President Joe Biden is finding it’s easier to call out attacks on democracy than it is to stop them.
His fundamental rationale for running for President was that America’s democratic traditions were in jeopardy. Now, 20 months into his presidency, the dangers are worse, Biden’s warnings are more dire — and the limits of his own ability to fix the problem are clearer.
Former President Donald Trump continues to stoke the baseless claim the 2020 election was stolen, and even now advocates for the results in certain battleground states to be decertified even though the falsehood has been rejected by dozens of courts and his own attorney general. The belief has taken deep root in the Republican Party, with dozens of candidates insisting Trump was right.
Never in the country’s history have elections taken place in a climate where one party has so frontally questioned the integrity of the electoral process and actively sought to undermine confidence in it.
“We’re in an unprecedented situation here, because Biden’s predecessor has shown a flagrant disregard for the Constitution of the United States, and now others are following that path,” said Princeton historian Sean Wilentz, who was among a group invited to the White House recently to put today’s challenges in historical context. “It could be dangerous.”
Biden has found, even with the megaphone of the White House, how difficult it is to counter the Trump-inspired narrative and the millions of Americans who believe it. Trump allies have been going around the country peddling lies about the 2020 election and conspiracy theories about voting machines, while Republican candidates running for office this year have repeated his lies to their supporters –- messaging that has reached a broad audience.
Every U.S. President swears to “preserve, protect and defend” the U.S. Constitution, but even in ordinary times there is no playbook for safeguarding it. Biden took that oath as the nation was facing challenges unmatched since perhaps the U.S. Civil War, in the view of some historians.
In a speech earlier this month at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, Biden described democracy as “under assault” and pledged that it was the work of his presidency to defend it. But he also said the solution had to be bigger than him, that he can’t turn back what he sees as a years-long backslide in American political norms on his own.
“For a long time, we’ve told ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed. But it’s not,” he said. “We have to defend it, protect it, stand up for it – each and every one of us.”
Has Biden himself done enough?
His efforts at persuasion don’t seem to have produced any significant shift in public opinion. His push for voting rights legislation in Congress has for the most part fallen short.
Beyond the President’s increasingly drastic warnings, White House officials point to the administration’s efforts to push voting rights safeguards through Congress and to their support for the Electoral Count Act, which would patch ambiguities exploited by Trump and his allies.
The Department of Justice is prosecuting those who violently stormed the Capitol. More than 870 people have been charged and more than 400 convicted.
The administration also has sounded the alarm about domestic extremist groups. There’s an increasing overlap with politically-fueled violence, as a growing number of ardent Trump supporters seem ready to strike back against the FBI or others they consider going too far in investigating the former President. And the National Security Council has developed a whole-of-government strategy to counter domestic violent extremism, which U.S. intelligence officials have called the top threat to homeland security.
While voters ranked threats to democracy as the most important issue ahead of the midterm elections, according to an NBC News poll late last month, the conspiracy theories pushed by Trump and his allies have succeeded in sowing doubts about the integrity of U.S. elections in a large swath of the population.
Two-thirds of Republicans believe Biden wasn’t legitimately elected President, according to an AP-NORC poll. They believe that votes were switched, or voting machines were corrupted en masse, or that fake ballots were cast in favor of Biden because pandemic-era policies made voting too easy.
Trump-backed candidates are winning primaries and some will make it to Congress. In the states, nearly one in three Republican candidates for offices that play a role in overseeing, certifying or defending elections supported overturning the results of the 2020 presidential race.
Candidates have signaled a new willingness to simply refuse to accept the results of their election if they lose. And election workers across the country are getting death threats and are harassed online, pushing many to just resign.
“We are very clearly playing with fire with some of the new tactics, allowing them to proliferate around the country,” said Matthew Weil, the executive director of our Democracy Program at the Bipartisan Policy Center think tank. “It’s: ‘If my candidate loses, I’m going to drag it out as long as possible. I can cut the legs out from the person who beat me from taking office.’ That’s a new feature and it’s pretty dangerous. We can’t have an election system where people aren’t willing to lose.”
Checking the antidemocratic forces within Trumpism is not just a policy aim, it’s a political endeavor as well, and that clouds the picture.
Biden aides say his best tool to try to preserve democracy is his use of the bully pulpit to make clear to voters that they play a vital role in participating in the electoral process and deciding whom to put into positions of influence.
He isn’t the only one sounding the alarm. The special congressional committee investigating the 2021 Capitol insurrection has delivered the same message, as have election officials in states across the country, historians and other lawmakers.
Administration allies say Biden’s efforts have resonated with voters, particularly as Trump’s behavior in late 2020 and early 2021 has been cast into stark relief by the Jan. 6 committee.
