President Biden made a bold and powerful speech in Philadelphia about the dangers our democracy faces due to Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it above (speech begins around 6.25, after music) and/or read it here.
I think it must have taken a lot to get this decent, almost congenitally bipartisan man to call out his former colleagues. He ran on uniting the country, and I’m sure he expected that the far-right fervor of those idolizing Trump would fade as the former guy turned to other wealth-seeking ventures.
Like so many, the President underestimated his predecessor’s perfidy and the hate-fueled fervor of the far-right miscreants he was inspiring.
I understand that Biden has been meeting periodically with historians to help him take a long view of current events. One of them, Michael Beschloss, said although they never offer him advice, they had expressed growing alarm that we were in a period approaching that of 1860, when President Lincoln knew the nation was on the brink of civil war, and 1940, when President Roosevelt faced a growing fascist movement.
So the President who said he decided to run after the Charlottesville, Virginia, torch-carrying white supremacists’ march–which led to the death of a demonstrator and then-President Trump’s comment that there were “very fine people on both sides”–decided it was time to once again level with the American people about “the soul of America.”
My favorite part of the speech was the President’s remark about the protestors whose bullhorn could be heard in the distance. “They’re entitled to be outrageous. This is a democracy,” he said, while poking fun at their manners.
Elie Mystal, the justice correspondent for The Nation and a frequent media commentator, observed that this Biden throwaway line was the defining difference between him/the Democrats and Trump/his followers; the latter would chase the protesters away, or worse.
These are the portions of the speech I found most important:
“For a long time, we’ve told ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed, but it’s not.
“We have to defend it, protect it, stand up for it–each and every one of us.
“Democrats, independents, mainstream Republicans: We must be stronger, more determined, and more committed to saving American democracy than MAGA Republicans are to destroying American democracy.
“We’re a big, complicated country. But democracy endures only if we, the people, respect the guardrails of the republic. Only if we, the people, accept the results of free and fair elections. Only if we, the people, see politics not as total war but mediation of our differences.
“Democracy begins and will be preserved in we, the people’s, habits of heart, in our character: optimism that is tested
yet endures, courage that digs deep when we need it, empathy that fuels democracy, the willingness to see each other not as enemies but as fellow Americans.”
“We can’t afford to leave anyone on the sidelines. We need everyone to do their part. So speak up. Speak out. Get engaged. Vote, vote, vote.
“And if we all do our duty — if we do our duty in 2022 and beyond, then ages still to come will say we — all of us here — we kept the faith. We preserved democracy. We heeded not our worst instincts but our better angels. And we proved that, for all its imperfections, America is still the beacon to the world, an ideal to be realized, a promise to be kept.”
It was, to my mind, the height of Presidential responsibility for Biden to step outside his conciliatory comfort zone and make this important speech.
Why, then, did the major networks fail to cover it? And why did CNN’s Jeff Zeleny and Brianna Keilar essentially dismiss it as a “political speech”–one that was marred by the presence of Marines? Many have pointed out in response all the occasions when Trump draped himself in the trappings of the military, when George W. Bush spoke from an aircraft carrier onto which he’d flown a fighter jet, and on and on. The criticism was ahistorical and unworthy of the occasion.
Are the Big Bucks decision-makers at these networks afraid of backlash from the Big Bucks MAGA supporters?
Granted, it’s hard to separate the political elements of a speech made by the President as the midterm elections approach from the overarching need for the President to use his bully pulpit when those midterms could, indeed, wreak havoc on our democracy.
I felt he maneuvered through that thicket extremely well. It was important for him to speak not only of the dangers the MAGA elements clearly pose (who knows how many of our enemies are now privy to our carefully guarded secrets due to that immoral, heinous former President?), but also to point out how much the Democrats have accomplished to make life better for Americans in so many ways.
Pointedly, the legislation he mentioned had all been achieved with Republican support.
What do you think? Were the networks justified in refusing to surrender their ad dollars for the twenty-seven minutes it took the President of the United States to address the nation?
And do you have views about the speech you’d like to share?