WASHINGTON—Declaring “the fate of the soul of America is in your hands,” President Joe Biden urged voters, regardless of party, to defend U.S. democracy by soundly denouncing and rejecting right-wing MAGA political extremism and violence. And that must occur at the polls on Nov. 8, he declared.
Biden devoted a half-hour prime-time speech Wednesday night to explain the source, without explicitly calling it that, of the fascist danger facing the nation: Adherents of ultra-MAGA (“Make America Great Again”) beliefs who accept and act on election lies by “the former president” to destabilize the nation and destroy democracy.
As a result, “polls show most voters believe our democracy is at risk,” Biden said. And they’re right, he added, because democracy is fragile, and more fragile now than it has been in decades. “Democracy is on the ballot for all of us,” he declared, and “We can’t take democracy for granted any longer.”
Meanwhile, awareness grew Wednesday across many media forums that the country has been subjected to undemocratic Republican manipulation of the polls to try to add to the many forms of voter suppression the GOP had already foisted upon the people of states across the country.
Masses of people, however, are not allowing themselves to be hoodwinked. Already last Tuesday, the early vote had surpassed all previous records, and that trend continues at an increased pace. Democratic registered voters are outnumbering the Republicans by large margins, and in states like Pennsylvania, a key swing state, they are outnumbering Republicans by four to one. Those voters are outside the universe that the Republican-manipulated polls normally reach, meaning that the results next Tuesday will be determined by turnout, not dire predictions of an apparently non-existent Republican wave.
Among the huge early vote numbers are many voting for the first time—and voting specifically because they are determined to protect abortion rights. The manipulating GOP pollsters would have us believe that abortion rights, which are also economic rights, are now less of a concern among women and everyone else than they were back in August when the Supreme Court took away the constitutional right of women to control their own bodies.
Also making an impact in the early balloting are young voters, expected to turn out in larger numbers this year than ever before during a midterm election. Many are expected to vote on Election Day itself. The GOP pollsters have not accounted for what will happen if there is a record youth turnout—a phenomenon that helped fuel the coalition that dumped Trump in 2020.
Howard Dean, the former Democratic governor of Vermont, famous for his run for the presidency, said Wednesday that if the early vote numbers hold up, the country will see the Democrats gain at least two seats in both the Senate and the House. Predictions aside, however, Democrats, the labor movement, and all their allies are mounting enormous turnout campaigns between now and next Tuesday in hopes of achieving those gains and more, if possible.
Ironically, their efforts are expected to be helped by Republican-generated news that broke in the lead story in the New York Times Thursday morning. The Times reported that congressional Republicans have embraced a plan, if they win the election next Tuesday, to actually cut benefits for people now on Social Security and raise the age for eligibility for both that program and Medicare. Influential Republicans have signaled that they want to raise the eligibility age for both programs to 70, which, of course, would mean millions more could die before they could collect benefits for which they worked and paid all their lives. The plan makes the old false Tea Party descriptions of non-existent Obamacare “death panels” look mild.
Before Thursday’s story in the Times, the Democrats and their allies were already using the GOP plans to cut funding for Social Security and Medicare to help mobilize a turnout that could well render false all the gloomy GOP polls showing their party ahead.
On another issue latched onto by the fascists, Republicans have been trying to accuse “big city” Democrats of fomenting crime when, in fact, per capita robberies and murders in Republican-controlled rural America are far greater than in big cities, including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Oklahoma, for example, has three times as much violent crime per capita than New York and twice as much as Los Angeles.
Biden, in his speech Wednesday, forecast more violence, crime, and chaos if Trump’s MAGA legions triumph. He laid the blame for that prospect at the feet of their leader, but Biden did not spare the other politicians who slavishly follow Trump.
The president took on MAGA calls that make violence an acceptable political tool. “The voices calling for violence are loud, but the overwhelming majority of us have to make clear there is no place for political violence in America,” Biden urged.
The consequence is the demise of democracy
If the nation does not counter and defeat those voices, then chaos, violence, and the demise of democracy are “the consequence” of “vitriol, anger, and hate,” Biden warned. “We must vote now knowing who we have been and what we are at risk of becoming.”
That risk of tyranny or oligarchy superseding democracy has become obvious ever since Trump ascended to the Oval Office in 2017. But it always has run as an undercurrent through U.S. history, a point Biden made in passing. He said every generation must confront that risk, and now it’s our turn.
The current risk to democracy reached a peak but by no means ended with the Jan. 6, 2021, Trumpite invasion, insurrection, and attempted coup d’etat in the U.S. Capitol, which Biden cited several times. Biden spoke at D.C.’s Union Station, just several hundred yards from the invaders’ main attack point, the Capitol’s West Front.