But the President’s remarks have largely been dismissed by Republicans unwilling to break with Trump.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump supporters threatened to hang on Jan. 6 and who hid in a secure location beneath the building as the masses hunted him in the halls, decried Biden’s comments after the Philadelphia speech.
“Never before in the history of our nation has a President stood before the American people and accused millions of his own countrymen of being a ‘threat to this country,’” Pence said in remarks to conservatives.
Former U.N. ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called Biden “the most condescending President of my lifetime.”
The struggle the nation is facing goes beyond political parties, though. And “unless and until enough people fight for, protect and build our democracy, the fever we see today will continue,” said Melody Barnes, head of the University of Virginia Karsh Institute of Democracy.
The closest parallel, historians say, has been the Civil War era, when war broke out after Southern states wouldn’t recognize Abraham Lincoln had been elected President. Following the end of fighting, there was a continued refusal to accept the rule of law during Reconstruction, as deep racism and violence proliferated, resulting eventually in the Jim Crow era.
At critical moments, U.S. leaders have taken a stand to protect the nation from itself. George Washington left office to ensure future leaders would willingly walk away, too. Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon after Watergate — a wildly unpopular move in 1974 but one that has since been viewed more as an effort to push the country past a national nightmare.
Biden, at a summit this past week on countering hate-fueled violence, talked about how good he felt years ago when he worked successfully with Republicans in the Senate to get the Voting Rights Act extended. “And I thought, well, you know, hate can be defeated,” he said.
“But it only hides,” he said with a sigh. “And when given any oxygen, it comes out from under the rocks.”
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.
Don’t look up
September 18, 2022 at 4:03 pm
VOTING ALL REPUBLICANS OUT OF OFFICE IS A START.
September 18, 2022 at 4:28 pm
Yes you Democrats have done such a great job since Jan 2021. We now have record high inflation, fuel prices, 6% mortgage rates, out of control city crime, the defund movement, Russia invasion on Ukraine, cashless bail goofball Democrat DA’’s. How about complete and total chaos at what use to be our Southern Border. I think most of us have had enough of your party’s incompetence.
Don't Look Up
September 18, 2022 at 4:34 pm
And Republicans can’t fix inflation, fuel prices, mortgage rates, Russian invasion, or the southern border that they have repeatedly voted against legislation that would severely limit border crossings. See 2017 Lindsey Graham’s Bipartisan immigration bill THAT REPUBLICANS REFUSED TO VOTE ON.
PS There is no defund movement. You have a good imagination however.
September 18, 2022 at 4:37 pm
How soon you forget what the economy was under the previous administration. With regards to the defund movement, why is it cities such as New Orleans, Chicago, NYC and on can’t recruit cops? Again you are ignoring Democrat policies that chased these fine people off.
September 18, 2022 at 5:00 pm
The greatest job loss since the Great Depression, empty store shelves, refrigerated trucks holding corpses too numerous for the morgues, basic closure of the economy all because Donald Dimwit’s deer in the headlights approach to covid, denial, slow down the testing, making it all political because Fox told him it was a hoax, got us there, states left to compete with each other for supplies and ventilators.
Now prior to covid, things were going good, tacked onto 7 years of the Obama recovery (opposed by every Republican in congress). You can’t pick and choose certain points in Trump’s term, take it all, don’t leave out the tariffs that backfired, the wall that Mexico never paid for, the constant nonsense from a pathological liar.
Don’t Look Up
September 18, 2022 at 6:59 pm
There are police shortages EVERYWHERE including right here in Florida. The shortages HAVE NOTHING TO DO with the ‘fake non-existent defund” nonsense. Police are quitting because Republicans have put too many guns on the street. Wake up.
September 18, 2022 at 7:29 pm
You are telling me the defund movement is bogus? Exhibit A: West Hollywood, CA. What happened to,the police force out there? The Democrat run City Council got rid of the armed police force and now has 30 unarmed ambassadors. That’s just one example. You wonder why so many police departments are endorsing Republican candidates. They live it, you spin it.
September 18, 2022 at 5:16 pm
Because your idea of “bipartisan” is 1 Republican senator. That’s not bipartisan.
And your idea of a solution to immigration is open borders, amnesty for all, and no serious investment in border security. No increase in border patrol funding. You idiots want to hire 87,000 more IRS agents but then complain about the budget when Trump wanted more border patrol agents.
Don’t Look Up
September 18, 2022 at 7:01 pm
Get your head out of Breitbart and grow up. Your insipid post is a complete lie.
September 18, 2022 at 4:55 pm
Other than taking away retirees’ Social Security and Medicare, and another tax cut for the rich and corporations, what are Republicans’ plans to stop inflation?
