President Joe Biden cast his likely election opponent, Donald Trump, as a fundamental threat to American democracy in his first campaign speech of 2024.
“Whether democracy is still America’s sacred cause is the most urgent question of our time,” said President Joe Biden.
“It’s what the 2024 election is all about,” he said.
Mr. Trump called Mr. Biden’s speech “pathetic fear-mongering” and a threat to democracy.
“Biden’s record is an unbroken streak of weakness, incompetence, corruption, and failure,” the former president said at an Iowa rally.
Mr. Biden’s speech saw him return to a theme he has emphasized repeatedly in recent years.
To make his case this time, he explicitly drew a line to the 6 January 2021 attack on the US Capitol.
On that day, Mr. Trump’s supporters stormed Congress, preventing lawmakers from certifying Mr. Biden’s presidential election results just weeks before he was to take office.
Mr. Trump, the current Republican presidential frontrunner, frequently makes the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
The former president has also attempted to reframe the attack on January 6 as a “beautiful day.” He has referred to those who took part as “patriots” and “political prisoners,” and has promised to pardon them if he returns to the White House.
Taking direct aim at this rhetoric, Mr. Biden accused Mr. Trump of attempting to “steal history,” repeatedly naming his opponent.
“Trump’s mob wasn’t a peaceful protest, it was a violent assault,” the vice president said. “They were tyrants, not patriots.” They were not there to defend the Constitution; they were there to destroy it.”
“He refers to those who oppose him as vermin.” “He talks about poisoning Americans’ blood, echoing the same language used by Nazi Germany,” Mr Biden said.
The Trump campaign did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
According to Jason Miller, a senior Trump campaign adviser, Mr. Biden “has given up on running an issues-based campaign for 2024.”
“Rather than help those suffering from Bidenomics or our porous southern border, Biden plans on weaponizing government against his leading political opponent,” Mr. Miller wrote in his letter.
Mr. Biden has repeatedly emphasized the importance of preserving democracy.
In 2020, he ran as the candidate who could return America to normalcy. Mr. Biden described the 2022 midterm elections as a “battle for the soul of this nation” before they took place.
The venue, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, a key site in the American Revolutionary War, was chosen on Friday to highlight the themes of Mr Biden’s address.
Even the music helped to set the tone: as Mr. Biden approached the podium, a song from Hamilton, a musical about the Founding Fathers, played over the loudspeakers.
After failing to improve Mr. Biden’s poll numbers by emphasizing his economic agenda, his re-election campaign has refocused on democracy, emphasizing the stark differences between him and Mr. Trump.
Mr. Joe Biden has previously used this strategy with success.
Democrats outperformed expectations in the 2022 midterm elections by defeating divisive, pro-Trump Republican opponents who questioned the legitimacy of US elections.
The issue “has incredible resonance with the Democratic base,” according to Ashley Etienne, a former senior campaign adviser to Biden 2020.
“There’s nothing more foundational to who we are than democracy,” Ms Etienne stated. “However, it is a winning strategy.” It’s a persuasive message. And it has made possible this incredibly broad coalition of voters.”
Democratic allies applauded Mr. Biden’s decision to emphasize democratic values.
“I’m glad to see the president going on the offensive today to talk about democracy, freedom, and the fact that Trump puts all of that at risk,” Democratic Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro told reporters.
According to recent polling, Americans’ views on the 6 January attack are sharply divided along partisan lines three years later, with Republicans now less likely to believe it was a violent attack. According to a Washington Post/University of Maryland poll, about a quarter of Americans believe the FBI, not Mr Trump’s supporters, instigated the riot.