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.
Biden previously laid out the stakes two months ago, traveling to Philadelphia, where he delivered an urgent rebuke of 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.”