As part of that, Biden will award the Presidential Citizens Medal to 12 people in those two categories, including Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman, the Georgia elections workers who testified to the Jan. 6 committee about the threats they had faced after being targeted—by name—by Donald Trump and his allies. “There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere,” Freeman said in her testimony. “Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you?”
Rusty Bowers, the Republican former Arizona House speaker who lost a state Senate primary after refusing to help overturn the 2020 election, and Al Schmidt, a Philadelphia Republican official targeted by Trump for similar reasons, are on the list for the presidential honor.
Biden will also honor a number of the law enforcement officers who have testified about what they faced on Jan. 6: Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell; Capitol Police Officers Harry Dunn, Eugene Goodman, and Caroline Edwards; Metropolitan Police Department Officer Daniel Hodges; and former D.C. Police Officer Michael Fanone. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick will receive the medal posthumously.
But in addition to highlighting the heroism of those who defended democracy in the wake of the 2020 elections, Biden will warn that the fight is not over. “According to multiple advisers, Biden will use Friday’s address to again put center stage the danger and chaos posed by election deniers even as the November elections in which many of them lost their races for office begin to fade from view,” Politio reports. “He will link Republicans to the extremists who attempted to forcibly overturn the results of Donald Trump’s defeat.”
This is a message Biden has returned to repeatedly over the past two years, despite the media often downplaying his warnings or dismissing them as partisan rhetoric—and it’s one that, against the media narrative that voters don’t care about this stuff, resonated with voters in 2022. In post-election polling of 71 competitive House districts, 73% of Democrats and 51% of independents said that protecting democracy was an important consideration getting them out to vote. Results like that show one of the reasons Biden was right not to let the media naysayers determine what he talked about. (The other big reason, of course, is that it’s important to defend democracy even if it doesn’t look like a winning issue.)
“The Big Lie being told by the former president and Republicans who fear his wrath is that the insurrection took place on Election Day,” Biden said one year ago as he marked the first anniversary of the attack. “Is that what you thought you were doing or did you think you were carrying out your highest duty as a citizen and voting?”
In a late August speech at a rally for Maryland gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore, Biden said, “The MAGA Republicans don’t just threaten our personal rights and economic security. They’re a threat to our very democracy. They refuse to accept the will of the people. They embrace—embrace—political violence. They don’t believe in democracy.”
MAGA Republicans “look at the mob that stormed the United States Capitol on January 6th—brutally attacking law enforcement—not as insurrectionists who placed a dagger to the throat of our democracy, but they look at them as patriots,” Biden said in his Sept. 1 speech at Independence Hall. “And they see their MAGA failure to stop a peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election as preparation for the 2022 and 2024 elections.”
Following the 2022 elections—because this is not just an election issue at all—the White House press office kept up the theme, calling out other Republicans’ promotion of efforts to overturn the 2020 election as the Jan. 6 committee released more information about what Republicans had been saying behind the scenes.
Biden has been warning us, and he’s not stopping. Is it too much to hope that his second Jan. 6 anniversary speech will be taken seriously rather than being dismissed as preelection gamesmanship?
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