With his poll count plummeting and Covid cases on the rise, President Joe Biden has started the New Year desperately looking for a new narrative.
On Thursday, Donald Trump’s “bruised ego” may have reached out to him.
In a forceful speech described as his most powerful since taking office, Biden blamed the horrors of the Jan.6 Capitol attack on Trump, describing him as a sore loser whose failure to embrace the truth about his life. defeat has only deepened the chasm politics that divides Americans.
“The former President of the United States of America created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He did it because he values power over principle, because he considers his own best interests. as more important than that of his country, than that of America. interest, “Biden said of Trump.” And because his bruised ego means more to him than our democracy or our Constitution, he cannot accept to have lost. “
It was a rare moment during Biden’s presidency when he pulled out his coat of unity and blamed Trump for the violent upheaval directly.
Biden made sure to state the obvious and plainly: “He’s not just the former president. He’s a defeated former president.”
Biden’s decision to speak so clearly has encouraged many of his supporters.
“This is something that will be welcomed by almost all Democrats,” said Simon Rosenberg, a longtime Democrat. president of the NDN, a Washington-based center-left think tank.
Rosenberg was among those who urged the White House for months to step up its rhetoric on the lingering threats to democracy.
“The radicalization of the GOP is something we can no longer ignore,” he said.
Greg Schultz, Biden’s former campaign manager, said his phone turned on at the end of the speech with texts like “This is the Biden I supported” and “Literally the best speech he ever spoke to. has been saying for years “.
“This is when Biden is most powerful,” Schultz said in an interview, citing Biden’s fear of eroding democracy as the driving force behind his run for the White House. He said Biden finally got personal with Trump on Thursday because there was no way he couldn’t.
“This is one of the times when you have no choice. Clearly January 6 wouldn’t have happened without Trump,” Schultz said. “This is a time when you cannot suppress the instigator, for the event was so blatant to the republic.”
Capitalizing on his party’s outrage against “the former president” has offered respite, however brief, grim and relentless reminders of the record number of Covid cases, school closures and rising prices at home. consumption. Some Democrats saw the move as a vital use of the president’s intimidating chair, given the looming midterm elections, which could mean endless and baseless challenges to election results and even the threat of violence. .
The year a mob of his supporters assaulted the Capitol to disrupt the electoral vote count formalizing Biden’s victory, Trump repeatedly reiterated his insistence that the election was stolen. He strengthened his power over Republicans as parts of the party split into more radicalized factions.
“The president made it clear today that defending democracy is going to be at the heart of his agenda in 2022,” Rosenberg said. “He’s always been there, and the main reason he ran for president. But in 2021, other vital priorities crowded out the president’s democratic agenda.”
He said Biden’s remarks made it clear that the battle between democracy and autocracy is now “final for the Biden presidency.”
This is the case for the Democrats of Wisconsin, where the seat of Republican Senator Ron Johnson and the critical governor’s seat will be up for grabs halfway through and the Republican-controlled legislature has not hesitated to show force to question its electoral systems.
“I am personally very terrified of what they are doing in Wisconsin, the national implications and the safeguards that could be removed,” said Irene Lin, campaign manager for Tom Nelson, who is running for the Democratic primary. for the Senate. “Voters need to be reminded not to be complacent.”
A GOP legislature and Democratic governor have meant endless battles – in and out of court – over election results and the state’s electoral process.
Nelson’s campaign used the anniversary of the riot to ask the House committee investigating the attack to subpoena the “telephone and text recordings, newspapers and schedules, email recordings and any other record relevant to its work to undermine the peaceful transfer of power. “
“Senator Johnson was singular as the most vocal and prominent lawmaker promoting dangerous false truths about the 2020 election in the days leading up to the attack,” Nelson’s letter reads. “His role has at times been overlooked due to the attention given to other Senators like Josh Hawley.
The feasibility of the request remains uncertain. Jan. 6 committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Recently said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that there was “no reluctance” on the part of the House panel to subpoena to appear from members of Congress, but that questions remained open on whether the panel had the power.
Other Democrats in the running have pointed to the threat of democracy. One of them, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, cited the attack on the Capitol this week as he presented a policy proposal that would expand voting rights and end both filibustering systematic in the Senate and in gerrymandering.
Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes made a similar proposal last month. And State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski posted a digital ad who pasted violent footage of the Jan.6 attacks on Johnson’s remarks on television defending those who were on Capitol Hill that day.
Johnson’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
In 2018, while still considering a presidential candidacy, Biden read “How democracies die, “and in conversations, he tried to sound the alarm bells about the potential proliferation of events like violence at the White Nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.
“I’ve heard people talk about this book a hundred times,” Schultz said. Biden would tell others that democracy’s death comes after an erosion of democratic principles over time, which he saw as a threat under Trump. “He would never have run for president if he thought our democracy and our republic were safe,” Schultz said.
Biden’s campaign mantra centered on reclaiming “America’s soul,” a theme Schultz, along with Biden’s top adviser Mike Donilon, helped develop – and one Biden was resurrected on Thursday.
Once in power, however, Biden saw his role as that of chief healer and worked to turn the heat down, often citing the need for “unity” and bipartisanship, even as GOP factions grew bolder in the process. their refusal. to accept the results of the 2020 elections.
In remarks to reporters after his remarks, Biden was asked if blaming Trump had further politicized the day.
“No look, the way you got to heal, you got to recognize the extent of the hurt. You can’t pretend,” Biden said. “I might as well not face it. You have to face it. That’s what great nations do. They face the truth, face it and move on.”
Biden deliberately avoided tying the right to vote to his remarks, as some had hoped.
The move was intended to keep the focus on the depth and gravity of the Jan.6 attacks, a White House adviser said. But amid a reinvigorated push by Senate Democrats for federal election legislation, including New York’s Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the White House said Biden would deliver a speech on voting rights in Atlanta on Tuesday.
The significance is hard to miss, given Georgia’s pivotal role in sealing Trump’s 2020 defeat and its significance in the battle for voting rights. Before Biden, a Democrat hadn’t won the state in a presidential contest for 30 years.