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‘Unpredecented, unlawful, un-American’: Biden warns democracy at risk as midterms loom

Joe Biden has warned Americans that “MAGA Republicans” are “trying to succeed where they failed in 2020” to subvert the will of voters in the upcoming midterms.

In a speech that comes just six days before the polls close, the US president said democracy is under attack because Donald Trump refused to accept the results of the 2020 election.

Pointing to the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Mr Biden warned Trump’s false claims about a stolen election have “fuelled the dangerous rise of political violence and voter intimidation over the past two years”.

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Pelosi’s husband badly beaten in break-in

Paul Pelosi, 82, was seriously injured after he was attacked with a hammer in his California home last week.

“There’s an alarming rise in the number of people in this country condoning political violence or simply remaining silent,” Mr Biden said. “The silence is complicity.”

He singled out “ultra-MAGA Republicans” – a reference to Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan – saying they are a minority but a “driving force” in the Republican Party.

This group is “trying to succeed where they failed in 2020 to suppress the rights of voters and subvert the electoral system itself”, he added.

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Image: Nancy and Paul Pelosi pictured in 2018

“There are candidates running for every level of office in America, for governor, for Congress, for attorney general, for secretary of state, who won’t commit to accepting the results of the elections they’re in.

“That is the path to chaos in America. It’s unprecedented. It’s unlawful. And it is un-American.”

In a country where many people vote early, more than 27 million Americans have already cast their ballots in what is the first election since the 6 January 2021 insurrection.

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How do midterm elections work?

Five people were killed and more than 140 police officers injured on the day Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building – the seat of US power in Washington DC.

Trump has been blamed for inciting his supporters, in a bid to overturn the results of the election held a few months earlier.

Last night, Mr Biden implored voters to “think long and hard about the moment we are in”, adding: “In a typical year, we are not often faced with the question of whether the vote we cast will preserve democracy or put it at risk – but we are this year.”

Analysis: Biden’s intervention is high risk – and controversial

This was no normal pre-election speech, and be in no doubt, an intervention like this is extremely controversial.

By saying that only his Democratic Party stands for democracy – however true he may believe that to be – is he essentially telling voters that the nation’s democracy has already been lost?

Just days from the elections in such a tense environment, it’s a high-risk speech indeed.

Scheduled late in the day and with a sense of urgency, it wasn’t about policy, it was about the stability of the country – the “soul of the nation” as he put it.

“We’re facing a defining moment, an inflection point,” Mr Biden warned. “Make no mistake – democracy is on the ballot.”

His party may well be trailing the polls – a drubbing next week is possible, and so he’s looking for votes of course. But the president sought to get beyond that.

“This is not about me … It’s about all of us. It’s about what makes America, America. It’s about the durability of our democracy.”

The context is a nation bitterly divided and a former president who continues to insist he won the last election.

Ever since the 2020 presidential race, Donald Trump has claimed, without any evidence, that he was robbed. A significant proportion of his supporters believe him – some polls suggest as many as 70%.

Defending the election’s integrity, Mr Biden said: “Every legal challenge that could have been brought was brought. Every recount that could have been undertaken was undertaken. Every recount confirmed the results.”

There are up to 300 Republican election deniers on the ballot next week – Trump allies such as Arizona’s candidate for governor, Kari Lake.

Mr Biden drew a line between what he called “the big lie” and the hammer attack last week on the House Speaker’s husband.

“The assailant ended up using a hammer to smash Paul’s skull. We don’t settle our differences America with a riot, a mob, or a bullet or a hammer,” he said in a stark warning about violent political extremism.

Mr Biden’s speech built on similar comments and rhetoric he’s made over the past few weeks.

“This has not happened since the civil war,” he said a few days ago. “It sounds like hyperbole, but it hasn’t happened since then, as bad as it is now.”