Joe Biden has had a long career of careless pronouncements and demagogic speeches, but he outdid himself with his cynical rant in Georgia on Tuesday afternoon.
In a push to pass two sweeping Democratic voting bills federalizing a swath of election rules, Biden took a rhetorical sledgehammer to the legitimacy of America’s elections and identified opponents of the bills as domestic “enemies” on par with some of the most reprehensible figures in U.S. history.
It was a disgraceful performance, witless and sloppy even by Joe Biden’s standards.
He picked Georgia as the location of his speech because the state has been smeared by the Left, with Stacey Abrams leading the way, as a hotbed of voter suppression for years, culminating in last year’s election-reform bill signed into law by Republican governor Brian Kemp.
Despite practically every Democrat in the country believing, or pretending to believe, Abrams’s contention that discriminatory voting rules robbed her of victory in her 2018 gubernatorial race against Kemp, Georgia long ago adopted some of the rules now considered indispensable to democracy. The state has had no-excuse absentee voting for 15 years, widely available early voting for more than a decade, and automatic registration since 2016. The League of Women Voters in Georgia has complained that it’s hard to find anyone new to register to vote.
Not surprisingly, the alleged voter suppression that Abrams has made a political career out of decrying has been nowhere in evidence. Turnout in her gubernatorial election was almost as high as in the presidential election of 2016 and much higher than the gubernatorial election four years prior. In 2020, turnout exceeded 2008, when Barack Obama fueled big numbers. The Senate runoffs last January doubled what had been the previous record for turnout in a runoff.
The charge now is that Georgia’s reforms will reverse all this. It simply isn’t true. The law doesn’t limit no-excuse absentee voting, and expands hours available for early voting.
In his indictment, Biden specifically mentioned long lines, which are a function of incompetent local election administration, not state policy (and the reform law tries to address long lines); limits on drop-boxes, a pandemic innovation that is being preserved, if scaled back; allegedly making it harder to vote by mail, presumably a reference to the state’s moving away from signature match as a way to verify ballots — signatures have long been thought to be too inexact — and using driver’s license numbers instead; and restrictions on giving food and water to voters standing in line, a provision meant to prevent politicking among voters in line that was inspired by a similar rule in New York State.
Biden also hit a change that allows the state election board to remove the local election board in underperforming counties. The worry is that this capability will be used to rig the vote in localities. That’s not very plausible, though. Under the law, an investigation has to take place for 30 days before such a takeover, and the county can appeal to a judge. Since elections in Georgia have to be certified in ten days, this doesn’t leave enough time for the state board — assuming it was this brazen — to take over a county and change its vote count.
More broadly, Republicans around the country who are on board with Donald Trump’s lies about 2020 and running for state and local election offices would encounter insuperable legal obstacles if they tried to disregard the democratic vote tally after another Trump run in 2024.
Notwithstanding all of this, Biden declared our democracy in crisis and said it had to be fixed over the next couple of days. That’s when the Senate is supposed to eliminate the filibuster on the narrowest possible partisan vote — never mind that Biden has been a passionate defender of the filibuster for decades — and then pass sweeping bills nationalizing our elections on the narrowest possible partisan votes. Absent the political equivalent of a meteor strike, none of this will happen. So Biden will have further undermined the legitimacy of our elections for no reason even on his own terms. Perhaps he thinks it’s worth it to play to his party’s base, but surely Democrats will notice — and feel let down — when the alleged crisis the president says absolutely must be addressed is not addressed.
So the Georgia speech wasn’t just low and dishonest, it was likely politically incompetent as well — the Biden trifecta.