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Strategy Change: Biden Faces Trump After Year of Silent Treatment

IIn the early moments of his presidency, Joe Biden called on Americans to put aside their deep divisions fueled by a pastor he deliberately ignored. He emphasized national unity and called on Americans to come together to “end this inhumane war”.

Nearly a year later, as a divided country recalls the first anniversary of the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, the brutal war it sought to extinguish continues, stronger than ever. In a blazing speech on Thursday, Biden struck a different tone.

He said he was “crystal clear” about the dangers facing the nation, and accused Donald Trump and his political allies of holding a “dagger to America’s throat, to American democracy”. Over the course of the 21-minute speech delivered from the US Capitol, Biden volunteered himself as a defender of democracy in the “battle for America’s soul.”

“I will stand in this breach,” he promised. “I will defend this nation.”

That moment of visceral speech marked a shift in strategy for how Biden chose to hire Trump — whose name he never uttered, but instead taunted as the “defeated former president.”

The decision to break his silence on Trump comes at a challenging time in Biden’s presidency, with his Build Back Better agenda stalled, the Covid-19 pandemic resurgent and the widespread economic slump. It also reflected the reality that, far from being shunned, Trump remains the most powerful force in the Republican party and a potential rival to Biden in 2024.

The confrontation with Trump was a calculated risk. Trump took the opportunity to channel all sorts of insults and accusations at his successor, whose comments he said were “very hurtful to a lot of people.”

But Biden’s speech was an admission that there are dangers in continuing to ignore Trump and what Biden called his “web of lies.” recent poll suggests that the vast majority of Republicans believe Trump’s baseless claims about voter fraud, while a growing percentage of Americans are willing to tolerate political violence in some cases.

Republican-controlled states are pushing for a range of new voting restrictions, prompted in part by the doubts they sowed over the 2020 election results. and dispossess of election officials who resisted pressures to cast votes or undo the elections in their state.

“It was essential to be specific about the problem and the cause of the crisis,” said Julian Zelizer, a historian at Princeton University. “Otherwise, the vague, powerless rhetoric we hear about polarization misses the way Trump and the GOP are the source of so much instability.”

But he warned that a speech can only do so much. “Without holding people accountable for January 6 and the 2020 election campaign, and without real legislation to protect voting rights and the electoral process, the ‘dagger to the throat of democracy’ will not go away.”

A candlelit vigil on the National Mall on the first anniversary of the Capitol bombing. Photo: Tom Brenner/Reuters

In his comments, Biden argued that protecting voting rights was paramount to protecting American democracy. He sought to link Trump’s promotion that the 2020 election was tainted with fraud and Republicans’ concerted efforts to “undermine” and undermine the electoral process in states where they hold power.

“Right now, state after state, new laws are being written – not to protect the vote, but to deny it; not only to suppress the mood, but also to undermine it; not to strengthen or protect our democracy, but because the former president lost,” he said.

Biden will follow up on the theme on Tuesday when he delivers another speech on voting rights. In Atlanta, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will argue for the passage of two bills for voting rights that have major prospects in the US Senate: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

The issue of voting rights has taken center stage after hopes of meeting Biden’s sweeping domestic policy agenda were foiled by the opposition of West Virginia conservative Democrat Senator Joe Manchin. So far, the Republican opposition has blocked the passing of the legislation in the evenly divided chamber, where Democrats don’t have the 60 votes it takes to overcome a filibuster.

Manchin once again holds the keys to voting rights legislation, which he broadly supports. But his opposition to eliminating the filibuster has forced Democrats to follow other avenues, such as creating an exception in the rules for certain legislation. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would schedule a vote to relax filibuster rules by Jan. 17, Martin Luther King’s day.

Biden has faced tremendous pressure from civil rights leaders and voting rights lawyers who are frustrated with his handling of the issue, which is considered crucial to the president’s legacy. Indeed, a coalition of voting rights groups in Georgia warned Biden and Harris don’t bother coming to the state unless they have a concrete plan for moving forward, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters this week that Biden intended to emphasize that “urgent legislation must be passed to protect the constitutional right to vote and the integrity of our elections.”

Spencer Overton, an expert on suffrage and the chairman of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, hopes Biden will use his pulpit to explain why passing federal voting rights legislation is so vital to destroying the pernicious lies and conspiracies. that undermine confidence in the nation. government system.

“Those lies have real consequences,” he said. “Sometimes they are graphic, as we saw on January 6 a year ago, but sometimes they quietly affect democracy by preventing the average citizen from participating in our democracy and exercising their voting rights.”

“This is now the most important legislation in Congress,” he added. “There’s just no point in waiting. The time is now.”