President Joe Biden is set to deliver a speech Wednesday on protecting democracy, just six days before the midterm elections as the nation deals with a tense political climate following the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband.
“On Wednesday, November 2, President Joe Biden will deliver remarks on preserving and protecting our democracy as Election Day approaches. The President will address the threat of election deniers and those who seek to undermine faith in voting and democracy; and the stakes for our democracy in next week’s election,” a Democratic official tells CNN.
The speech – a political event hosted by the Democratic National Committee, not the White House – will underscore the points Biden has been making for weeks since a prime time speech in Philadelphia. That address, which covered many of the same topics that the president is expected to touch on Wednesday night, was criticized by Republicans and others for being too political for an official White House event.
“Biden has been speaking about democracy for the entire time he’s been in office,” said Jen O’Malley Dillon, the president’s deputy chief of staff, in a conversation with Axios. “You can expect to hear from him this evening, similar to what he’s been saying over the course of the last several months, that there is a lot at stake, including democracy, and that everyone has a role in that.”
She said Biden would emphasize that results may take time to tally, but that it shouldn’t undermine confidence in the results.
“That’s how democracy works, to make sure every vote is counted, so he’ll highlight that, as well,” O’Malley Dillon added.
The setting of the speech near Capitol Hill is meant to reference the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol building intended to interrupt the certification of Biden’s win.
“On January 6, we saw violence geared toward subverting democratic processes there. So it is, you know, an appropriate place to make these remarks tonight,” Biden adviser Anita Dunn said.
Advisers to the president tell CNN that Biden and his team have been contemplating giving a speech on this very topic for some time – but that their decision-making and thinking in recent days have been shaped by what they’ve viewed as a surge in anti-democratic rhetoric and threats of violence.
One recent headline in particular that has deeply alarmed Biden and his top advisers: the violent attack against Paul Pelosi last week that authorities say was politically motivated.
The shocking home intrusion and attack on Pelosi landed the 82-year-old in the hospital for surgery, and he has since been recovering from a skull fracture, among other injuries.
Advisers say that Biden felt that it would be important for him to directly condemn these kinds of threats and acts of violence. He will also want to speak directly to election deniers, they said, in an effort to counter, in part, Republican elected officials and candidates who have openly said they may refuse to accept the results of the upcoming election next week.
The theme of protecting the soul of the nation – and the pillars of the country’s democratic system – were central to Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign. The President has since spoken about these topics throughout his presidency, but Wednesday’s speech will mark an effort to emphatically underscore what is at stake heading into the midterms.
Defense of democracy has been an animating feature of Biden’s thinking this political season and has emerged more abundantly in his off-camera conversations with Democrats. The day before his speech in Washington, Biden warned a group of Democratic donors in Florida that “democracy is on the ballot” this year – and offered something of a preview of his message for a day later.
“How can you say that you in fact care about democracy when you deny the existence of a win? The only way you could win is either you win or the other guy cheated,” he said at the event, held in an oceanfront backyard of a mansion in Golden Beach, Florida.
“This has not happened since the Civil War. It sounds like hyperbole, but it hadn’t happened since then, as bad as it is now,” he said.
Biden’s Civil War reference hardly appeared coincidental; he was seen this week carrying a copy of historian Jon Meacham’s new book, “And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle,” which explores how America’s 16th president confronted secession and threats to democracy.
Meacham is an informal adviser to Biden and has helped write some of his most high-profile speeches.
In his remarks at the Florida fundraiser, Biden noted the attack on Paul Pelosi and said it was hardly surprising given Republicans’ rhetoric. The attack on the husband of the House speaker is one of the reasons Biden decided to deliver Wednesday’s speech, officials said, though plans had been in the works for a while.
“Look at the response – the so-called response — from Republicans, making jokes about it and/or saying, ‘Well, you know, it’s not because of what’s being said and not said,’” Biden said of the assault.
“The reason why people are doing what they’re doing – there’s a lot of unstable people in a population as large as ours. When they hear every single day these outrageous lies – these outrageous lies across the board about everything,” Biden said.
“How can you be surprised?” he asked. “The guy purchases a hammer to kneecap the No. 3 in line to be President of the United States of America – No. 2 in line, I should say, to be the … president of the United States of America. And nobody on that party condemns it for exactly what it is.”
Biden previously laid out the stakes two months ago, traveling to Philadelphia, where he delivered an urgent rebuke of former President Donald Trump and those aligned with his attempts to undermine democracy.
“As I stand here tonight, equality and democracy are under assault,” Biden said at the time. “We do ourselves no favor to pretend otherwise.”
Biden starkly warned at the time about what he called “an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.”