Biden assails Trump-led extremism as a 'threat to America'

In an explosive speech, Joe Biden accused his predecessor of endangering democracy

For nearly two years, Joe Biden has been playing defence. The president has refused to engage in direct political combat with his predecessor. He has rarely even mentioned Donald Trump's name. That changed last night. Dramatically so. In a blistering speech, Joe Biden accused Donald Trump and his supporters of endangering democracy.

Referencing "Make America Great Again" - or MAGA - the slogan of Trump's passionate base, Biden said this is now a battle for the soul of the country. "Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic,” Mr. Biden declared, speaking from Independence Hall, the location where America's founding documents were drawn up. He added ominously: "There’s no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans... that is a threat to this country.”

President Joe Biden arrives with first lady Jill Biden to speak outside Independence Hall. Credit: AP

Biden has long projected himself as America's healer, someone who can work across the political divide. But that branding went up in flames last night. Now Biden is pitching himself directly against the 74 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump in 2020. In essence, the president is claiming that half of America is a threat to America.

That's a major political gamble. It raises the political temperature just weeks before the midterm elections.

Republicans were quick to exploit this very point, pouncing on the speech. "Joe Biden is the divider-in-chief and epitomises the current state of the Democrat Party,” said Ronna McDaniel, a top Republican official. “One of divisiveness, disgust and hostility towards half the country.” And turning the tables on Biden, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the leading House Republican - a man who may soon be Speaker of the House - said that it was Democrats who were “dismantling Americans’ democracy before our very eyes.” So the stage is set for the congressional elections in just over two months.

If you believe Joe Biden, what's on the ballot in November - and in the presidential contest of 2024 - is not just the balance of power.

According to the president, it is now an existential fight for America's democratic foundations.

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