President Biden and former President Donald Trump both hit the campaign trail last week with a common theme aimed at riling up voters ahead of the midterms: the other guy’s party poses a grave threat to American democracy.
Though their fundamental political beliefs differ dramatically, the two men have sought in recent days to ignite interest in this fall’s elections with warnings of dire consequences if their supporters don’t turn out.
“Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal,” Mr. Biden said in a prime-time address Thursday from Independence Hall in Philadelphia. “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.”
Mr. Trump responded with a speech of his own on Saturday at a rally in Pennsylvania.
“Joe Biden came to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to give the most vicious, hateful and divisive speech ever delivered by an American president,” he said. “You’re all enemies of the state? He’s an enemy of the state. You want to know the truth.”
Presidential addresses typically receive airtime, but the nation’s major networks snubbed Mr. Biden’s speech after executives deemed the event too political to warrant a diversion from regularly scheduled programming.
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The White House also brushed off criticism that the administration staged two uniformed Marines behind the commander-in-chief during the event for political benefit.
The administration argued that Mr. Biden’s predecessors have done the same in similar circumstances.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday the Marines were included in the event, “to demonstrate the deep and abiding respect the president has for these service members and the unique role our independent military plays in defending our democracy, no matter which party is in power.”
Mr. Biden characterized the partisan disagreements over the country’s direction as “a battle for the soul of this nation.”
“For a long time, we’ve reassured ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed. But it is not,” he said. “We have to defend it. Protect it. Stand up for it. Each and every one of us.”
Mr. Trump levied similar remarks in what was his first public address since the FBI raided his Mar-a-Lago estate to retrieve highly classified documents that are at the center of a criminal investigation into alleged mishandling of sensitive information by the former president.
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“There could be no more vivid example of the very real threats of American freedom than just a few weeks ago you saw when we witnessed one of the most shocking abuses of power by any administration in American history,” he said. “The shameful raid and breaking of my home Mar-a-Lago was a travesty of justice.”
Mr. Biden charged in this speech that “MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution.”
“They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people. They refused to acknowledge a free election,” the president said.
Mr. Trump has made the same argument about Democrats.