Washington: US President Joe Biden has put democracy at the centre of his election campaign for the midterms and stressed that he is not vilifying Republicans by calling his predecessor Donald Trump and his supporters “extremists and a threat to democracy”.
He dismissed such criticisms on Monday in an apparent reference to some Republicans and some Democrats accusing him of fuelling divisions for likening Trump’s Make America Great Again – MAGA movement to “semi-fascism.”
“I want to be very clear upfront. Not every Republican is a MAGA-Republican. Not every Republican embraces that extreme ideology. I know because I’ve been able to work with mainstream Republicans my whole career,” Biden said in a Labor Day speech in Milwaukee that forms part of his election tour of his birthplace, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin ahead of the November midterms for the House of Representatives.
“But the extreme-minded Republicans in Congress have chosen to go backwards, full of anger, violence, hate and division, but together we can and we must choose a different path.”
Biden said that the US had been able to overcome challenges, because it has been a “nation of unity, of hope, of optimism, not a nation of division and violence and hatred that is being preached by some others”, USA Today reported.
Meanwhile the New York Times took another approach saying President Biden is making a drive to buttress democracy at home and abroad as more urgent as Russia wages war in Ukraine, China expands its power and former President Donald Trump and his Republican supporters attack American democratic norms and fair elections.
It likened his Philadelphia speech on “threat to democracy” in the US and elsewhere as a pressing issue for American citizens now engaged in “a battle for the soul of this nation”. Even as he hammered home that message ahead of the US midterm elections, the Times observed that Biden’s efforts to bolster democracy abroad are about to come into sharper focus. The White House is expected to announce a second multinational Summit for Democracy. And the National Security Strategy, which could be released this month, will highlight reinforcement of democracies as a policy priority, officials say.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s assurance to the Democratic Republic of Congo that the US would help the country with “preparations for next year’s free, fair and on-time elections” is an emphasis on the sanctity of elections that echoes Biden’s defence of the 2020 US presidential election against Trump’s persistent attempts to undermine its results.
The Times says Biden pursuing parallel policies to strengthen democracy at home and abroad allows him the leverage to focus on a single central message, while his aides shape the identity of the Democratic Party around it.
Biden, in his prime-time address in Philadelphia, warned that equality and democracy were “under assault” in the US and singled out Trump accusing him and his supporters of stoking political violence with their refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election. “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” he had said.
Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a Republican who served as UN Ambassador under Trump, was critical of Biden’s speech. “He’s done nothing to unite the nation. Nothing to bring healing. Nothing to alleviate the pain millions of Americans feel every day. He’s been a divider in chief and come November he must hear from all of us,” she said.
Senator Maggie Hassan, D-NH, said after Biden’s semi-fascism comment, that while she has concerns about political violence, “I think President Biden’s comments just painted with way too broad a brush”.
In his Monday remarks in Wisconsin, Biden referred to some Republicans in Congress as “Trumpies” and said they would pursue policies that would undermine the social safety net.
“But here’s the point: The biggest contrast from what MAGA Republicans – the extreme right, the – the ‘Trumpies’ – they want to go to – these MAGA Republicans in Congress are coming for your Social Security as well.”
Biden’s remarks at Laborfest – an event organised each year by the Milwaukee Area Labor Council and the AFL-CIO – came shortly after a judge approved Trump’s request to appoint a special master to review documents taken from his Florida home by the Department of Justice.
The president did not comment on the court ruling during his remarks. But, he did invoke Trump and his supporters visit to a United Steelworkers of America chapter in the the Pittsburgh-area later in the day, saying that democracy is on the line in America and the country faces a choice in the midterm election. “Trump and the MAGA Republicans made their choice,” Biden said.
Although Wisconsin was his first stop on Monday, there has been no place like home for Biden when it comes to the Pennsylvania-born politician’s midterm election travel. The battleground state that Biden barely won has emerged as a focal point for the President, whose Labor Day trip to the Pittsburgh area marks the third time in one week he has made Pennsylvania the backdrop for campaign-style events.
Competitive gubernatorial, House and Senate races and the pivotal presidential election states have been a draw for Biden, as summer season closes and nation focuses on the fall elections, USA Today said.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers spoke at the Biden event in Milwaukee, a county that Biden won soundly in 2020. Evers is seeking reelection and will face off against businessman Tim Michels in the general election. Labour has been a major base of support for Biden, and the AFL-CIO says it will be boosting his agenda to workers this fall.
Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio are among the nine states in which AFL-CIO says it is mobilising voters in the coming months with an eye on 2024 and future elections. All three states have gubernatorial and Senate races on the ballot this year. Vice President Kamala Harris, who has been seeking to grow support from within the labor movement, also spent her Monday at events in the northeast.