Biden campaigns in Montgomery County: ‘Democracy is on the ballot’

Biden spoke near Valley Forge before the third anniversary of the January 6 riot. He framed the 2024 election as a battle for democracy.

Jan. 6 insurrection: 3 years later

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President Joe Biden launched the climactic year of his re-election campaign in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, with a fervent speech focused on the endurance and preservation of democracy.

This was his first campaign speech of 2024, near the place George Washington spent the winter and unified his army during the Revolutionary War.

“This rag-tag army made up of ordinary people — their mission, George Washington declared,  was nothing less than a sacred cause … freedom, liberty, democracy,” Biden said. “Whether democracy is still America’s sacred cause is the most urgent question of our time, and it’s what the 2024 election is all about.”

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The President delivered his speech in an area of Pennsylvania — a key swing state — considered crucial for a 2024 Biden win. 

He marked the three-year anniversary of the January 6 Capitol riots, in which hundreds of people stormed the U.S. Capitol in a deadly attempt to stop Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 election, which Biden won. More than 130 people from Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey have been charged in connection with the incident. 

“It was on that day that we nearly lost America,” Biden said.

Biden spent most of his speech in sharp critique of former President Donald Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican primary election this year.  Some polls indicate a matchup between the two in the general election this fall would be close. Another recent poll showed Biden trailing Trump in several key swing states, including Pennsylvania.

“Donald Trump’s campaign is about him, not America,” Biden said. “He’s willing to sacrifice our democracy.”

Trump faces 91 felony counts across multiple cases — including those stemming from his attempts to subvert the results of the 2020 election. Trump has also promised to pardon January 6 defendants, roughly 900 of which have pleaded guilty or been convicted in connection with the attack. Over 100 of the guilty pleas and convictions have been residents of Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.

“Trump won’t do what an American president must do. He refuses to denounce political violence,” Biden said. “You can’t be pro-insurrectionist and pro-America.”

Biden also condemned some of Trump’s recent rhetoric — particularly his claims that  undocumented immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country” and that he would not be a dictator “other than day one.

“There’s no confusion about who Trump is and what he intends to do,” Biden said.

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In his speech Friday, Biden largely avoided addressing specific policy agendas. Notably, his handling of the economy and concerns regarding his age are perceived as key vulnerabilities in his administration.

“Yes, we’ll be voting on many issues,” Biden said. “On the freedom to vote and have your vote counted. On the freedom of choice. Freedom to have a fair shot. Freedom from fear.”

Biden additionally did not mention U.S. weapons sales to Israel. The country has bombed Gaza for nearly three months after an attack by Hamas killed around 1,200 people. The death toll in Gaza now surpasses 22,000, and protesters in Philadelphia have targeted Biden events — including Friday’s speech — demanding a ceasefire.

Two Montgomery County elections officials released a statement ahead of Biden’s visit Friday, promising to protect every eligible vote and encourage a high turnout in the county.

“Our national elections could hinge on the narrowest margins, which is why the work of local election officials has become high-pressure and critical to upholding our democratic process,” said Neil Makhija, Democratic commissioner and chair of the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

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