September 18, 2022 at 4:58 pm
More BS from MaryLou. Do you really believe the Republicans would take away Medicare and Social Security? That would be political suicide. Not even Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are that dumb.
September 18, 2022 at 5:06 pm
About 30 years ago I would have agreed with you. A Democratic scare tactic to rile up senior voters. Then your hero Newt Gingrinch said it out loud. “Wither on the vine.”
Then George W. got talked into trying to privatize it, allowing folks to invest in the stock market (another way to shovel money to corporations and the wealthy), and recently Rick Scott has again brought it up.
You fail to understand your party, the concept of “starve the beast” to drastically reduce the size of government.
Privatization reflects the start of it, whether prisons or schools or the post office. Don’t be ashamed, it’s what your party wants. Be honest about it.
And BTW, you along with southern Democrats opposed the creation of both programs at the time. Those southern Dems still alive are the backbone of the GOP.
September 18, 2022 at 5:32 pm
Sorry Ocean. The Repubs aren’t coming for your medical and social security. This is one way you flip Florida overnight from Red to Blue. Not happening n
September 18, 2022 at 5:04 pm
👆 Make America great again by killing this lying neo nazi asshole
September 18, 2022 at 5:33 pm
Someone needs to wash your foul mouth out with soap and water.
September 19, 2022 at 6:49 am
A start of something that could get bloody
September 18, 2022 at 5:51 pm
When Florida turns blue again you gonna get mouth washed alright… Nikki Fried golden shower.
September 18, 2022 at 7:44 pm
It’s not going to turn BLUE Charlie, Offen, Corsin and the rest of your aliases. You Demings, and Fried pack up your stuff and move to Kalifornia where all the other progressive liberals live. Drive those electric cars, endure the brown outs and pay those high taxes. Liberal utopia.
September 18, 2022 at 11:05 pm
👆Buncha hog propaganda right there. No way you dirt bags continue your charades..just no way in hell. Justice is coming for your lying asses. There will be justice for Trump crime spree.
September 18, 2022 at 6:14 pm
Freedom of the press that fails to impress..
September 18, 2022 at 6:19 pm
Vote for me. Also my oiled, bare assed face sit is guaranteed to impress. Show you what a dark world the GOP will bring…dark cave babydoll 🍩💋😆
September 18, 2022 at 7:03 pm
Biden’s done nothing to preserve or defend democracy. He’s a blow hard on every issue.
Always screaming like uncle fester, pathetic.
His V POTUS is worse than Matz Hernandez, amazingly.
It’s amazing that you soros Manchurians take every issue and justify the horror and incompetence displayed by this incompetent team.
Florida ain’t turning blue this election.
America’s Gov and Marco win with 54%, 55%.
But continue to fool yourselves.
September 18, 2022 at 11:07 pm
Nobody is listing to your far right propaganda anymore you nut job. I’m gonna rip patches of hair out of your head n give you a monster smack one way or another. Smack right in the gd mouth…
September 18, 2022 at 11:22 pm
You couldn’t smack your momma!
I’ll kick your ass all over Florida.
Your just a degenerate Joey corsin.
September 19, 2022 at 6:21 am
👆 Vote for me. I’ll body slam this ape into a piss puddle. Give him a roundhouse kick to the balls..
September 19, 2022 at 6:31 am
Joey Degenerate. You couldn’t kick your momma. Talk is cheap loser.
September 19, 2022 at 6:50 am
Biden’s done nothing, as you do, and say nothing of relevance.
Meaningless being, Joey Corsin the degenerate. Everybody’s toilet paper.
I am what I am
September 18, 2022 at 11:01 pm
Yea democracy is one strike your out baseball
Migrants make up America b.s
New migrants deserve better than America military who keep and make America
Elderly who worked the economy and military get no entitlement only the migrants make your cut of retirement benefits you paid for
Vets what you want a doctor hell no
Homeless can’t afford a place to live hell no we need to treat the Mexican place to 640 million a week it’s humanity
F this democracy
September 18, 2022 at 11:10 pm
👆 Received a bad education under Republican leadership in Florida. Vote for me… gonna have to get rid of this guy unfortunately. It’s too late for him.
September 19, 2022 at 5:53 am
Biden was not elected as President in 2020, Donald J Trump was. That is a fact, until that is rectified we are not The United States of America, we are living under a totalitarian dictatorship currently.
September 19, 2022 at 6:22 am
Dumbest thing I’ve heard in my entire life..
September 19, 2022 at 6:49 am
The dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life is that Joe Biden supposedly received the more votes than Barack Obama, if you believe that (you are as dumb as a pet rock).
Comments are closed.