President Biden issued a stark warning Wednesday about threats to American democracy, using a prime-time speech to urge voters to reject “ultra MAGA” Republicans who undermine faith in the voting process.
The president, who has sought to paint Republicans as an extremist party loyal to former President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” or “MAGA” movement, blamed his predecessor for a continued assault on democracy that Biden said had given rise to political violence.
“American democracy is under attack because the defeated former president of the United States refuses to accept the results of the 2020 election,” Biden said. “Make no mistake: Democracy is on the ballot for all of us.”
In the speech, which was hosted by the Democratic National Committee, Biden connected the recent violent attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.
The president noted that the assailant asked Paul Pelosi, “Where’s Nancy?”
“Those are the very same words used by the mob when they stormed the United States Capitol on Jan. 6,” Biden said.
Federal officials said the alleged attacker, David DePape, broke into the couple’s San Francisco home with the intention of taking Speaker Pelosi hostage and breaking her kneecaps.
In his speech, Biden repeated warnings he has issued in recent months, arguing that a GOP victory on Nov. 8 would endanger American democracy.
“As I stand here today, there are candidates running for every level of office in America ... who won’t commit to accepting the results of the election they’re in,” he said.
“That is the path to chaos in America. It’s unprecedented. It’s unlawful,” he added.
Biden emphasized that the threat to democracy — and the threat of political violence — is coming from a minority of Americans. But “they’re loud and they are determined,” he said.
At least 199 GOP candidates for statewide or federal offices in next week’s elections have explicitly embraced the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen or have worked to overturn its results, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight.
Biden and his party have spent much of the last year sounding the alarm about the threat those candidates pose to democracy. But even as Democrats railed against the candidates, some liberal groups helped to elevate them in Republican primaries, hoping they would be easier to beat in the general election.
Despite those efforts, Republicans are favored to win control of the House on Tuesday, snarling Democratic plans for the next two years.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) characterized Biden’s speech as an attempt to distract voters from the president’s record ahead of Tuesday’s election.
“President Biden is trying to divide and deflect at a time when America needs to unite,” McCarthy tweeted, “because he can’t talk about his policies that have driven up the cost of living. The American people aren’t buying it.”
Biden delivered Wednesday’s remarks at the Columbus Club at Union Station in Washington, near the site of the attack on the U.S. Capitol nearly two years ago. His choice of venue was intended to remind viewers of the threat of political violence, White House official Anita Dunn told a panel hosted by Axios earlier Wednesday.
“I wish I could say the assault on our democracy ended that day,” Biden said of the Jan. 6 attacks. “But I cannot.”
During a campaign fundraiser for Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist on Tuesday, Biden assailed some Republicans for not condemning the assault on Paul Pelosi and for spreading conspiracy theories about it online.
“Look at the response of Republicans, making jokes about it,” Biden told the crowd. “These guys are extremely extreme.”
On Monday, Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake joked at a campaign event about the attack. Donald Trump Jr. has posted several social media comments mocking it.
Former President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are among GOP leaders who have condemned the attack, though Trump has also advanced the false narrative that the attack was not a break-in.
As Biden noted in his speech Wednesday, polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans believe democracy is at risk.
Inflation and the economy, however, have ranked as more pressing issues for voters.
A majority of voters agree democracy is in danger, but Americans are divided over how to address the threat and whether it remains a priority in this election cycle, according to a New York Times-Siena College poll released last month.
About 71% of registered voters in the survey said that democracy was under threat, but only 7% said that was the most important issue facing the country.
The president implored voters to remember that there are bigger concerns than high gas prices and inflation on the ballot in Tuesday’s election.
“I appeal to all Americans, regardless of party, to meet this moment of national and generational importance,” he said. “We must vote knowing what’s at stake and not just [on] the policy of the moment.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.