What’s Left: Biden Ascendant: Taking off the Gloves, Calling It Like It Is for the Sake of Democracy

When President Joe Biden took office nearly two years ago, his press team seemed intent on moving past the divisive term that came before, going so far as to refer to the previous President Donald Trump as “the former president” or “the former guy” exclusively. Thus, it was, perhaps, jarring to hear President Biden this past Thursday when he said “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.” This comes on the heels of Biden’s comments a week before when he claimed that Trump’s philosophy was “semi-fascist.” Yet, the most important takeaway from Biden’s speech was not what he said, but how people reacted — or, rather, didn’t.

Biden, despite what the Right would have you believe, is not a senile, unaware man. He’s a politician through and through, and a pretty savvy one at that. Why would he risk a Hillary Clinton-esque “basket of deplorables” moment this close to the midterms, especially when Democrats have seen their hopes rise as the summer has waned? It’s because when Biden says, “But as I stand here tonight, equality and democracy are under assault.  We do ourselves no favor to pretend otherwise,” he is not pinpointing some hitherto unknown threat to American democracy or shooting the first shot in a fire-sling match with the GOP. Instead, he is simply taking off the gloves and calling out a rot at the heart of America that we all know is there.

It is not healthy for a democracy when one of two major political parties has routinely denied the legitimacy of elections that it does not win, be it at the national, state or local level, and everyone, besides election-deniers, knows this. Biden’s Thursday speech is a welcome change. After trying to play ‘unifier-in-chief” between Republicans and Democrats, the commander-in-chief is showing that he understands that Trump’s and the Republican Party’s widespread belief and endorsement of election fraud is tearing at the seams that hold the American way of life together. 

Although this speech may not be a watershed moment, it certainly feels like a turning point for Democrats. After months of rising gas prices and high inflation, things seem to be calming down in the energy sector. Republicans have suffered early setbacks in special elections in New York and Alaska and look poised to lose seats in the Senate with a weak slate of candidates, and this is more than just an intangible feeling. As fivethirtyeight.com shows on its aggregate approval rating tracker, Biden’s approval rating has consistently risen since late July, now matching where he was at the start of this year. Everyone, except those who engage in it, knows that election-denial is wrong, conspiratorial and dangerous. For Biden to call it out is not some grave crime that makes him worse than Xi Jinping or Vladimir Putin — as Tucker Carlson complained so recently. Rather, he is rising to the moment and showing that he, too, recognized the gravity of the situation.

I’m sure detractors of this speech will argue that Biden’s red lighting during the speech was intimidating or that his use of two Marines in dress blues in the background was politicizing the military. They might even say that the President is just grasping at straws or stooping below the dignity of the office. But in the face of all that meaningless noise, ask yourself a few questions. Is election denial good for this country? Does it pose a risk to democracy? Is there widespread election denial within the Republican Party? Is it not the duty of every American, especially those we elect, to protect and defend American democracy?