Remarks by President Biden on the Continued Battle for the Soul of the Nation
Independence National Historical Park
(September 1, 2022)
My fellow Americans, please, if you have a seat, take it. I speak to you tonight from sacred ground in America: Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
This is where America made its Declaration of Independence to the world more than two centuries ago with an idea, unique among nations, that in America, we’re all created equal.
This is where the United States Constitution was written and debated.
This is where we set in motion the most extraordinary experiment of self-government the world has ever known with three simple words: “We, the People.” “We, the People.”
These two documents and the ideas they embody — equality and democracy — are the rock upon which this nation is built. They are how we became the greatest nation on Earth. They are why, for more than two centuries, America has been a beacon to the world.
But as I stand here tonight, equality and democracy are under assault. We do ourselves no favor to pretend otherwise.
So tonight, I have come this place where it all began to speak as plainly as I can to the nation about the threats we face, about the power we have in our own hands to meet these threats, and about the incredible future that lies in front of us if only we choose it.
We must never forget: We, the people, are the true heirs of the American experiment that began more than two centuries ago.
We, the people, have burning inside each of us the flame of liberty that was lit here at Independence Hall — a flame that lit our way through abolition, the Civil War, Suffrage, the Great Depression, world wars, Civil Rights.
That sacred flame still burns now in our time as we build an America that is more prosperous, free, and just.
That is the work of my presidency, a mission I believe in with my whole soul.
But first, we must be honest with each other and with ourselves.
Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal.
Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.
Now, I want to be very clear up front: Not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology.
I know because I’ve been able to work with these mainstream Republicans.
But there is no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans, and that is a threat to this country.
These are hard things.
But I’m an American President — not the President of red America or blue America, but of all America.
And I believe it is my duty — my duty to level with you, to tell the truth no matter how difficult, no matter how painful.
And here, in my view, is what is true: MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution. They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people.
They refuse to accept the results of a free election. And they’re working right now, as I speak, in state after state to give power to decide elections in America to partisans and cronies, empowering election deniers to undermine democracy itself.
MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards — backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love.
They promote authoritarian leaders, and they fan the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country.
They look at the mob that stormed the United States Capitol on January 6th — brutally attacking law enforcement — not as insurrectionists who placed a dagger to the throat of our democracy, but they look at them as patriots.
And they see their MAGA failure to stop a peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election as preparation for the 2022 and 2024 elections.
They tried everything last time to nullify the votes of 81 million people. This time, they’re determined to succeed in thwarting the will of the people.
That’s why respected conservatives, like Federal Circuit Court Judge Michael Luttig, has called Trump and the extreme MAGA Republicans, quote, a “clear and present danger” to our democracy.
But while the threat to American democracy is real, I want to say as clearly as we can: We are not powerless in the face of these threats. We are not bystanders in this ongoing attack on democracy.
There are far more Americans — far more Americans from every — from every background and belief who reject the extreme MAGA ideology than those that accept it.
And, folks, it is within our power, it’s in our hands — yours and mine — to stop the assault on American democracy.
I believe America is at an inflection point — one of those moments that determine the shape of everything that’s to come after.
And now America must choose: to move forward or to move backwards? To build the future or obsess about the past? To be a nation of hope and unity and optimism, or a nation of fear, division, and of darkness?
MAGA Republicans have made their choice. They embrace anger. They thrive on chaos. They live not in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies.
But together — together, we can choose a different path. We can choose a better path. Forward, to the future. A future of possibility. A future to build and dream and hope.
And we’re on that path, moving ahead.
I know this nation. I know you, the American people. I know your courage. I know your hearts. And I know our history.
This is a nation that honors our Constitution. We do not reject it.
This is a nation that believes in the rule of law. We do not repudiate it.
This is a nation that respects free and fair elections. We honor the will of the people. We do not deny it.
And this is a nation that rejects violence as a political tool. We do not encourage violence.
We are still an America that believes in honesty and decency and respect for others, patriotism, liberty, justice for all, hope, possibilities.
We are still, at our core, a democracy.
And yet history tells us that blind loyalty to a single leader and a willingness to engage in political violence is fatal to democracy.
For a long time, we’ve told ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed, but it’s not.
We have to defend it, protect it, stand up for it — each and every one of us.
That’s why tonight I’m asking our nation to come together, unite behind the single purpose of defending our democracy regardless of your ideology.
We’re all called, by duty and conscience, to confront extremists who will put their own pursuit of power above all else.
Democrats, independents, mainstream Republicans: We must be stronger, more determined, and more committed to saving American democracy than MAGA Republicans are to — to destroying American democracy.
We, the people, will not let anyone or anything tear us apart. Today, there are dangers around us we cannot allow to prevail. You’ve heard it — more and more talk about violence as an acceptable political tool in this country. It’s not. It can never be an acceptable tool.
So I want to say this plain and simple: There is no place for political violence in America. Period. None. Ever.
We saw law enforcement brutally attacked on January the 6th. We’ve seen election officials, poll workers — many of them volunteers of both parties — subjected to intimidation and death threats. And — can you believe it? — FBI agents just doing their job as directed, facing threats to their own lives from their own fellow citizens.
On top of that, there are public figures — today, yesterday, and the day before — predicting and all but calling for mass violence and rioting in the streets.
This is inflammatory. It’s dangerous. It’s against the rule of law. And we, the people, must say: This is not who we are.
Ladies and gentlemen, we can’t be pro-insurrectionist and pro-American. They’re incompatible.
We can’t allow violence to be normalized in this country. It’s wrong. We each have to reject political violence with — with all the moral clarity and conviction this nation can muster. Now.
We can’t let the integrity of our elections be undermined, for that is a path to chaos.
Look, I know politics can be fierce and mean and nasty in America. I get it. I believe in the give-and-take of politics, in disagreement and debate and dissent.
We’re a big, complicated country. But democracy endures only if we, the people, respect the guardrails of the republic. Only if we, the people, accept the results of free and fair elections. Only if we, the people, see politics not as total war but mediation of our differences.
Democracy cannot survive when one side believes there are only two outcomes to an election: either they win or they were cheated. And that’s where MAGA Republicans are today.
They don’t understand what every patriotic American knows: You can’t love your country only when you win. It’s fundamental.
American democracy only works only if we choose to respect the rule of law and the institutions that were set up in this chamber behind me, only if we respect our legitimate political differences.
I will not stand by and watch the will of the American people be overturned by wild conspiracy theories and baseless, evidence-free claims of fraud.
I will not stand by and watch elections in this country stolen by people who simply refuse to accept that they lost.
I will not stand by and watch the most fundamental freedom in this country — the freedom to vote and have your vote counted be taken from you and the American people.
Look, as your President, I will defend our democracy with every fiber of my being, and I’m asking every American to join me.
(A protestor disruption can be heard.)
Throughout our history, America has often made the greatest progress coming out of some of our darkest moments, like you’re hearing in that bullhorn.