Speaking at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, the president is expected to highlight the achievements of his administration and argue that the country’s democratic values will be at stake during the midterm elections.
“He will talk about the progress we have made as a nation in protecting our democracy, but how our rights and freedoms are still under attack,” the official said. “It will make clear who is fighting for those rights, fighting for those freedoms, and fighting for our democracy.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity to preview the content of the speech.
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In recent days, Biden has adopted a midterm election message that includes fierce denunciations of what he calls authoritarian tensions in the GOP, particularly during a speech last Thursday in which he said many in the GOP had turned towards “semi-fascism”. He added that the “MAGA Republicans,” as he called them, “embrace political violence. They don’t believe in America.”
While Biden has touched on these issues before, the vociferous nature of the speech was a shift from a message that had more often emphasized his legislative accomplishments.
Thursday’s speech is not billed as a political event, and given its character as a prime-time presidential address, Biden may avoid some of his sharpest denunciations.
The need to restore America’s core values, including democracy and the rule of law, has been a theme of the Biden presidency from the beginning. He cited it as the reason he decided to run in 2020, describing his horror at the 2017 white supremacist march in Charlottesville, and President Donald Trump’s subsequent comment that there were “very good people on both sides.”
Biden has at times suggested that a central way to combat anti-democratic forces is to show that democracy and government can work. That led some Democrats to complain that he was shying away from strongly denouncing Trump and other Republicans who falsely claimed the last election was rigged and could be laying the groundwork to challenge future legitimate elections.
But now Biden seems to be trying to conflate the two messages, saying that the “MAGA Republicans” are trying to destroy democracy, and the Democrats and traditional Republicans are getting things done.
Biden has delivered few prime-time speeches during his presidency, often preferring to make fewer formal comments at less high-profile moments. Delivering Thursday’s speech in Independence Park, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and signed, Biden continues his pattern of using symbolic undertones when he seeks to make a larger statement.
During the campaign, for example, Biden spoke at Gettysburg, using the historic Civil War battlefield to deplore “the cost of division” and say, “We must come together as a nation.” He also spoke in Warm Springs, Georgia, whose therapeutic springs were a frequent destination for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. And last year, Biden visited Tulsa to commemorate the racially motivated attacks that killed some 300 black Americans a century earlier.
Biden, throughout his career, has also used speeches as a way to mark important moments, seeing them as a way to organize his own thoughts and mobilize supporters around a particular cause, whether from the floor of the Senate or, in this case, one of the nation’s leaders. most sacred grounds dedicated to democracy.
Philadelphia has been a favorite spot for Biden, not far from his childhood home in Scranton or his current home in Delaware. He announced his 2020 presidential bid in the city, stressing the importance of being in the birthplace of American democracy. His campaign was based there and he returned to Philadelphia shortly before the election.
Biden visited the city again last year to deliver remarks on the importance of protecting the right to vote.
Matt Viser contributed to this report.