After weeks of reassuring talk about America’s economy and inflation, President Joe Biden turned Wednesday night to a darker, more urgent message, warning in the final days ahead of midterm election voting that democracy itself is under threat from former President Donald Trump’s election-denying lies and the violence he said they inspire.
Pointing in particular to the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, he said that Trump’s false claims about a stolen election have “fueled the dangerous rise of political violence and voter intimidation over the past two years.”
Six days before the elections, Biden said, “As I stand here today, there are candidates running for every level of office in America, for governor, for Congress, for attorney general, for secretary of state, who won’t commit to accepting the results of the elections they’re in.”
“That is the path to chaos in America,” he said. “It’s unprecedented. It’s unlawful. And, it is un-American.”
The president, who has been focused on drawing an economic contrast between Democrats and the GOP, spotlighted “ultra-MAGA” Republicans — a reference to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan — calling them a minority but the “driving force” of the Republican Party.
Pointing to mounting concerns over political violence as well as threats of America’s long tradition of hard-fought but peaceful and accurate elections, he said these Republicans are “trying to succeed where they failed in 2020 to suppress the rights of voters and subvert the electoral system itself.”
The speech came days after a man seeking to kidnap Pelosi severely injured her husband, Paul Pelosi, in their San Francisco home and as physical threats have rattled members of Congress and election workers.
“There’s an alarming rise in the number of people in this country condoning political violence or simply remaining silent,” Biden said. “The silence is complicity.”
Emphasizing that it will be the first federal election since the January 6, 2021, insurrection and Trump’s attempts to overturn the will of voters in the 2020 presidential election, Biden called on voters to reject candidates who have denied the results of the vote, which even Trump’s administration declared to be free of any widespread fraud or interference.
Biden asked voters to “think long and hard about the moment we are in.”
“In a typical year, we are not often faced with the question of whether the vote we cast will preserve democracy or put it at risk,” he said. “But we are this year.”
Biden delivered his remarks from Washington’s Union Station, blocks from the U.S. Capitol, as more than 27 million Americans have already cast their ballots.
Before Biden’s speech, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said he’d reviewed the attack on Pelosi’s husband and believed today’s political climate called for more resources and better security for members of Congress, after a massive increase in threats to lawmakers following January 6. He also made a rare call to stop the rancorous conspiracy talk that has swirled around the attack.
“Our brave men and women are working around the clock to meet this urgent mission during this divisive time,” he said in a statement. “In the meantime, a significant change that will have an immediate impact will be for people across our country to lower the temperature on political rhetoric before it’s too late.”