3 Years After January 6, The Biden-Trump Contrast Couldn't Be Clearer
In a speech marking the third anniversary of the January 6 insurrection, President Biden depicted Donald Trump as a past and present threat to democracy. Americans should heed his warning.
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As 2024 begins, I think it’s important that journalists increasingly lay out the stakes and contrasts between the likely two presidential candidates.
When it comes to safeguarding democracy, there is no equivocation between Donald Trump and President Biden. One is a past and present threat to American democracy, and the other has made active efforts to protect it.
In his speech today in Pennsylvania near the Revolutionary War encampment Valley Forge, President Biden chose to spend his first campaign event of the year forcefully spotlighting this contrast.
Biden marked the third anniversary of the January 6 insurrection with his most incisive and straightforward takedown of Trump’s authoritarianism yet. It’s important voters remember exactly what happened on January 6, and are made aware of exactly what Trump promises to do on January 20, 2025.
Biden vividly retold the events of January 6 and pushed back on right-wing attempts to whitewash the Capitol attack. He debunked Trump’s 2020 election lies and accused Trump of "trying to rewrite the facts" of January 6 and "trying to steal history the same way he tried to steal the election.”
"Trump's mob wasn't a peaceful protest; it was a violent assault. They were insurrectionists, not patriots. They weren't there to uphold the Constitution; they were there to destroy the Constitution,” Biden proclaimed.
Biden isn’t being hyperbolic.
The facts of January 6 are worth repeating. While some of us may have been glued to every January 6 Committee hearing, not everyone was. So restating this truth is essential: A mob of radicalized Trump supporters violently stormed the Capitol as part of a multifaceted plot to overturn the 2020 election by Trump and his allies. The criminal charges don’t lie.
According to a count by The New York Times, More than 1,200 people have been arrested for organizing or participating in the January 6 insurrection. About 900 of them have either pleaded guilty or were convicted. About 450 have been charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement officers. Over 700 so far have received sentences, with 450 of them being incarcerated from a range of a few days to over 20 years. The charges range from misdemeanor trespassing to seditious conspiracy.
This violence was part of a broader conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election, involving the creation of fraudulent Trump electors and a pressure campaign targeting then-Vice President Mike Pence and state officials. Donald Trump himself, along with his allies, face Georgia RICO and federal felony charges related to their efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
In spite of these facts, Trump has promised to pardon the January 6 insurrectionists. An analysis from NPR found that Trump has promised to pardon January 6 defendants over a dozen times. In one post, Trump claimed that "The cops should be charged and the protesters should be freed." This false cry of self-victimization, coupled with a promise of retribution, is the centerpiece of Trump's 2024 campaign.
Protecting those who violently pursue your goals is a tried and true authoritarian tactic. This is just one of the clearly dictatorial promises Trump has made during his 2024 campaign. President Biden made this point during his speech:
“Trump’s assault on democracy isn’t just part of his past. It’s what he’s promisng for the future. He’s being straightforward.”
Trump has used his 2024 campaign to push overtly fascist rhetoric and plans. In his speech, Biden directly called Trump out for praising political violence, for saying he would be a dictator on day one, and for calling people who disagree with him “vermin.” Biden called this behavior “despicable.”
In a remarkable moment, Biden compared Trump’s claims that all non-white immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country” to the rhetoric of Nazi Germany - as many journalists have done, including me.
Trump, of course, also says he’ll jail his opponents. He’s repeated this multiple times, all while promising to detain millions of immigrants in camps, implement ideological screenings, and expand on his previous administration’s Muslim ban.
Meanwhile, the Trump Campaign, along with his allies working on Project 2025, are plotting to purge up to 54,000 federal employees to replace them with trained GOP loyalists who will turn the executive branch into a tool of the far-right. I spoke about this in my recent appearance on the Meidas Touch Network with PoliticsGirl.
In a juxtaposition to this, President Biden used his speech to promise a different approach:
“Today, I make this sacred pledge to you. The defense, protection, and preservation of American democracy will remain, as it has been, the central cause of my presidency ... your freedom is on the ballot ... without democracy, no progress is possible."
There has been some progress on this front, like the modification of the Electoral Count Act that President Biden signed into law in 2022. The changes were a direct response to January 6. The measure makes clear that the Vice President’s role in certifying the election results is purely ceremonial, ensures only one slate of electors can be submitted, and raises the threshold required for triggering a vote on objections to state electors from one member to one-fifth of each chamber.
I think it’s safe to say Donald Trump would not have signed that reform into law if he had been president.
What Trump has already done is enough to determine he is a desperate authoritarian unfit for the presidency. What he promises to do if he wins in 2024 further affirms this truth and highlights the stakes of this election.
Do we really want to undo all the post-pandemic progress we’ve made and hand the Oval Office back to the guy echoing Hitler and the party promising to ban abortion?
For Americans who care about democracy, the stakes and contrasts couldn’t be clearer.
Biden closed his remarks with a poignant question voters should consider:
“We all know who Donald Trump is. The question we have to answer is ‘who are we?’”