After a fiery speech on democracy, can Biden keep his promises?
Washington – It was a watershed moment: Joe Biden swore in a scorching speech on the one-year anniversary of the Capitol Riot to defend American democracy from mortal danger, while also hooking up his predecessor, Donald Trump. But what comes next?
The veteran Democrat now wants to galvanize his party’s loyalists ahead of the midterm elections in November and revive his stagnant presidency.
But he is taking a major political risk, with little time and limited options to deliver on his promises.
Biden, 79, delivered what is widely considered his best speech to date since taking control of the Oval Office on Thursday, commemorating the attack on the U.S. Capitol by a crowd of Trump supporters with a solemn vow to protect the nation.
He put aside his usual laid-back manners and daddy jokes for a serious and fiery summary of what happened on January 6, 2021 – and how the nation can move forward in the midst of a also marked political division.
“I did not seek this fight brought to this Capitol a year ago today, but I will not back down from it either,” he said.
“Come out strong”
For the first time since his inauguration almost a year ago, Biden faced Trump directly.
Without ever using Trump’s name, he savagely “the defeated former president” for questioning his victory in the 2020 election and for instigating his supporters to storm the Capitol.
“Those who stormed this Capitol and those who incited and incited and those who called on them to do so held a dagger at the throat of America – of American democracy,” he said. .
“I will not allow anyone to put a dagger in the throat of democracy.”
For David Schultz, professor of political science at Hamline University in Minnesota, Biden “was in a kind of dead end” before the speech.
âDon’t say anything, and you will be put on the defensive. Or come out strong like he did “to mobilize his Democrats, which would also trigger action on the Republican side, Schultz said.
Indeed, Trump fought back quickly after Biden’s speech, as did other Republican heavyweights, accusing Biden of politicizing a tragedy to further divide the country.
But there is no doubt that Biden has to launch his first term.
After a more or less harmonious start marked by the economic recovery and a decline in the coronavirus pandemic, Biden is certainly getting bogged down.
The chaotic withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan has left it bruised, and Americans are devastated by the ongoing pandemic and the rise of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, as well as soaring inflation.
Biden’s approval rating hovers around 43% – a low level and a tall order to overcome as he tries to push through legislation with a progressive-centrist split in his own party and a very slim legislative majority.
For now, the president has had to put his social spending bill on the back burner, after Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia refused to back him.
“Too little and too late”
And so with the midterm elections – traditionally a tough turn for the ruling party – on the horizon, Biden has pivoted to focus on protecting voting rights.
Democrats have accused Republican-controlled state legislatures of enacting laws that would restrict minority voting rights as well as restrict early voting and postal voting.
Biden made a âbig promise,â Schultz said, and Democrats have an âincredibly narrow window to do something about voting rightsâ before mid-term, when they risk losing control of Congress.
“If he can’t get the voting rights, it’s a big blow to his presidency,” Schultz said. A first procedural vote is expected later this month.
Some civil rights activists have expressed skepticism about the promises made Thursday by Biden, who depended on broad support from black voters in his November 2020 election victory over Trump.
“Do you think he has good intentions?” Yes, we think he has good intentions. â¦ But he really hasn’t done enough in the past year since he took office to get the vote, âsaid Cliff Albright, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund.
Albright and his organization have campaigned for voter participation in the southern state of Georgia, where Biden will speak on voting rights on Tuesday.
But for Albright, âit just feels like it’s too little and it’s too late. And he just uses Georgia as a prop.
“For him to come here now and give this speech without having something major to say is, you know, counterproductive at best and almost disrespectful at worst.”
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