President Joe Biden is set to deliver a prime-time speech aimed at the “soul of the nation” Thursday night, remarks that will likely feature many of his party’s ideological talking points ahead of the November elections and push back at what he calls a growing semi-fascist movement on the political right.
While the speech comes just months before a key slate of votes that will determine which party controls the nation’s main lawmaking bodies, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said this is not a stump speech.
“It’s not a political speech,” she said of the remarks Biden will deliver outside Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, the place where the nation’s founders debated and signed the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. “This is an opportunity, again, for the president to directly have a conversation with the American people.”
But, she said, “We’re talking about agendas that are incredibly extreme. We’re talking about an agenda that is not in line with where the majority of Americans are. So, yeah, the president is going to talk about that. He’s not going to shy away.”
Watch Biden’s speech live
In recent days, Biden has been rhetorically battling Republican lawmakers as well as his predecessor, Donald Trump, and has sharply attacked the opposition party’s philosophy as “semi-fascism.” Jean-Pierre said that agenda includes conservative support for the Supreme Court decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 federal abortion ruling, and instead allow states to determine abortion access. Some Republicans have called for new federal legislation that would ban most abortions nationwide.
“The national ban on abortion is extreme and also is not in line with where a majority of Americans are,” she said. “It is just not. It is taking away people’s rights. It is taking away people’s freedoms. And you know, he doesn’t — he believes that is an extreme agenda.”
Prominent neoconservative political analyst Bill Kristol told VOA that Biden’s address should be “not just a political stump speech but really a more profound speech to all Americans. I think it’s appropriate for the president to say, ‘Let’s step back here, and let’s be cautious about what we’re risking. And let’s be thoughtful about the way in which we conduct our politics.'”
It is unclear whether Biden will mention former president Trump by name in his remarks. He has mentioned him sparingly in public since taking office. He has accused the former president and his supporters of following an “extreme MAGA philosophy” and of choosing “to go backwards, full of anger, violence, hate and division.”
MAGA stands for “Make America Great Again,” a slogan Trump popularized in his successful 2016 bid for president.
The stakes are high for Biden’s speech, said Brendan Nyhan, a Dartmouth University professor of government and the co-founder of Bright Line Watch, a watchdog group monitoring the status of American democracy.
“I believe U.S. democracy faces the greatest threat it has seen since we became a full-fledged democracy after the civil rights movement [of the 1960s]. We’ve seen a violent insurrection that attempted to overturn a presidential election, and now we’re seeing threats of violence in response to efforts to enforce the rule of law,” Nyhan told VOA on Wednesday.
“Americans would be very clear-eyed about what they were seeing if they saw it in another country,” he said. “And I think we need to recognize that the threat we see here at home is significant.
Biden’s speech begins at 8 p.m. Eastern time, which is midnight GMT.