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President Biden frames the danger — and the midterms
The backdrop for President Joe Biden’s address tonight should serve as a stark reminder: Democracy is always precarious, and a more perfect union is always a work in progress.
Even before this nation’s founding, as delegates gathered in Philadelphia during the American Revolution and again to draft the Constitution, there was no guarantee that their labors would produce a viable nation, or an enduring one.
The United States that emerged was one of high ideals that were tragically unmatched by reality. Enfranchisement was severely limited, especially according to gender and race. And the great original sin of America, slavery, was written into law.
It is essential that we remember where we came from in order to make sense of the present and the fight for a better future.
We glorify the past and minimize the suffering that progress demanded at our peril. Many we now revere as American heroes understood that democracy could never be taken for granted and could always be improved.
They saw injustice and were not silent.
They saw challenges and were not daunted.
They saw a future and refused to give up on hope.
People like Lincoln, Dr. King, Eleanor Roosevelt, countless others of fame, and millions more who made change possible were not only idealists, they were organizers, strategists, and technicians. They could summon soaring rhetoric but always in the service of action.
From picket lines to battle lines, from the ballot box to the classroom, from the halls of government to the wards of a county hospital, the bonds of citizenship and the protections of our freedoms are forged in the courage and commitment of sustained engagement.
It mattered less what Biden said tonight than that he was saying something. We face a moment of inflection that threatens the continuation of our republic. As with destructive forces of the past, it is essential to name the threat. And Biden wanted to do just that. If there were a drinking game for every time Biden said, “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans,” we would be well past intoxicated.
This is a president who is eager to use the bully pulpit to define the political battleground. For all the high ideals that infused his words tonight, make no mistake: Biden had a laser focus on the midterm elections, just two months away. After a summer of racking up legislative victories, he has seen his poll numbers rise along with the prospects of Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.
To portray “MAGA Republicans” as instigators of violence, including against law enforcement, is to state the facts and recognize a grave threat to this nation. To call out the lies that are undermining the integrity of our election is to shine a spotlight on a rising tide of anti-democratic forces. To stand up in the face of conspiracy theories is to highlight the importance of the truth.
But these efforts are also about securing votes and putting political opponents on the defensive. Energy, President Biden is betting, is contagious. And he believes there is an energy in the nation now to rally for our democracy. He believes Democrats can peel off just enough Republicans and win over independents to give his agenda new life in the next Congress. We shall see. Many factors, including the economy and inflation (which seems to be improving), will play a role as well.
The midterm election season has now begun in earnest. It will take place amid a news cycle of a former president under investigation for serious crimes and a congressional inquiry into a violent insurrection. There is a bloody war in Europe and an unsettled economic picture. What happens in November will determine the future of this nation in profound ways that reach the very heart of our democracy. The stakes are that high, as Biden tried to make clear.
But another thing is also clear: He thinks that his party can win. And that running flat out and directly against MAGA Republicans — and for the “soul of the nation” — is a path to victory.
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