Last night, President Biden gave a televised speech about the right-wing attack on democracy. But he didn’t express the obvious truth that most Republican politicians are in on it. Maybe he actually believes it’s just those extreme MAGA Republicans we have to worry about, not the average ones who are lukewarm on democracy and the rule of law. Anyway, here’s most of what he said:
Just a few days ago, a little before 2:30 a.m. in the morning, a man smashed the back windows and broke into the home of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the third-highest-ranking official in America. He carried in his backpack zip ties, duct tape, rope and a hammer.
As he told the police, he had come looking for Nancy Pelosi to take her hostage, to interrogate her, to threaten to break her kneecaps. But she wasn’t there. Her husband … was home alone. The assailant tried to take Paul hostage….
The assailant entered the home asking: “Where’s Nancy? Where’s Nancy?” Those are the very same words used by the mob when they stormed the United States Capitol on January 6th, when they broke windows, kicked in the doors, brutally attacked law enforcement, roamed the corridors hunting for officials and erected gallows….
It was an enraged mob that had been whipped up into a frenzy by a president repeating over and over again the Big Lie, that the election of 2020 had been stolen. It’s a lie that’s fueled the dangerous rise in political violence and voter intimidation over the past two years.
Even before January 6th, we saw election officials and election workers in a number of states subjected to menacing calls, physical threats, even threats to their lives….
This intimidation, this violence against Democrats, Republicans and nonpartisan officials just doing their jobs, are the consequence of lies told for power and profit, lies of conspiracy and malice, lies repeated over and over to generate a cycle of anger, hate, vitriol and even violence.
In this moment, we have to confront those lies with the truth. The very future of our nation depends on it. My fellow Americans, we’re facing a defining moment, an inflection point. We must with one overwhelming unified voice speak as a country and say there’s no place, no place for voter intimidation or political violence in America. Whether it’s directed at Democrats or Republicans. No place, period. No place ever.
I speak today near Capitol Hill, near the U.S. Capitol, the citadel of our democracy. I know there’s a lot at stake in these midterm elections, from our economy, to the safety of our streets, to our personal freedoms, to the future of health care and Social Security, Medicare. It’s all important. But we’ll have our differences, we’ll have our difference of opinion. And that’s what it’s supposed to be.
But there’s something else at stake, democracy itself. I’m not the only one who sees it. Recent polls have shown an overwhelming majority of Americans believe our democracy is at risk, that our democracy is under threat. They too see that democracy is on the ballot this year, and they’re deeply concerned about it. [Note: The president failed to point out that Democrats are worried about a real threat to democracy, while Republicans are worried about an imaginary one premised on the Big Lie. Voting by mail? Truckloads of counterfeit ballots?]
So today, I appeal to all Americans, regardless of party, to meet this moment of national and generational importance. We must vote knowing what’s at stake and not just the policy of the moment. Institutions that have held us together as we’ve sought a more perfect union are also at stake. We must vote knowing who we have been, what we’re at risk of becoming.
Look, my fellow Americans, the old expression, “Freedom is not free,” it requires constant vigilance. From the very beginning, nothing has been guaranteed about democracy in America. Every generation has had to defend it, protect it, preserve it, choose it. For that’s what democracy is. It’s a choice, a decision of the people, by the people and for the people. The issue couldn’t be clearer, in my view.
We the people must decide whether we will have fair and free elections, and every vote counts. We the people must decide whether we’re going to sustain a republic, where reality’s accepted, the law is obeyed and your vote is truly sacred.
We the people must decide whether the rule of law will prevail or whether we will allow the dark forces and thirst for power put ahead of the principles that have long guided us.
You know, American democracy is under attack because the defeated former president of the United States refused to accept the results of the 2020 election. If he refuses to accept the will of the people, if he refuses to accept the fact that he lost, he’s abused his power and put the loyalty to himself before loyalty to the Constitution. And he’s made a big lie an article of faith in the MAGA Republican Party, the minority of that party [Unfortunately, recent polls say up to 60% of Republicans accept the lie.]
