President Biden’s prime time address to the nation on November 2nd, less than a week before today’s midterm election, was billed by the White House as a major speech about saving “democracy.” In reality, it was as pointless a presidential speech as America has heard in decades.
It was doom and gloom delivered in Biden’s signature unfriendly, if not downright threatening tone, through clenched teeth. The speech was so bad, in fact, that a CNN commentator labeled it “head-scratching.”
From a practical political perspective, Biden’s speech was about a far as one could possibly stray from the issue — as in election cycle after election cycle — that tends to drag voters from their couches to the polling place: the economy. Whatever the reason or whoever the author of the speech, it epitomizes the gulf between the real world and how the President appears to view it.
Even as Biden was telling his countrymen that “democracy” is at stake because of “extreme MAGA Republicans’” subversive efforts, record numbers of voters already had already voted – hardly evidence of voter “suppression.”
Biden tried his best to cast the nation’s situation in the most dire terms possible. Ignoring the clear fact that the economy is on the ballot this year, he claimed repeatedly that “Democracy is on the ballot”; and not only on the ballot, but “at risk” because of “dark forces” working against our freedom to vote in a true “moment of generational importance.”
The President spoke of “election deniers” as the harbingers of democracy’s doom. Even were election “deniers” running for offices up and down the ballot and in every one of the fifty states, the question then becomes, so what? If there are candidates who claim they will “deny” the results of their elections if they are shown to have lost, the reality of vote counts and recounts will in the end, as in 2020, carry the day.
And if those candidates remain obstinate in their refusals to accept that reality, they will join the ranks of sour losers that includes Georgia’s governor wannabe, Stacey Abrams, and former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on the Left, and former President Donald Trump on the Right.
Moreover, if this vast army of election deniers the President sees on the horizon were then to move their minions to violence, they will be arrested and prosecuted, as well they should be. The sky will not fall.
Predictably, of course, Biden took the opportunity of the presidential bully pulpit to again focus the nation’s attention on the 2020 election and the disgraceful Capitol Hill riots the following January 6th. In doing this rather than focusing on public policies designed to actually solve our nation’s many and serious problems, from record high inflation to massive unlawful inward immigration, Biden simply reinforced the public’s well-documented view of him as a truly terrible President.
Sadly, however, in focusing on the past, he is not alone.
Many congressional Republicans, tasting the almost certain sweetness of victory this week, already are girding to refight the past rather than lead for the future. This would be a serious mistake.
If the GOP succumbs to calls to launch its own January 6th investigation, or to reopen the already thoroughly discredited 2016 “Russia hoax,” or to spend two more years beating up on the disgraced Hunter Biden, they may win points from their base and the former president. Such agenda, however, is not what American needs, and will not provide the fuel for victory in the 2024 presidential election. What will, or at least should fuel that effort, is showing American voters the GOP takes seriously the mantle of majority leadership, as we did for three years after the 1994 electoral wave.
Even without owning the White House, Republican majorities in the Congress can – if they so choose – pass meaningful substantive budgets that, eventually, a Democrat president will have to sign. Those in such majority can conduct meaningful oversight of myriad federal agencies run amok under this President, including of the FBI which desperately needs it. And a congressional majority under firm, adult Republican leadership, can slow, even stop, Biden’s hell-bent programs that already threaten to ruin America’s energy sector and that have rent asunder our southern border.
This is the future we can have with Republican majorities. Whether we will have it remains to be seen.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.