Biden Speaks to a Nation Divided

President Biden called on Americans “to stop the assault on American democracy” on Thursday. | Image by Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Joe Biden delivered a speech to the nation Thursday evening in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The speech continued the recent theme of condemning political opponents he has previously classified as promoting a form of “semi-fascism.”

“As I stand here tonight, equality and democracy are under assault,” Biden stated. “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.”

While he did clarify, “Not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans,” he went on to claim, “there is no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump.”

After calling Trump and some of the former president’s supporters a “clear and present danger to our democracy,” Biden continued, “We are not powerless in the face of these threats. We are not bystanders.”

He pivoted to pay homage to the ideas of the Founding Fathers, stating, “American democracy only works only if we choose to respect the rule of law and the institutions that were set up in this chamber behind me, only if we respect our legitimate political differences.”

“I will not stand by and watch … the will of the American people be overturned by wild conspiracy theories and baseless, evidence-free claims of fraud,” Biden promised.

Responses to the speech varied dramatically, but many of the president’s supporters lauded it.

MSNBC analyst Matthew Miller remarked, “This is a good speech, and one it’s still hard to believe an American president has to give.”

Jon Cooper, a former campaign chair for former President Barack Obama, tweeted, “The Pathetic whining by MAGA fascists who are furious about President Biden’s speech defending American democracy and the rule of law just goes to show how GREAT it was. More of this please!”

Others, however, considered the speech to be unnecessarily contentious and untrue.

Ben Shapiro, founder of the media company Daily Wire, tweeted, “That was the most demagogic, outrageous, and divisive speech I have ever seen from an American president. Joe Biden essentially declared all those who oppose him and his agenda enemies of the republic. Truly shameful.”

Another point of contention was the optics of the speech.

Independence Hall was bathed in dark-red light behind Biden, and Marines flanked the podium in dress uniform. While the wings of the building were lit with a dark blue hue, most of the coverage during the speech tightly framed Biden so that the entire background was lit red.

Business owner Dave Portnoy, who recently denounced the overturning of Roe v. Wade as “pure insanity,” tweeted in reaction to the scene, “Seriously who gives a speech warning people about how dangerous Republicans are to Democracy while having a background that looks like the Soviet Union and Hitler had a baby?”

Marine Corps veteran and Lieutenant Governor of Virginia Winsome Sears denounced Biden’s presentation, tweeting, “Why were U.S. Marines used as a POLITICAL backdrop, by the Commander-in-Chief, during a disunity speech? Everyone should be concerned.”

Several left-of-center observers also expressed discomfort with the optics of the speech.

CNN host Brianna Keilar suggested, “Whatever you think of this speech, the military is supposed to be apolitical. Positioning Marines in uniform behind President Biden for a political speech flies in the face of that. It’s wrong when Democrats do it. It’s wrong when Republicans do it.”

Many presidents have delivered speeches with Marines or various other service members in the background.

Former President Trump, for instance, similarly suffered blowback for having active-duty military in the background of some of his speeches.

This speech comes as Biden adopts more forceful rhetoric against his political opponents.

At a speech last week, Biden addressed Americans who believe the Second Amendment was adopted to hedge against a tyrannical government, declaring, “For those brave right-wing Americans who say it’s all about keeping America independent and safe, if you want to fight against the [United States], you need an F-15 (fighter jet). You need something more than a gun.”

It is unclear if such language will become more frequent as the midterm elections draw closer.

Left-of-center political analyst Eugene Robinson described the speech as an “urgent wartime address,” highlighting the shift in strategy by the administration.

Fears of potential political violence have increased in the nation. A recent survey suggested that just over half of Americans believe that “in the next few years, there will be a civil war in the United States,” as reported by The Dallas Express.

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