The great irony about the 2020 election is that it’s the most attacked election in our history. And, yet, there’s no election in our history that we can be more certain of its results. Every legal challenge that could have been brought was brought. Every recount that could have been undertaken was undertaken. Every recount confirmed the results. Wherever fact or evidence had been demanded, the Big Lie has been proven to be just that, a big lie. Every single time.
Yet now extreme MAGA Republicans aim to question not only the legitimacy of past elections, but elections being held now and into the future. The extreme MAGA element of the Republican Party [is] its driving force. It’s trying to succeed where they failed in 2020, to suppress the right of voters and subvert the electoral system itself. That means denying your right to vote and deciding whether your vote even counts.
Instead of waiting until an election is over, they’re starting well before it. They’re starting now. They’ve emboldened violence and intimidation of voters and election officials. It’s estimated that there are more than 300 election deniers on the ballot all across America this year. We can’t ignore the impact this is having on our country. It’s damaging, it’s corrosive and it’s destructive.
And I want to be very clear, this is not about me, it’s about all of us…. It’s about the durability of our democracy. For democracies are more than a form of government. They’re a way of being, a way of seeing the world, a way that defines who we are, what we believe, why we do what we do. Democracy is simply that fundamental.
We must, in this moment, dig deep within ourselves and recognize that we can’t take democracy for granted any longer. With democracy on the ballot, we have to remember these first principles. Democracy means the rule of the people, not the rule of monarchs or the moneyed, but the rule of the people.
Autocracy is the opposite of democracy. It means the rule of one, one person, one interest, one ideology, one party. To state the obvious, the lives of billions of people, from antiquity till now, have been shaped by the battle between these competing forces, between the aspirations of the many and the greed and power of the few, between the people’s right for self-determination, and the self-seeking autocrat, between the dreams of a democracy and the appetites of an autocracy.
What we’re doing now is going to determine whether democracy will long endure and, in my view, it is the biggest of questions, whether the American system that prizes the individual bends toward justice and depends on the rule of law, whether that system will prevail. This is the struggle we’re now in….
There’s been anger before in America. There’s been division before in America. But we’ve never given up on the American experiment. And we can’t do that now.… We have to face this problem. We can’t turn away from it. We can’t pretend it’s just going to solve itself.
There’s an alarming rise in the number of our people in this country condoning political violence, or simply remaining silent, because silence is complicity. To the disturbing rise of voter intimidation, the pernicious tendency to excuse political violence or at least, at least trying to explain it away. We can’t allow this sentiment to grow. We must confront it head on now. It has to stop now….
Look, even as I speak here tonight, 27 million people have already cast their ballot in the midterm elections. Millions more will cast their ballots in the final days leading up to November the 9th — 8th, excuse me…. Once again we’re seeing record turnout all over the country. And that’s good. We want Americans to vote. We want every American’s voice to be heard. Now we have to move the process forward. We know that more and more ballots are cast in early voting or by mail in America. We know that many states don’t start counting those ballots till after the polls close on Nov. 8.
That means in some cases we won’t know the winner of the election for a few days — until a few days after the election. It takes time to count all legitimate ballots in a legal and orderly manner. It’s always been important for citizens in the democracy to be informed and engaged. Now it’s important for a citizen to be patient as well. That’s how this is supposed to work.
This is the first election since the events of January 6th, 2021….I wish I could say the assault on our democracy ended that day, but I cannot.
As I stand here today, there are candidates running for every level of office in America — for governor, Congress, attorney general, secretary of state — who won’t commit, that will not commit to accepting the results of the election that they’re running in. This is a path to chaos in America. It’s unprecedented. It’s unlawful, and it’s un-American.
… So I ask you to think long and hard about the moment we’re in. In a typical year, we’re not faced with questions of whether the vote we cast will preserve democracy or put us at risk. But this year we are. This year I hope you’ll make the future of our democracy an important part of your decision to vote and how you vote….You have the power, it’s your choice, it’s your decision, the fate of the nation, the fate of the soul of America lies where it always does, with the people, in your hands, in your heart, in your ballot….