Tgym in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, was packed Tuesday with a receptive crowd of hometown friends and supporters as President Joe Biden launched his latest attack on the Republican Party. “Let me say this to my MAGA Republican friends in Congress: don’t tell me you support law enforcement if you don’t condemn what happened on the 6th,” Biden said, referring to the deadly attack on the US Capitol in January. 6, 2021. “You can’t be pro-law enforcement and pro-insurgency.”
He then attacked senior Republican lawmakers who warned that an investigation into Donald Trump’s Justice Department’s storage of government documents could spark a backlash from Trump supporters. “Nobody expects politics to be a piece of cake — sometimes it’s mean as hell,” Biden said. “But the idea that you turn on TV and you see senior senators and congressmen saying, ‘If this and that happens, there’s going to be blood in the street’?” Where the hell are we?’
The speech was emblematic of a new, edgier tone from Biden, who ran for president two years ago promising to unite the countrybut has begun to spend more of his time warning about the dangers of a Republican Party that remains largely under Trump’s influence.
On Thursday night, Biden will deliver a prime-time speech about the threat posed by “MAGA Republicans” and government officials who are denying the results of the election. He will paint the midterm elections as a broader contest between those who believe in the American democratic system and those who want to destroy it in their own quest for power.
It’s a preview of a key message Democrats are expected to hammer home in the coming weeks as the campaign gears up for races that could see Republicans regain control of one or both houses of Congress.
Senior Biden advisers acknowledge that midterm elections, which millions of voters typically miss, are being won with anger. Democrats in many states were irked this summer by Republican restrictions on abortion access in many states after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. The GOP’s resistance to calls for stricter gun control laws in the wake of ongoing school shootings is also a motivating factor.
But the state of democracy in the country is also attracting increasing interest from voters, according to recent polls. Speaking last week at a Democratic National Committee event held at the home of a wealthy supporter in Bethesda, Maryland, Biden said he chose to run for president in part because of the divisions he saw Donald Trump inflame on the public stage and wanted to help “restore the soul of this country” by promoting “dignity”, “honour by making sure we – you mean what you say” and “treating people with respect”. But these strains of Trumpism, fueled by hate and misinformation, haven’t gone away. “What we’re seeing now is either the beginning or the death of an extreme MAGA philosophy,” Biden said. “It’s not just Trump,” he continued, “the whole philosophy is at the root of … I’ll say something: it’s like semi-fascism.”
Republicans immediately rejected the label. Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said Biden was “trying to stoke this anti-Republican sentiment right before the election.” He called on the president to apologize. “It’s terribly inappropriate, it’s offensive, and people should be offended by it,” Sununu said.
Biden’s closest aides acknowledge that a balance must be struck. The president doesn’t have to sound sharp and angry all the time. He has planned several weeks of travel around the country to tout his administration’s investments in improving infrastructure, improving clean energy technology and reducing prescription drugs for seniors.
Biden’s approval rating among Americans, while still low, rose slightly to the low 40s from the high 30s in July. His party’s prospects for retaining control of the Senate and staving off expected losses in the House have also improved. Democrats, who have trailed Republicans since January in voting for a general bulletin for Congressrecently tied with the Republican Party in most polls.
Biden hopes to draw a contrast between his administration’s approach to governing — passing major bills on climate change, health care and infrastructure investment — and Republican pushback.
It’s a strategy the administration doesn’t intend to limit to Biden’s words. The White House press office also took a tougher tone in social media posts. Last week, when Republican politicians criticized Biden’s student loan forgiveness actions as unfair, the White House Twitter account hit back at several of them directly, pointing out the amount of loan their own businesses had forgiven under the Wage Protection Program Small Business Administration During the COVID-19 Pandemic Economic Slowdown. The online mockery was a departure from the otherwise solid official account and coincided with the White House’s hiring of Megan Coyne from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s office, where she grabbed attention using snappy responses and wit to build a huge audience for the governor’s account on Twitter.
“We have never hesitated to call out hypocrisy, and we will not stop now,” Alexandra LaManna, White House assistant press secretary, said in a statement.
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