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Biden Warns That American Values Are Under Assault by Trump-Led Extremism

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PHILADELPHIA — President Biden traveled to Independence Hall on Thursday to warn that America’s democratic values are under assault by forces of extremism loyal to former President Donald J. Trump, using a prime-time address to define the midterm elections as a “battle for the soul of this nation.”

In a 24-minute speech, Mr. Biden blamed his predecessor for stoking a movement stuffed with election deniers and folks calling for political violence. He went out of his strategy to declare that not all Republicans embrace extremism, nonetheless, and he said that defending democracy would require rejecting Mr. Trump and his ideology in elections this fall.

“Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic,” Mr. Biden said, flanked by Marine guards.

“But there’s no doubt that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans,” he added. “And that could be a threat to this country.”

Talking to several hundred spectators seated in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the country’s political institutions were born, and just steps from the Liberty Bell, Mr. Biden made it clear that he believes the political violence and election denial espoused by the previous president and his allies have damaged America’s status abroad.

He cited the “extraordinary experiment of self-government” represented by the American Structure and the Declaration of Independence, saying that “history tells us a blind loyalty to a single leader and a willingness to interact in political violence is fatal to democracy.”

The president was interrupted by protesters who chanted “Let’s go Brandon,” a reference to a crude epithet aimed toward Mr. Biden that’s popular amongst Mr. Trump’s supporters. At one point, the president joked that “good manners is nothing they ever suffered from,” but he also defended their right to protest, saying “they’re entitled to be outrageous.”

Before Mr. Biden delivered his remarks, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the highest House Republican, said it was Democrats who were “dismantling Americans’ democracy before our very eyes.”

After the speech, Republicans said Mr. Biden was maligning the 74 million individuals who voted for Mr. Trump within the 2020 election.

“Joe Biden is the divider in chief and epitomizes the present state of the Democrat Party,” said Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. “One in every of divisiveness, disgust and hostility towards half the country.”

The stakes are high for Mr. Biden and his political advisers, who imagine they need to forged the midterms as an existential selection for voters between Mr. Biden’s agenda and a return to the extremism of “MAGA Republicans” who’ve enabled Mr. Trump’s ideology. Mr. Biden plunged into the cultural issues that his party believes could help galvanize Democratic voters.

However the president, a practicing Catholic, avoided a direct mention of abortion rights, a problem he has struggled with for many years.

“MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards,” Mr. Biden said. “Backwards to an America where there is no such thing as a right to decide on, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you like.”

The president delivered what amounted to 2 back-to-back speeches in an address that was carried live by cable channels but not the printed networks.

In a single, Mr. Biden painted a dark portrait of a democracy on the brink, threatened by violence and capable of survive provided that Americans “select a unique path.” In the opposite, he hailed his administration’s progress as evidence of a prosperous and free country roaring to latest heights where drugs are inexpensive, climate change is being confronted and the economy is growing rapidly.

The contrast was striking, but aides said Mr. Biden was determined to deliver each messages ahead of elections that can determine control of Congress, believing that only with a way of optimism will Americans be willing to fight back against extremism.

The deal with threats to democracy is a return to a problem that Mr. Biden said drove him to run for the presidency after white supremacists marched through Charlottesville, Va., in 2017. Since taking office, he has often said that america and its allies are engaged in a long-running struggle between “autocracy and democracy.”

The president had sought to avoid casting the conflict as a purely partisan one, aides said, and White House officials insisted that the address didn’t amount to a political event. But Mr. Biden directly called on Americans to go to the polls in November and reject Republican candidates who’ve signed on to the previous president’s brand of politics.

Mr. Biden said Americans weren’t powerless to stop extremism and didn’t need to act like “bystanders on this ongoing attack on democracy” by failing to vote.

“For a very long time, we’ve told ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed,” Mr. Biden said. “Nevertheless it’s not. We’ve to defend it. Protect it. Arise for it. Every one among us.”

How Times reporters cover politics.
We depend on our journalists to be independent observers. So while Times staff members may vote, they will not be allowed to endorse or campaign for candidates or political causes. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of a movement or giving money to, or raising money for, any political candidate or election cause.

“Vote! Vote! Vote,” he chanted at the tip.

Specifically, Mr. Biden condemned what he sees as a rise in politically violent rhetoric similar to the threats against federal agents within the wake of the F.B.I.’s seek for classified documents at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. Such threats, he said, risk undermining faith within the country’s law enforcement and don’t have any place in normal political discourse.