But even after those attackers failed, the violence and threat haven’t stopped, said Biden. He noted violence and risk surfaced just the week before. Just days ago, a Trumpite, chanting “Where’s Nancy?”—as the Jan. 6 insurrectionists did—invaded Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home and beat her 82-year-old husband, Paul, with a hammer, fracturing his skull and breaking bones. Pelosi and other Democratic representatives, particularly women, have been targets of right-wing hate, which also has fueled Republican fundraising, for decades.
The MAGAites, who “were whipped into a frenzy by a president who repeated the Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen, are the perpetrators of the violence and the threat to the future of democratic institutions, Biden said.
He also pointed out Trump began the lies that supercharge them long before that January morning when he egged and ordered his legions on. That’s a conclusion the House committee investigating the invasion has irrefutably proven.
But Biden didn’t stop with Trump.
“The other party” has nominated more than 300 believers in Trump’s lies about a stolen election for every available political office, from governor and Congress on down, he noted. Unmentioned: Trump is the top contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. He’s also the Republican kingmaker, able to boost or demolish political careers with a tweet, a speech, or an insult.
Just keeping silent about the lies and their consequences won’t do, Biden warned. Silence amounts to submission to the perpetrators. So the president urged people not just to speak with their votes—“The vote is sacred. It is not a partisan tool,” he said—but with their voices and more.
That’s besides the fact that voters must think long and hard and reject such election liars and deniers at the polls, Biden said, making that goal their top priority. That choice makes this election a test not just of two parties and contrasting political positions, but a contest over the future of the republic itself.
“Democracy is on the ballot,” Biden repeated, before explaining: “Democracy is the rule of the people, by the people,” lifting a phrase from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Opposite is autocracy
Its opposite, Biden said, is “autocracy—the rule of one.” He didn’t name a “one,” but he didn’t have to do so. Trump still believes and has inculcated in the GOP, that he is it. Thus the election also becomes “a contest between the rule of law” and of the many “and the aspirations of the few,” Biden explained.
The few, Biden said, are the political few. He did not call out the funders of the radical right—including money they gave to the MAGAites and their militarist organizations which, at Trump’s orders, led the Jan. 6 coup attempt.
Those funders include many members of the corporate class. Some gave cash, and continue to give it, to front groups which in turn funnel money to the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and others who led the charge into the Capitol.
Those same big givers also back politicians—all of them Republicans—who repeat Trump’s Big Lie as a mantra and who will refuse to abide by future election results, unless they or their side wins.
That’s not the way democracy works, Biden added. While “democracy is messy, we must all unite to defend it,” Biden urged. Messiness is to be expected, he admitted, with frequent partisan differences over policies, including several he cited, such as preserving Social Security and Medicare.
“But we don’t settle our differences with a riot, or a mob, or a bullet, or a hammer,” Biden stated.
U.S. history, however, sometimes says otherwise. The largest and most obvious example: The carnage of the Civil War. And ideology prompted at least two presidential assassinations, of Presidents Lincoln (1865) and William McKinley (1901), plus a 1933 assassination attempt against FDR. And of course, there were the 20th century attacks on the Civil Rights Movement (including the MLK, Malcolm X, and RFK assassinations) and the lynching during the Jim Crow era. Police violence and incarceration are used today to undermine the rights of African-American and other minority groups while immigrants also bear a steady stream of attacks. Anti-Semites have attacked houses of worship, while Muslim mosques have also come under attack.
As Biden appealed to Democrats, Republicans, and independents to unite for the cause of democracy, top Republicans, as might be expected, either didn’t pay heed or accused the president of dividing the country. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., struck that pose even before Biden spoke.
McCarthy conveniently overlooked that the MAGA forces Trump marshaled now rule McCarthy’s Republican Party—and that Big Lie adherents elected to Congress on Nov. 8 could determine whether McCarthy becomes House Speaker next Jan. 3, should Republicans take the House. Making McCarthy speaker also puts him second in line for the presidency, behind Biden and Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris.
But Biden, being polite and trying to get foes to rethink their views for the good of the country, said the MAGA Republicans are a minority within their own party. He may not be right.
Not only have Trumpites ousted non-MAGA officeholders from their jobs, but opinion poll findings show 70% of Republicans believe the 2020 election was stolen. And Republican politicians’ statements, attitudes of hate—perpetrated and encouraged by Trump and his acolytes—and the violence which Biden says threatens the future of democracy in the U.S., also all say otherwise.
Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners. El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People’s World en Washington, D.C. También es editor del servicio de noticias sindicales Press Associates Inc. (PAI).
John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People’s World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and ’80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper’s predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.