President Biden on Thursday warned that former President Trump and Republicans aligned with him pose “a threat to this country,” in a political primetime speech that frequently referred to his predecessor and some of his GOP supporters as a danger to democracy.
Biden, speaking from Independence Hall in Philadelphia, tied Trump and other so-called “MAGA Republicans” to corrosive ideas like casting doubt on election results, spreading conspiracy theories and attacking law enforcement.
“Not every Republican, not even a majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology,” he said. “But there’s no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans. And that is a threat to this country.”
The president portrayed Republicans aligned with Trump as a threat to the right to have an abortion, contraception and privacy, and accused the GOP of seeking to take the country “backward.”
“I believe America is at an inflection point, one of those moments that determine the shape of everything that’s to come after,” Biden said, urging Americans to fight for democracy “in 2022 and beyond.”
While White House officials insisted Thursday night’s speech would not be political in nature, Biden levied multiple criticisms of Trump and Republicans while rounding out the address by touting his policy wins on issues like police funding and the pandemic, and contrasted his vision for the nation with the GOP. He also called on Americans to “vote, vote, vote.”
Thursday’s speech served as an encapsulation of Biden’s midterm message as he increasingly frames November’s elections as ones that will determine whether the country slips toward authoritarianism.
Trump-backed candidates, many of whom have openly claimed without evidence that the 2020 election was fraudulent or that Biden is an illegitimate president, will be on the ballot at the state and federal level in November. And Trump himself is weighing another presidential bid in 2024 even amid a federal investigation involving the mishandling of classified documents after he left the White House.
Biden has in recent weeks become more assertive in calling out “MAGA Republicans.” At a political rally last week in Maryland, Biden described the movement as akin to “semi-fascism.”
On Tuesday in Pennsylvania, Biden referenced “MAGA Republicans” multiple times as he invoked the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, condemning attacks from some Republicans on law enforcement.
He has also portrayed Republicans as anti-law enforcement by accusing them of excusing violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and fueling attacks on the FBI following the bureau’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
Some Republicans have criticized Biden for his comments, arguing he campaigned on a pledge to unite the country and lower the temperature of the nation but is using inflammatory rhetoric by comparing conservatives to fascists.
“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,” Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement in advance of Thursday’s speech.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in a prebuttal to Biden’s speech from Scranton demanded the president apologize for his remark last week about “MAGA” Republicans espousing a philosophy akin to “semi-fascism.”
“President Biden has chosen to divide, demean and disparage his fellow Americans. Why? Simply because they disagree with his policies. That is not leadership,” McCarthy said.
Biden’s speech was a return of sorts to an overarching theme of his 2020 campaign, and could preview his rhetoric should he follow through with his intention to run for reelection in 2024 in a possible rematch with Trump.
A Wall Street Journal poll released Thursday found Biden leading Trump by 6 percentage points in a hypothetical rematch of the 2020 election.
“I think the message that he’s sending is extremely effective,” said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, noting the revelations of the Jan. 6 congressional hearings and the Mar-a-Lago search that showcased Trump’s “disregard for the rule of law.”
“I think this is the perfect moment because it’s kind of a culmination,” Lake said.
Updated 9:10 p.m.