In Thursday’s speech, Mr. Biden was specific concerning the threats inside America’s borders, saying that his political rivals had formed a celebration of extremism, threatening the democratic traditions debated and adopted at Independence Hall almost 250 years ago.

Mr. Biden had been planning the speech since early this summer, in keeping with a Democratic official aware of the president’s considering. The official, who asked for anonymity to debate private conversations with Mr. Biden, said the president had been concerned that the forces that animated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol weren’t fading away.

Recently, nonetheless, the president grew more motivated to deliver it due to persistent false claims of election fraud as voters prepare to go to the polls within the midterms, a White House official said.

In several recent speeches, Mr. Biden has replaced his usual calls for unity with sharp condemnations of “MAGA extremists,” saying Republicans have embraced “semi-fascism.”

Mr. Biden’s combative message coincides with latest polling that implies his party’s fortunes — and his own popularity — have improved after several legislative accomplishments, a decline in gas prices and robust job growth that has given Democrats hope that they might retain control of Congress.

A poll published by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday found Democrats with a small lead over Republicans when voters were asked which party they preferred in their very own districts. Five months ago, Republicans held a bigger lead over Democrats in the identical survey.

The poll also found some improvement in Mr. Biden’s approval rating, which rose to 45 percent from 42 percent in March. That would mean Mr. Biden is less of a drag on his party’s candidates than some Democratic strategists had feared within the spring.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, once vowed that “100% of my focus” can be on stopping Mr. Biden from making progress on his Democratic agenda. Recently, the Senate’s longtime tactician has found himself on the losing end of the legislative ledger.

Mr. McConnell has did not block several of Mr. Biden’s high-profile bills, including a $1 trillion infrastructure package, a bill to enhance competition with China and an unlimited latest investment in efforts to fight climate change and negotiate drug prices.

That has been partially because Mr. McConnell needs to guard incumbent Republican senators from a suburban backlash against the kinds of utmost positions in parts of the Republican Party that Mr. Biden has been raising more ceaselessly in recent weeks.

The president and his allies still face a difficult task: retaining control of the House and the Senate at a time of high inflation and deep concerns amongst a majority of voters concerning the direction of the country under the leadership of Mr. Biden and Democrats in Congress. In The Journal’s survey, two-thirds of the registered voters who were polled said they believed the country’s economy was not good or poor.

But Mr. Biden’s political advisers imagine the warnings about political extremism and Mr. Trump are a very important a part of motivating Democrats, independents and moderate Republicans to return to the polls.

The trip on Thursday was Mr. Biden’s second to Pennsylvania this week, and he is anticipated to go to the state again on Labor Day. Pennsylvania, a swing state, will hold crucial races for the House and Senate in addition to a closely watched governor’s race.

During his first 12 months in office, Mr. Biden promised to bring a way of normalcy to the White House and largely ignored Mr. Trump. But the previous president is once more on the fore, with continuing investigations into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and an F.B.I. search last month of his residence in Florida for classified documents.

“I feel finally the party and the persons are waking as much as see now we have to carry these folks accountable,” said Quentin James, the president of Collective PAC, a company dedicated to electing African-American officials.

“It’s possible you’ll be paying a little bit more to your groceries, but the truth of what’s on the opposite side? It’s far more dire,” he said.

The speech comes at a moment of deep national divisions.

In accordance with an NBC News poll released last month, nearly three-quarters of Americans imagine the nation is heading within the unsuitable direction. The F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security have issued several warnings about how false claims regarding election fraud are motivating extremists attacks.

“We’re in a crisis on this country. There’s little doubt about it. Not only by way of the sanctity of the vote or trusting our votes can be counted,” said Allida Black, a historian on the University of Virginia who met privately with Mr. Biden last month to debate the state of democracy. “We appear to attack relatively than embrace responsibility and accountability.”

It will not be the primary time Mr. Biden has delivered a speech that will not be about policies or campaigns but relatively the morality of the country. He launched into a “soul of the nation” bus tour through the presidential campaign and committed to unifying America during his inauguration.

On Thursday night, Mr. Biden summed up his criticism of Mr. Trump and his followers.

“You may’t love your country only once you win,” he said. “It’s fundamental.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs reported from Philadelphia, and Michael D. Shear from Washington.

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