President Biden will raise the stakes of the 2024 election in the coming days, sharpening the argument that former President Trump is a danger to democracy.
The moves will build on Biden’s frequent references to “extreme MAGA Republicans” whom he casts as outside the American mainstream. Back in 2020, Biden ran, he said, to “restore the soul of America.”
From a political perspective, Biden will hope that the renewed emphasis on Trump will help energize a Democratic base that seems restless and discontent in general, about everything from student loan debt to the conflict in the Middle East.
Biden will speak Friday near Valley Forge, Pa., where George Washington had a headquarters during part of the Revolutionary War. The address will take place one day before the third anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
Trump has been impeached by Congress and criminally indicted by a federal grand jury for his role in seeking to overturn the 2020 election — an effort that reached its nadir on Jan. 6.
Within the past three weeks, the Colorado Supreme Court and Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows (D) have issued rulings that would remove Trump from the GOP primary ballot in those states.
Their reasoning is rooted in the 14th amendment, which prohibits those who have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding office.
Trump is appealing both decisions, which are also deeply controversial even beyond the former president’s base. Some Democrats express unease about the precedent they set and their potential to further rupture the nation’s civic fabric.
On Monday, Biden will speak in remembrance of another solemn occasion. He will visit the Emanuel AME Church — otherwise known as “Mother Emanuel” — in Charleston, S.C. Nine people were shot dead at the historic Black church by a white racist gunman in 2015.
The Mother Emanuel shooting happened while President Obama was in office, but Biden will almost surely make some passing reference to the broader dangers posed by politicians who inflame racial enmity.
Biden campaign aides have made clear that they see the Valley Forge address, in particular, as part of a new push to underline the existential threat they believe Trump poses.
In a media call, Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez said: “We are running a campaign like the fate of our democracy depends on it. Because it does.”
The Biden campaign also notes Trump’s recent rhetoric to buttress this argument.
In recent months, the former president has referred to political opponents as “vermin,” mused about using the justice system to impede future rivals and told supporters he will be their “retribution.”
There have also been several media reports that a second Trump administration would aim to install loyalists throughout government so as to lessen the chances of his agenda being slow-walked.
“He’s promising to rule as a dictator and use the government to exact retribution on his political enemies, all while he and his MAGA supporters encourage and applaud political violence across the country,” Michael Tyler, the Biden campaign’s communications director, said recently, according to The Washington Post.
Of course, Trump and his supporters vehemently disagree.
Trump has portrayed himself for years as the victim of Democratic partisans and a shadowy “Deep State” aimed at destroying him.
Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung, announcing the filing of the appeal of the Colorado Supreme Court decision Wednesday, condemned “election interference” that Cheung said was being driven by “Crooked Joe Biden’s comrades, including the Colorado Supreme Court and [Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington], a radical, left-wing activist group.”
These groups, Cheung complained, “are doing all they can to disenfranchise all American voters by attempting to remove President Trump, the leading candidate in the 2024 Presidential Election, from the primary ballot.”
On the Democratic side, however, there is clear enthusiasm to see the Biden campaign putting the future of American democracy front and center.
The argument that Trump is simply unacceptable “is a tremendously motivating argument to the base of the Democratic Party,” said Democratic strategist Tad Devine.
“One of the principal challenges for President Biden is going to be motivating Democrats to go out and vote,” Devine added. “But this is a very powerful argument that resonates in an emotional way with voters.”
Biden’s low poll numbers cause trepidation among much of liberal America.
But some Democrats take heart from indications that Biden would have a better chance against Trump than against some other, less divisive contenders for the GOP nomination, notably former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Trump, of course, is the overwhelming favorite to become the Republican nominee.
Democrats say that gives Biden a fighting chance.
Democratic strategist Basil Smikle referenced a famously optimistic political ad from 40 years ago to illustrate how much the game has changed.
“When I came up in politics, it was the Reagan ‘Morning in America’ ad and ‘Are you better off now then you were four years ago?’ That was the metric, the reference point,” Smikle said.
“But now it’s not about that. This election is going to be more about what Americans have to lose, not just what they have gained in the past four years.”
Whether that is enough to pull Biden to a reelection victory remains a debate. His approval rating is just 43 percent in the polling average maintained by The Hill and Decision Desk HQ.
But Democrats know that running to save America from Trump is the best argument Biden can make.
The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage.
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