The Partisanship of Biden’s January 6th Speech

George: I agree with almost everything you say here about what Biden should have done with yesterday’s speech. I just don’t agree that Biden’s speech accomplished that. The attempt to build a coalition of constitutional patriots must include the acceptance of party differences. Biden’s speech was more aggressively partisan that that. He was not merely a constitutional partisan; he became a partisan of the Democratic party. He equated Republican politics now regarding, for instance, the federalization of elections with January 6th. I think there are reasons to oppose the federalization of elections that have nothing to do with January 6th.

In fact, in making this connection, he’s equating the singular importance of January 6th with normal partisan politics. He’s not putting together a coalition of constitutional patriots unified, in the first place, by your point that the most important constitutional issue is a the peaceful transfer of power. Instead, he’s using January 6th as a political spear to attack any opponents he might have now on other issues. T

his is both a missed opportunity for him and a dangerous thing to do as a constitutional matter. Precisely because of the gravity of January 6th, I worry if it becomes a purely Democratic issue. The underlying logic of his speech seemed to be: if you oppose January 6th, you should be a Democrat and support me. If you support the Republicans then you must be supporting January 6th. Thus, if you’re a Republican, you’re a threat to the Constitution.

But there are lots of people in Virginia, for instance, who would vehemently oppose January 6 but voted for Youngkin. Their vote for Youngkin, regardless of his position on Trump, does not mean they support Trump’s attack on the Constitution. And to suggest as much, either implicitly or explicitly, is to cheapen January 6th by equating it with other political issues. I would, instead, suggest that a majority of people in Virginia voted for Youngkin partially because of McAuliffe’s disastrous statement about schools and partially to register their disapproval with the Biden presidency.

The fact is that Biden’s approval ratings have been falling pretty consistently over the last several months. They are falling not because people have started approving of January 6th; they are falling because people don’t like many of the things he’s done as President. For better or worse, they’ve moved on from January 6th.

It seemed to me that his speech was a political attempt to change the course of his own approval ratings by recalling January 6th and implicitly suggesting to those turning against him now that they are supporting Trump’s behavior on that day. In other words, because I agree with you that the peaceful transfer of power is the most important constitutional question, I don’t want it to become a political tool for the Democrats. Again, that cheapens the singular importance of it.

Instead of re-litigating January 6th as though it were January 20th in the midst of the impeachment question, I thought Biden could/should have reflected on precisely the constitutional question you and I think is so important. He began to do that in the last ten minutes of the speech but he spent the first thirty minutes running through the events of that day. It’s not that I want that day to be forgotten. It’s just a question of when and how it’s appropriate to discuss it.

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