WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden on Friday set up the Presidential election later in the year as a battle to save democracy in the US and portrayed former President Donald Trump, who appears to have a lock on the Republican nomination, as the chief threat.
“Today we’re here to answer the most important of questions: Is democracy still America’s sacred cause?” Biden said in his first campaign speech of the year. “It’s what the 2024 election is all about.” He left no doubt who he thought posed the biggest threat to democracy.
“Trump is trying to steal history the same way he tried to steal the election,” he said. “We saw it with our own eyes. Trump’s mob wasn’t a peaceful protest. It was a violent assault. They were insurrectionists, not patriots…”
Biden was referring to the January 6, 2021 assault on the US Capitol, which is home to the US Congress, by hordes of Trump’s supporters to prevent lawmakers from certifying Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
The President’s speech came on the eve of the third anniversary of the deadliest attack on American democracy in US history and it was delivered from a community college in Pennsylvania state, which was 10 miles from Valley Forge National Historical Park, where George Washington mobilized troops during the Revolutionary War against the British some 250 years ago.
Biden mentioned Trump by name 44 times in a 30-minute speech, setting up the former President as his rival.
Some analysts have suggested that Biden actually relishes the prospect of running against Trump again. Despite his popularity among Republican voters, Trump is a profusely damaged candidate nationally — impeached twice, and charged with more than 90 counts of criminal offenses in four cases and counting. He has also been booted off the ballot in two states, Colorado and Maine.
Biden would rather run against Trump than some of his other Republican rivals such as Nikki Halley, the former governor of South Carolina and ambassador to the United Nations, a federal cabinet-rank position. She is beating Biden in head-to-hear matchups by a wider margin than Trump and Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor who is locked with Haley in a tussle for the No. 2 slot in the Republican primaries.
Addressing a rally in Iowa, where Republicans will hold the first of the primaries contests — called caucuses — in 10 days, Trump said Biden was portraying the Presidential election as a battle for democracy because he wants to divert attention from the failures of his administration and also accused the President of using the government to file cases against him, alleging he was the real threat to democracy. “They’ve weaponized the government, and he’s saying I’m a threat to democracy,” Trump said.
President Biden has struggled with low poll numbers for most of his presidency, first on account of the aftereffects of the Covid-19 epidemic and then because of runaway inflation which shot to a 40-year high in 2022. The messy withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has been a stain on his foreign policy report card, which now has two hot wars that are a drain on both US equity and treasury.
Biden’s aides and Democratic strategists have sought to downplay his poll numbers relative to his Republican rivals arguing that Americans are not really focussed on the November 2024 elections so far out and the gap will close once voters get to see Biden in contrast to his rivals in head-to-head matchup of their accomplishments. And that starts later Friday with Biden portraying Trump as a threat to democracy. — (IANS)