Americans needed to hear the truth. They needed to hear it spoken forcefully and with conviction. And they needed to hear it from the highest office holder in the land.
Donald Trump lost. He lied to the American people for purely selfish reasons while trying to overturn the will of the people. And the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection was a culmination of Trump’s corrupt attempts to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power.
That is exactly the case President Joe Biden made Thursday in a powerful speech marking the one-year anniversary of the homegrown terrorist attack Trump inspired on the U.S. seat of government.
Biden's rebuke was both emphatic and historic. No sitting American president in modern history has so thoroughly and brutally impugned their predecessor. Biden pulled no punches as he pounded away at Trump's Big Lie, reminding Americans that he and his acolytes have yet to provide a shred evidence to support their claims even as it was unanimously rejected by the courts, state election officials, and the highest-ranking members of his own administration.
"He can’t accept he lost, even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own attorney general, his own vice president, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said: He lost," Biden said.
"Every legal challenge questioning the results in every court in this country that could have been made was made and was rejected," Biden added, noting that GOP-appointed judges, Trump-appointed judges, and the Supreme Court all agreed.
Biden reminded Americans that the many recounts undertaken by election officials in multiple states turned up "zero proof" of election fraud.
"Georgia counted its results three times, with one recount by hand," he noted.
Even the bogus partisan audits conducted in several states failed to call the 2020 outcome into question. "None changed the results," Biden said.
"He’s not just a former president," Biden explained, "he’s a defeated former president—defeated by a margin of over 7 million of your votes in a full and free and fair election."
Biden also obliterated the notion that the election at the top of the 2020 ticket was somehow fraudulent while GOP lawmakers have happily embraced all the down-ballot outcomes.
“Just think about this: The former president and his supporters have never been able to explain how they accept as accurate the other election results that took place on November 3rd—the elections for governor, United States Senate, the House of Representatives—elections in which they closed the gap in the House," Biden recalled. "They challenge none of that."
They were all on the same ballot on the same day on which the same voters cast their votes.
"The only difference," Biden added, is "the former President didn’t lose those races; he just lost the one that was his own."
After shredding the Big Lie Trump has been selling for more than a year, Biden turned to Republican lies about the Jan. 6 attack itself.
“This wasn’t a group of tourists. This was an armed insurrection,” he said, shredding the fallacy that the assault was a peaceful protest.
Biden added Trump and his supporters have been trying to cast the insurrectionists as "the true patriots.”
"Is that what you thought when you looked at the mob ransacking the Capitol, destroying property, literally defecating in the hallways, rifling through desks of senators and representatives, hunting down members of congress?" he asked, conjuring up the images Americans saw one year ago as they watched Trump's cultists desecrate the Capitol.
"Patriots? Not in my view," Biden said.
The real patriots, he added, were the 150 million Americans who peacefully cast their votes, the election workers who ensured the vote's integrity, and the officers who put their lives on the line that day to defend the Capitol and U.S. lawmakers.
"Those who stormed this Capitol and those who instigated and incited and those who called on them to do so held a dagger at the throat of America—at American democracy," said Biden. "They didn’t come here out of patriotism or principle. They came here in rage—not in service of America, but rather in service of one man," he added.
Biden also laid waste to the entire Republican Party posture over a year after voters delivered them a stinging defeat at the ballot box.
"You can’t love your country only when you win," he told Americans.
In the roughly 25-minute speech, Biden returned to the theme he had built his entire candidacy around—that we are in an existential battle for the future of American democracy. In spring of 2019, Biden had launched his presidential bid by recalling the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
"In that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime," Biden said in his announcement video.
It wasn't the first time a U.S. presidential candidate had declared we were in a "battle for the soul of this nation," but using the statement as the platform for launching his campaign was indeed as clear-eyed as it was prescient.
That spirit seemed all but lost during the seemingly endless and sometimes aimless legislative battles that consumed Democrats in 2021.
On Thursday, Biden appeared to reset the table for 2022 as a reckoning on the worst homegrown terrorist attack ever perpetrated on the Capitol and U.S. lawmakers.
"Make no mistake about it: We’re living at an inflection point in history," Biden stated. "As we stand here today—one year since January 6th, 2021—the lies that drove the anger and madness we saw in this place, they have not abated. So, we have to be firm, resolute, and unyielding in our defense of the right to vote and to have that vote counted."
Biden declared himself "crystal clear" about the threats the republic faces. But as is second nature to this man who has endured a life of painful losses, Biden reached for hope in the midst of peril.
"Now, let us step up, write the next chapter in American history where January 6th marks not the end of democracy, but the beginning of a renaissance of liberty and fair play," Biden proclaimed.
He had not sought the battle that was launched by the deadly assault on the Capitol, Biden said, but he would "not shrink from it either."
"I will stand in this breach. I will defend this nation. And I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy," Biden promised.
This is the president our ailing democracy needs—the fighter he pledged to be at the outset of his campaign.
And if this was the beginning of a rallying cry that will echo throughout the Democratic Party through the midterms and deep into 2024, then democracy still stands a fighting chance.