After his plane touched down at Valley Forge National Park, President Joe Biden figuratively wrapped himself in George Washington’s mantle during his first campaign speech in 2024 at Montgomery County Community College.
Biden drew contrasts with likely Republican nominee, former President Donald Trump, saying if elected again, Trump would be a dictator. Biden pledged he would defend democracy.
“Is democracy still America’s sacred cause?” Biden asked, calling it “the most important question of our time.”
A day before the anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 riot, Biden blamed Trump for bringing “a mob” to Capitol Hill and for failing to stop the violence of what he labeled an “insurrection.”
“Three years ago tomorrow, we saw with our own eyes the violent mob storm the United States Capitol,” said Biden. “For the first time in our history, insurrectionists have come to stop the peaceful transfer of power in America…smashing windows, shattering doors, attacking police. Outside, the MAGA crowd chanted, ‘Hang Mike Pence.’ Inside, ‘Where’s Nancy?’”
He claimed police officers died “because Donald Trump’s lies brought a mob to Washington.”
“The whole world watched in disbelief [while] Trump did nothing. Members of his family, Republican leaders who were under attack at that very moment, pled with him, ‘Act,’” Biden said.
“It is among the worst derelictions of duty by a president in American history.”
Biden said his campaign was about democracy, which he claimed would be lost if Trump regained power. He portrayed Trump as a monster and compared his rhetoric to Hitler’s.
“In this election year, we must be clear: Democracy is on the ballot,” said Biden. “Your freedom is on the ballot…The freedom to vote and to have your vote counted. The freedom of choice. The freedom of a fair shot. Freedom from fear…The alternative to democracy is dictatorship.”
The speech echoed remarks he made during the height of the 2022 midterm elections when he said Trump’s MAGA supporters embraced “semi-fascism” and the dark, foreboding speech he gave days later in Philadelphia in which he accused Trump voters of practicing “an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.”
After Biden’s latest speech accusing Trump backers of endangering democracy, Republicans pushed back. They noted it was Biden’s supporters in Colorado and Maine who took Trump’s name off the ballot, short-circuiting the democratic process. (Those rulings have been suspended pending review). And several other Democrat-run states are in the process of doing the same. And, they note, Democratic parties in at least two states — Florida and North Carolina– refuse to allow Biden challengers Rep. Dean Phillips and author Marianne Williamson to appear on the ballot in their primary.
And Biden stripped Iowa and New Hampshire of their places at the front of the primary calendar, allowing him to avoid high-profile early contests in two states he lost badly in 2020.
As a result, Republican critics say, it’s Biden who’s undermining democracy and fanning the flames of division.
Christian Nascimento, chair of the Montgomery County Republicans, said, “The president is using divisive events in our history to try and divide us further and take attention away from the fact that under his presidency, inflation is worse in the world is less safe.”
Delaware County GOP Chair Frank Agovino said, “Residents of Delaware County do not trust President Biden with very much. That is clear. The more he personally attacks former President Trump, the more people become uncertain of all the allegations surrounding him. Ultimately, the American people will decide Trump’s guilt or innocence and will care very little about President Biden’s speech on Jan. 6 or any other day.”
And Christine Flowers, a Philadelphia conservative pundit who writes for DVJournal, said, “To me, Joe Biden is the one who needs a few lessons in the history of democracy because his constant hysterical attacks on those who disagree with him are not conducive to that unity that he seems to treasure.”
Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) said on MSNBC, “Democracy and freedom are very much central to the question of who the next president should be. And clearly, it is on the ballot and has been for the last couple of cycles.”
“Pennsylvanians have a unique role with democracy and freedom, that is seeds being planted by William Penn that were insured and grown at that field in Valley Forge where Washington and his band of patriots made sure that that dream of freedom and democracy could continue on with (Benjamin) Franklin, and (civil rights activist) Cecil B. Moore and others who have stepped up at times when we’ve been tested…”
Charlotte Valyo, chair of the Chester County Democrats, called the speech “stirring and powerful.”
“Biden accurately described former president Trump and his ‘MAGA’ movement as anti-democratic when he refused to concede the 2020 election and led the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection in Washington D.C. Biden contrasted that event with the peaceful turnover of presidential powers that began with George Washington after his two terms and continued over two hundred years until Trump’s refusal to do so. Biden stressed the importance of defending the Constitution and the rule of law, comparing that with Trump’s refusal to end the attack and his promise to pardon insurrectionists who brutally attacked the Capitol.
“Finally, I am pleased that the country’s economy has recovered quickly from the disaster that Trump left, that Biden has built America back better, and that he is on the campaign trail talking clearly about the threats that a second Trump presidency would bring,” Valyo said.
Joe Foster, a Democratic state committeeman and former Montgomery County Democratic chairman, said, “The speech was precisely what the people needed to hear. That we are living in dangerous times (if) led by a dangerous man…I also believed it was well delivered, and I trust it will end the nonsense questioning his willingness and ability to continue to serve as president.”
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel also weighed in.
“The soul of America has been crushed under the weight of Joe Biden’s failures. While families can’t pay their bills, children are dying from fentanyl overdoses, terror suspects are crossing the open southern border, and Americans are still being held hostage by Hamas, Biden wants to further divide Americans with polarizing rhetoric to distract from his catastrophic policies. Biden has done enough damage – no one can take four more years.”