Biden’s message was about what Trump promised
Do We Live in the Shadow of the January 6 Murmur? When Donald Biden and the American people realized what President Trump had to say about America
While he may be talking to the electorate in ways that cross the lines, he did not mention them when he spoke at Union Station on Wednesday evening. The president’s failure – whether it is all his fault or not – to quell inflation and the worries of a nation already demoralized by a once-in-a-century pandemic created the electoral conditions that look likely to restore Trumpism to power, in the form of a volatile, extreme GOP majority in the House of Representatives at least, with the Senate still on a knife’s edge.
Biden’s speech Wednesday, delivered blocks from the US Capitol that was ransacked by ex-President Donald Trump’s mob on January 6, 2021, was a strong election-closing argument. But for an election other than the one taking place next week.
But the essence of the Trump message exists in direct contradiction to Biden’s logic. Such voters can only love their country when their party wins because they see the Democrats that they lose to as the antipathy of their vision of America itself. The current, great political struggle will play out next Tuesday, but not just because of these dueling understandings of what America actually means.
“You have the power, it’s your choice, it’s your decision, the fate of the nation, the fate of the soul of America lies, as it always does, with the people,” Biden told voters.
Elections should be about more than one thing. Voters can walk and chew gum at the same time. But the harsh truth is this: In Washington, where just a glimpse of the towering Capitol dome reminds politicians and their media chroniclers of the January 6 horror, the threat to democracy feels visceral.
In the heartlands of Pennsylvania, the suburbs of Arizona and cities all around the world, the gut check issue is not as old fashioned as the idea of self-government would suggest. One of the basic things to feed a family is it. This is an election more about the cost of a cart full of groceries or the price of a gallon of gasoline than America’s founding truths.
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As Scottsdale, Arizona, retiree Patricia Strong told CNN’s Tami Luhby: “The price of everything was better during Trump,” adding, “We were looking forward to retirement because everything was good.”
Americans with credit card debt and retirement accounts were hit hardest when the Federal Reserve raised the short-term borrowing rate. The low unemployment rate, one of the best parts of the Biden economy, is feared to be ruined if the Fed pitches the economy into recession.
Biden’s argument is implicitly that while inflation will fall, and economic damage can be repaired, the current election – and its legions of anti-democratic Republican candidates – could cause political wreckage that is beyond mending.
But it’s a tough case to make in such a doom-laden political environment for Democrats. Millions of Republicans don’t listen to Biden’s call for national unity, even if they think it’s true. His low approval ratings don’t help. And in a new CNN/SSRS survey published on Wednesday, for instance, 51% of Americans said inflation and the economy was most driving their vote in the midterms. It was the only other issue polling at 15% of likely voters that the Democrats hoped would save them next Tuesday. According to a survey, only 9 percent of people believe that voting rights and election integrity are important.
He said that he hoped the future of our democracy was an important part of his decision to vote. “Will that person accept the outcome of the election, win or lose?” he added, at the end of a campaign in which several GOP nominees have not guaranteed they would accept voters’ will.
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It’s not that Biden hasn’t been also talking about high prices. His pitch is that the billions of dollars of spending in his domestic agenda will lower the cost of health care, lift up working families and create millions of jobs. Things that might happen in the future cannot help the pain that is being felt right now.
Throughout history, inflation has often been a pernicious political force that breeds desperation in an electorate and seeds extremism as a potential response. It is so curious that the Biden White House never took the surge of prices seriously, despite them repeatedly saying that was a problem caused by Covid-19.
The president also renewed his call for national unity that he delivered in his inaugural address in front of a still violence-scarred Capitol in 2021. He explained that American democracy was primarily under attack because “the defeated former president of the United States refuses to accept the results of the 2020 election.”
“He has abused his power and put the loyalty to himself before loyalty to the Constitution. He made the Big Lie seem like a minority of the GOP, so Biden was careful not to insult every GOP voter as he did when mentioning “semi-fascists” earlier this year.
It was argued by the president that Trump’s threat was larger now than it was in 2020. “As I stand here today, there are candidates running for every level of office in America: for governor, Congress, for attorney general, for secretary of state who won’t commit – who will not commit to accepting the results of the elections they’re running in,” the president warned.
Biden also hinted at a lack of understanding of Trump’s MAGA supporters, who have embraced his anti-democratic, populist, nationalist appeal to mainly White voters, which grew out of a backlash to the first Black presidency of Barack Obama. The 44th president has been making his own searing defenses of democracy and repudiation of Trump on the midterm election campaign trail in recent days.
In 2016 Donald Trump ran for president against his fellow Republicans and then against Hillary Clinton by promising economic nationalism: a break with the bipartisan enthusiasm for globalization, an end to outsourcing, a manufacturing revival, new infrastructure spending, frank competition with China instead of friendly integration.
The State of the Union speech that President Biden just gave had key themes and most enthusiastic riffs that could have been lifted from the Trump campaign but for Bidenisms and fewer insults.
There was an implicit condemnation of both parties for their neglect of the heartland and industrial policy and infrastructure. The Americans have been left behind, as well as the jobs that went away. And there was a none-too-subtle subtext in the policy boasts: What Trump once promised, I’m delivering. A bipartisan infrastructure bill. Tougher buy-American rules. The world is becoming more industrialized. Taking on Big Pharma. Big investments in technological competition with Beijing.
What will the pandemic end be? Comments from virologist and epidemiologist David Quammen and M. A. Iwasaki
When will the pandemic end? We asked three experts, two of them immunologists and an epidemiologist, to weigh in on many of the questions we have gathered from readers recently, including how to make sense of test timing, whether getting covid is inevitable and other pressing queries.
How will the virus change? As a group of scientists who study viruses explains, “There’s no reason, at least biologically, that the virus won’t continue to evolve.” From a different angle, the science writer David Quammen surveys some of the highly effective tools and techniques that are now available for studying Covid and other viruses, but notes that such knowledge alone won’t blunt the danger.
What would Covid look like? There is a possibility that 100,000 Americans could die from the coronaviruses each year. Increasing and sustaining high levels of vaccination will need a creative effort to stop. The immunobiologist Akiko Iwasaki writes that new vaccines, particular those delivered through the nose, may be part of the answer.