Biden lays out the stakes for democracy. Can he sustain the case?

Rather than naming Trump, Biden referred only to the “former president” to explain the dire risks his predecessor and Republican Party members face vis-à-vis the country. He said he was “not looking for that battle that was brought to this Capitol a year ago”. But speaking from the Capitol Statuary Hall through which insurgents marched on January 6th, he added, “I won’t shy away from it either. I will stand in this breach. I will defend this nation. I will not allow anyone to put a dagger on the neck of democracy. “

It is hoped, for some Democrats and supporters, that Biden’s speech will mark a turning point in the government’s focus on what many consider to be the most important and existential threat to the country. Democratic lawmakers and civil rights activists had hoped Biden would use his platform Thursday to highlight the dots between the insurrection, Trump and state Republicans’ continued campaign to restrict electoral access, and the attempts of those who continue to attack the validity of the 2020 elections. to combine in order to conquer important positions of power before the competitions in 2022.

In addition to centering and prioritizing voting laws, many Democrats have also urged the White House to fight more directly against Republicans for failing to stand up to Trump’s lies about the election. While Biden and his vice president are about to make high-profile remarks on voting rights in Atlanta, party leaders want a sustained campaign that is adding pressure, much like Biden’s previous efforts to help covid, as well as social and climate spending.

“What they are doing is right,” said Clyburn of Biden’s January 6th speech, the uprising and upcoming voting rights notices. “Whether it is sufficient remains to be seen.”

The South Carolina Democrat, a close ally of the president, said he didn’t tell Biden, Chief of Staff Ron Klain, and White House Advisor and Office of Public Engagement Director Cedric Richmond until Thursday morning that the issue for the Democrats was not their message but to convince their base that they are up to the task.

“The problem is the image that I think the president took a big step towards today towards change. There are people who generally feel that we are not tough enough, ”added Clyburn, noting that he had conversations with voters.

“If they take that to not just Georgia but Florida, go to Texas, go to North Carolina, go to these places where people think they have a free hand [to restrict access to the ballot]”Said Clyburn. “And I think we’ll see an excited base.”

When Biden presented his presidential candidacy in April 2019, he presented it as a battle for the soul of the nation. His advisors would later say that there was a clear line between the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that catalyzed him to run and the January 6 riots, which provided one last breath of his opponents to deny his victory. The White House views the uprising not as a bookend for Trump’s presidency, but as a dangerous crystallization of the ongoing threats posed by the former president’s attacks on the electoral system.

While Biden waited to speak, Vice President Kamala Harris set out the government’s response to the threat. “We have to pass the voting laws that are now before the Senate. And the American people have to do something more, too, ”she said. “We can’t sit on the sidelines. We have to unite to defend our democracy. “

The historian Laurence Tribe, who has known Biden since the 1980s and has advised the President at times, spoke to Klain after Biden’s speech and expressed his conviction that the Biden speech was at his best.

“Same as anything JFK has done or anything Obama has done,” Tribe told Klain.

“There were no pink glasses, the president didn’t cover the difficulty of the challenges we face,” added Tribe. Tribe, like others, has long wanted Biden to make such explicit remarks. “I’ve definitely waited and I’m so glad he finally did.”

For the future, Tribe hoped that Biden’s speech on Thursday and an upcoming speech in Georgia next week “drive out the resistance” by Sens. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) Will and “share their thoughts.” open little “the importance of a carve-out” for the legislative filibuster. So far, however, there is no indication that neither senator would support such an amendment to allow voting laws to be passed by simple majority.

Aside from a rhetorical campaign to warn Trump and his supporters, some local officials are calling for more substantial action from the government.

“My question is what follows?” said Rick Hasen, an expert on suffrage and professor at the University of California Irvine.

“We had [Attorney General] Merrick Garland spoke yesterday and talked about persecuting those who attacked our democracy at every level. And today we have the Vice-President and the President who say that measures are needed to protect our democracy and the peaceful transfer of power, ”Hasen continued. “The question is what the government can and will do to actually fulfill these promises to protect our democracy.”

White House advisors have rejected any notion by civil rights activists and Democratic lawmakers that Biden was not aggressive in naming the threats posed by Trump and Republican electoral fraud lies.

Aside from actions in Congress, however, the most concrete accountability is likely to come from the Justice Department, not independent action by Biden. When asked on Thursday what consequences Biden believes Trump has to face for the uprising, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president would “leave that to his independent Justice Department.”

Christopher Cadelago contributed to this report.

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