WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will kick off his 2024 pitch to voters Friday, the day before the anniversary of the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, by posing the question of whether democracy is still a “sacred cause” worth sacrificing for.
Biden believes the upcoming election is largely about that question, according to a Biden adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the Democratic president’s expected remarks. Whether or not the nation agrees may end up a central question of the 2024 race.
The president will speak from near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where George Washington and the Continental Army spent a bleak winter nearly 250 years ago. And he’ll talk about how Washington spoke to his army about democracy as a “sacred cause.”
The Jan. 6 attack was a vivid reminder of how that democracy can be tested, Biden is expected to say, according to the adviser.
Biden will also lay out then−President Donald Trump’s role in the attack, as a mob of the Republican’s supporters overran the Capitol. More than 100 police officers were bloodied, beaten and attacked by the rioters who overwhelmed authorities to break into the building in an effort to stop the certification of votes for Biden, who had won the 2020 election.
At least nine people who were at the Capitol that day died during or after the rioting, including several officers who died of suicide, a woman who was shot and killed by police as she tried to break into the House chamber, and three other Trump supporters whom authorities said suffered medical emergencies.
Although the chaos of Jan. 6 came down on members of both political parties, it is being remembered in a largely polarized fashion now, like other aspects of political life in a divided country.
Biden will characterize his predecessor as a serious threat to the nation’s founding principles, arguing that Trump — who has built a commanding early lead in the Republican 2024 presidential primary — will seek to undermine U.S. democracy should he win a second term.
Trump, who faces 91 criminal charges stemming from his efforts to overturn his loss to Biden and three other felony cases, argues that Biden and top Democrats are themselves seeking to undermine democracy by using the legal system to thwart the campaign of his chief rival.
In the days after the attack, 52% of U.S. adults said Trump bore a lot of responsibility for Jan. 6, according to the Pew Research Center. By early 2022, that had declined to 43%. The number of Americans who said Trump bore no responsibility increased from 24% in 2021 to 32% in 2022.
A Washington Post−University of Maryland poll released this week found that about 7 in 10 Republicans say too much is being made of the attack. Just 18% of GOP supporters say that protesters who entered the Capitol were “mostly violent,” down from 26% in 2021, while 77% of Democrats and 54% of independents say the protesters were mostly violent, essentially unchanged from 2021.
On the first anniversary, Biden stood in Statuary Hall, a historic spot where the House of Representatives used to meet before the Civil War. On Jan. 6, rioters filled the area, some looking for lawmakers who had run for cover.
“They weren’t looking to uphold the will of the people,” Biden said of the rioters. “They were looking to deny the will of the people.”
On the second anniversary, Biden presented the nation’s second highest civilian award to 12 people who were involved in defending the Capitol during the attack.
Friday’s speech will include supporters and young people motivated by the attack to get involved in politics, campaign advisers said.
Washington, Biden is expected to note, was a president who willingly gave up his power for the good of the country.
Colleen Long And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press