What can Americans expect from President Joe Biden’s speech at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, PA, on September 1? The short answer is likely more of the same, little in the way of optimism for the country’s future, and plenty of divisive rhetoric. In public these days, Biden appears to have only three emotional states; angry, confused, and angrily confused. The ‘soul of the nation’ rhetoric from 2020 will reportedly be revived during Biden’s Philadelphia speech – but it seems more and more apparent that he does not cherish that soul the way many Americans still do.
NBC News reports that Mr. Biden will talk about, among other things, how “rights and freedoms are still under attack.” This has become a recurring theme for Democrats desperate to avoid losing control of the House of Representatives – and perhaps even the Senate – come January 2023.
Try to pin a Democrat down on exactly how Republicans are plotting to take away Americans’ rights and freedoms and one will hear plenty of soundbites about voting and reproductive rights. Electoral laws passed recently by a few Republican-controlled states have produced no evidence that voting rights have been in any way diminished, however. As for the alleged right to abortion, that was a matter for the states until the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The recent striking down of the highly questionable federal authority to protect abortion has now returned the issue to where it belongs. In any case, abortion is neither a constitutional nor a human right – and so, its restriction at the state level doesn’t equate to a loss of freedom for Americans.
Beyond the two issues of abortion and elections, the Republican Party has no known agenda that specifically aims to strip anyone of his or her freedom – acknowledging the caveat, of course, that no Americans are as free today as the Constitution requires. Further, it is worth noting that the Democratic Party has controlled both legislative chambers in 29 of the last 45 Congresses – including the current 117th. Republicans steered both chambers during only nine of those 45. If any Americans have been deprived of rights, it is not difficult to conclude which party must be largely to blame.
There is also little doubt that Biden’s Philadelphia speech will conjure up the apparent threat to democracy posed by his political opponents. Again, the evidence does not support the allegation. If questioning the outcomes of elections constitutes a threat to democracy, then Democrats are also on the wrong side of the equation; a great many of them still contend that both the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections were stolen from them – and that’s without mentioning the many state- and local-level contests they have disputed over the years.
The F-Word in Biden’s Philadelphia Speech?
Will Biden once again use the F-word – fascism? It would seem reckless to do so, but he has already committed himself, recently accusing “MAGA Republicans” of being “semi-fascist.” If he avoids the term in his Thursday speech, it will be interpreted – on both sides of the political divide – as backing down. On the other hand, if he runs with the fascism rhetoric, Biden is digging himself a deeper hole. Trump Republicans – if not all establishment Republicans – steadfastly oppose the very things that distinguish fascism; big government wielding enormous power over the everyday lives of ordinary citizens and bending private industry to its political will.
More than anything else, there is one noticeable warning sign that a political party or the leader of a country is moving in the direction of authoritarian rule. When that party or that leader uses fear, distrust, and division to scare people into supporting an agenda – warning them of the alternative – rather than using hope, faith, and unity to encourage support, the winds are blowing toward a more restricted society, not a freer one. A leader acting in good faith will show people how great life could be if his political and economic aims are achieved. By contrast, a despot will threaten people with stark warnings of how terrible their lot will become if his goals are not met. Biden has already begun to adopt the latter style.
The commander-in-chief’s Thursday address, then, will not be crafted to foster unity or hope of a brighter future for all. Instead, it will exclude conservatives and Republicans from any possible future prosperity and harmony. It will be a pep talk for the Democrats’ voting base and also for the extreme progressive left. It will likely contain pledges to further restrict the constitutional rights of those who oppose the Biden administration – after all, those people are dangerous right-wing radicals; what rights do they deserve?
It is almost certain that Biden’s address will not foster a coming together for the sake of a better future for all Americans, but an even wider separation of the two sides. Those who vote Democrat deserve the security of an all-powerful government, while those who vote Republican deserve nothing but hate, ostracism, and oppressive treatment. That will be the message in Biden’s Philadelphia speech. Or not. Perhaps he will surprise everyone with an uplifting talk about moving on from past differences into a glorious new age of American industry, ingenuity, wealth, and freedom. Would it be worth holding one’s breath in anticipation? Probably not.