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Biden warns against threats to democracy and says Americans must speak out

President Biden in Mountain View, Calif. on Sept. 26, 2023. Biden is giving a speech on democracy in Phoenix on Thursday.
Evan Vucci
/
AP
President Biden in Mountain View, Calif. on Sept. 26, 2023. Biden is giving a speech on democracy in Phoenix on Thursday.

President Biden is set to give remarks in Phoenix on Thursday on a theme that he is returning to for his 2024 reelection campaign: the need to protect democracy.

Biden is trying to create an opportunity for a split-screen moment, pitting his vision against a Republican party grappling with some serious internal divisions.

Biden's speech comes as House Republicans launch an impeachment inquiry panned for its lack of evidence — and careen toward an unpopular government shutdown sparked by intraparty disagreements over spending.

Internal GOP fissures were also on full display on Wednesday during a primary debate that the front-runner, former President Donald Trump, skipped in favor of doing his own event.

In his remarks, Biden will pay tribute to a Republican presidential candidate from another era — Arizona Sen. John McCain, who died in 2018. Biden will discuss the need for "constant loyalty" to the U.S. Constitution and the importance of American institutions, a White House official told reporters.

"President Biden will talk about his conviction that we must not walk away from the sacrifices generations of Americans have made to defend our democracy," the official said.

Polls show voters are concerned about threats to democracy

Biden's approval ratings have been hurt by voters' concerns about his age and the economy. But polls also show that voters are concerned about threats to democracy, particularly in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Biden gave a trio of speeches on the need to protect democracy in the run-up to the 2022 midterm elections, where Democrats did better than expected.

He has talked about the issue at fundraising events for his campaign.

"Democracy is still at stake in 2024. Democracy is on the ballot," he told donors in San Francisco on Wednesday.

"Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans are determined to destroy American democracy because they want to break down institutional structures," Biden said.

Republican Sen. John McCain and now-President Biden in Philadelphia on Oct. 16, 2017.
Matt Rourke / AP
/
AP
Republican Sen. John McCain and now-President Biden in Philadelphia on Oct. 16, 2017.

Biden will also pay tribute to Republican Sen. John McCain

During his remarks in Arizona — a key swing state for the 2024 race — Biden will announce funding for the McCain Library, a new facility that will have health, education and work programs for underserved communities in Arizona. The McCain Institute and Arizona State University will be involved in the library construction.

Biden served alongside McCain in the Senate for decades and gave a eulogy at his funeral, memorializing him as someone who knew how to work across the aisle for the good of the country.

"I trusted John with my life," Biden said during that eulogy. "The thing that's understated the most was his optimism. That's what made John special, made him a giant among us."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

On his recent trip to Vietnam, President Biden visited a monument to Sen. John McCain on Sept. 22, 2023. McCain spent more than five years a prisoner of war in Hanoi during the Vietnam War.
Evan Vucci / AP
/
AP
On his recent trip to Vietnam, President Biden visited a monument to Sen. John McCain on Sept. 22, 2023. McCain spent more than five years a prisoner of war in Hanoi during the Vietnam War.

Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.
Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.