“The next few days … will mark a turning point in the history of this nation,” President Joe Biden said in his Atlanta speech to reframe the debate in Congress over voting rights legislation and filibuster.
He continued, “Are we going to choose democracy over autocracy, light over darkness, justice over injustice? …I know where I stand. … I will defend … our democracy against all enemies – foreign and, yes, domestic.”
And on this matter of light over shadows, good versus evil:
“How will the institution of the United States Senate stand? …
“Will you oppose voter suppression? Yes or no? … Will you oppose electoral subversion? Yes or no? Will you stand for democracy? Yes or no ?”
“I ask every elected official in America: How do you want to be remembered?…Do you want to be…on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis Or Bull Connor? Do you want to side with Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?
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The reaction was quick. “So much to unify the country and work across the aisle,” said Sen. Mitt Romney.
“Pure grandstanding,” said Senator Mitch McConnell: “The world has seen our incumbent Commander-in-Chief spouting propaganda against his own country to a degree that would have made Pravda blush.”
“Maybe the president went a little too far in his rhetoric,” said Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin.
The Reverend Al Sharpton dissented, describing Biden’s speech, which he had urged the president to deliver, as “monumental”.
If Biden’s goal was to add votes to the Senate to build a majority to end the filibuster of voting rights, that looks like a loser. Insinuating that 52 senators, including Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, are racist for the stance they have taken on keeping the filibuster doesn’t seem like the way to convince them.
As for calling out the Republican opposition, all 50 senators, racists whose stance on suffrage is reminiscent of the segregationists of the early 1960s, that would only solidify and harden their opposition.
But maybe Biden is after another game here. Because what this speech has managed to do is to momentarily change the subject.
For months, Biden has been plagued by crises for which he has had no effective response:
The debacle of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. The bleeding southern frontier where America is invaded daily. The spike in shootings, murders and flash-mobs, armed robberies in elite stores.
A soaring inflation rate that suddenly hits its highest level in 40 years. The possibility that the Fed will start raising interest rates to combat it, which could send the economy plummeting by the 2022 election. The new surge, two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
Then there are the polls, which all show Biden underwater, and one, Quinnipiac, which shows his approval plummeting to 33%.
What Biden’s rant against the alleged racism of his former Senate colleagues does, then, is reframe the stakes of the voting rights debate and shift the issue from Biden’s transparent failures to the character of his threatening opponents. our “democracy” itself.
Put bluntly, what panicked Democrats and their fearful media allies are reframing a 2022 election they seem certain to lose in a pick-and-choose election: Would you like to see democracy destroyed or protected, because survival democracy is on the table now.
Consider the 180 degree turn Biden just took:
In his inaugural address, Biden preached unity and his determination to achieve it:
“Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this:
“Bringing America Together.
“I ask every American to join me in this cause.”
Now, at the end of his first year, Biden says we are not a nation or a people. Our opponents on this bill, presumably including all 52 senators, belong to the company of slave owners, segregationists and rogue cops of yesteryear who used horses, dogs and clubs to beat protesters in civil rights.
Switching roles is not easy for Biden to pull off. Because Biden’s rant in Atlanta seems totally out of place with the man we knew.
For wasn’t it Biden himself who, during his transition, spoke warmly of old friends, colleagues, and mentors from the 1970s — Sens. James Eastland of Mississippi, Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and Robert Byrd of West Virginia – all in their time as die-hard segregationists.
The weird thing about Biden’s new stance is that, in the short term, he’s a loser; he won’t get a majority for the vote or end the filibuster that way. And, in the long term, it is simply unsustainable.
For if Biden loses the House and Senate this fall, wouldn’t victorious Republicans get revenge on an unpopular lame president who they once saw as good ol’ Joe but who put them in a box with Bull Connor?