Sept. 1 (UPI) — President Joe Biden delivered a national prime-time address on Thursday night about preserving democracy and fighting for the “soul of the nation.”
Biden called on Americans to reject the ideology of former President Donald Trump and so-called “MAGA Republicans” who he said “are determined to take this country backward” in remarks from Philadelphia’s famous Independence Hall.
“I have come to this place where it all began to speak as plainly as I can to the nation about the threats we face, about the power we have in our own hands to meet these threats and about the incredible future that lies in front of us if only we choose it,” he said.
Biden unexpectedly mentioned Trump by name as he asserted that not all Republicans have embraced the “extreme ideology” of the former president’s followers but said “there’s no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans.”
“Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal. Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic,” he said.
Biden condemned the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the U.S. Capitol as he declared that “there is no place for political violence in America.”
“[MAGA Republicans] look at the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, brutally attacking law enforcement, not as insurrectionists who placed a dagger at the throat of our democracy but they look at them as patriots and they see their MAGA failure to stop a peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election as preparation for the 2022 and 2024 elections,” he said.
Biden focused on baseless claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election, spread by Trump and other Republicans as he said that “MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution, they do not believe in the rule of law, they do not recognize the will of the people, they refuse to accept the results of a free election.”
“Democracy cannot survive when one side believes there are only two outcomes to an election, either they win or they were cheated and that’s where the MAGA Republicans are today,” he said.
He also alluded to voting laws passed in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, stating that MAGA Republicans seek to “give power to decide elections in America to partisans and cronies, empowering election deniers to undermine democracy itself.”
“I will not stand by and watch … the will of the American people be overturned by wild conspiracy theories and baseless claims, evidence-free claims of fraud,” he said. “I will not stand by and watch elections in this country stolen by people who simply refuse to accept that they lost. I will not stand by and watch the most fundamental freedom in this country, the freedom to vote and have your vote counted … be taken from you and the American people.”
Biden further referenced the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade, saying that MAGA Republicans seek to take the country back 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.”
The president referred to “some of America’s darkest moments” as he acknowledged protesters that could be heard shouting “Let’s Go Brandon” over a bullhorn.
He added, however, that it is within the power of the American people “to stop the assault on American democracy.”
“I believe America is at an inflection point, one of those moments that determine the shape of everything that’s to come after. And now America must choose to move forward or move backward, to build a future obsessed about the past, to be a nation of hope and unity and optimism or nation of fear division and of darkness,” he said.
The visit to Pennsylvania was the president’s second in three days. On Tuesday he visited his hometown area of Wilkes-Barre to discuss and promote his crime prevention strategy, known as the Safer America Plan. That plan would invest more money in police, crime prevention and programs to address the opioid epidemic and ban of assault weapons.
During Thursday night’s speech, Biden touted his administration’s efforts to increase gun safety, expand healthcare and improve infrastructure.
“The cynics and the critics tell us nothing can get done but they’re wrong. There’s not a single thing America cannot do, not a single thing beyond our capacity if we do it together,” he said.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who was on a trip to the Scranton area in northeastern Pennsylvania, offered a pre-emptive rebuttal before Biden’s speech Thursday night in which he called on the president to apologize for remarks he made in Maryland last month in which he described the ideology of MAGA Republicans as “semi-fascism.”
“When the president speaks tonight at Independence Hall, the first lines out of his mouth should be to apologize for slandering tens of millions of Americans as ‘fascists,” McCarthy said.
He also criticized Biden for holding a speech with a focus on portions of the Republican Party.
“President Biden has chosen to divide, demean and disparage his fellow Americans — Why? Simply because they disagree with his policies,” McCarthy said. “That is not leadership.”
Speaking ahead of the 2022 midterms, McCarthy said Americans told him they believed that Biden’s policies had made their lives harder and said a Republican majority in Congress would be needed to counter the president’s agenda.
“What is clear to me and clear to you is that Washington and the White House aren’t listening. They just don’t get it,” he said. “Our best days are ahead of us not behind us. Our nation can flourish again and under a new historic Republican majority, it will.”