democrats hope to make Trump an issue even though he is not on the ballot. As has been the case in the aforementioned Republican primaries, the former president has cooperated, in what may be the most thoroughly documented instances of Trump collusion. The White House was involved in a six-month study to come up with the ultra-MAGA label.

The practical effect of Democratic attacks on Trump has been to bind the Republican Party closer to him rather than marginalize the ex-president or his followers. After a certain point, it becomes difficult to wonder if this is not by design.

Biden has at times seemed eager to draw Trump into the 2024 elections for a rematch. “I’m not predicting, but I would not be disappointed,” he told an Israeli television station this summer. “In the next election, I’d be very fortunate if I had that same man running against me,” Biden said at an earlier press conference in Brussels. Before that, Biden told ABC News he would be even more likely to seek a second term if Trump ran.

“Why would I not run against Donald Trump if he were the nominee?” Biden said. “That would increase the prospect of running.”

The source of that confidence is the fact Biden defeated Trump in 2020. “He thought he was the only person who could beat Donald Trump when Trump ran for reelection, and he was right,” Cedric Richmond, a former congressman who moved from the Biden White House to the Democratic National Committee, told Bloomberg News last month.

Trump has often focused on his own personal grievances rather than issues such as inflation or the economy. He has shifted the conversation from current elections to one that is already over. He has mused about pardoning the Jan. 6 rioters.

Yet after two impeachments, an FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago to retrieve classified information he had apparently taken with him from the White House, an unsuccessful reelection bid, and Jan. 6, Trump actually leads Biden in the RealClearPolitics polling average. Hillary Clinton was once similarly confident she could easily defeat Trump, and her campaign sought to elevate him at the expense of Republican rivals they feared more.


Regardless of whether that remains the Democrats’ strategy here, it is clear that fear of Trump and anger over the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling are the two biggest motivators for the liberal base ahead of November and likely more enduring ones than the recent flurry of legislative success. Emphasizing both is also more within Democrats’ control than fluctuations in the pre-election economic data.

“We’re watching right now a very radical and extreme Republican Party mirror what we have seen in other places like Nazi Germany,” a former GOP operative-turned-Never Trump pundit told MSNBC. “Like other places like the Bolsheviks. We have seen this playbook before.” The Nazis were not defeated at the ballot box.

Biden, who says MAGA Republicans are just “semi-fascist,” hasn’t gone quite that far. But the consequences of a sitting president describing political opponents as “the threats we face” in what is supposed to be a defense of democracy are harder to predict than the results of the next election.

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