Resolute Square

The State Of Our Union's Democracy…

David Pepper writes, "(President Biden) must emphasize….that the state of democracy in our union is only as strong as it is in the states where democracy is weakest. In this ongoing battle, there is where we must focus our fight.”
Published:March 7, 2024

*Read all of David's writing and watch his white board videos at Pepperspectives!

By David Pepper

Last year’s State of the Union was one of the best hours of President Biden’s term as President.

Ever since, I’ve thought, bottle that up and do it everywhere.

So, needless to say, I’m hoping to see an equally effective speech tonight.

But I’m also hoping we hear something in particular. And that is Biden spell out how 2024 represents a true battle for democracy.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking—that Biden says something along these lines all the time.

But my hope is that he actually makes the case in a different way tonight than he typically does.

Because as you hear me say all the time, the battle for democracy is not just about Trump versus Biden—even though a second Trump term would be a catastrophe for democracy.

And the battle for democracy is not just about January 6, and the need to ensure that nothing like that ever happens again. Even though that too is crucially important.

I want Biden to go further than framing the battle at the highest of levels, where it is almost always framed by national politicians and the national media.

My hope is that instead, President Biden takes a few minutes to spell out the full battle for democracy taking place across America. Tell the FULL story.

And by that I mean the full, state-level attack on democracy that has been taking place before Trump ever ran for president, that continued after Biden defeated Trump in 2020, and that would continue if Trump were locked up tomorrow. And that will continue even if Trump loses again in November.

It’s absolutely pivotal that the President begin to explain this broader and deeper attack taking place—which involves gerrymandering, voter suppression, attempts to rig the constitutional amendment process in states, censoring history, and so much more.

For many reasons.Why is this so important?

First, because it’s the far more accurate account of what’s actually happening. And the American people deserve to hear that truth directly from their president. The narrower frame that it’s largely about Trump blinds us to so much of what’s happening—and what we have to do to overcome it.

And as my friend Gevin Reynolds (a Yale Law student and former Vice Presidential speechwriter) and I explain in a piece in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, that full account also allows the American people to finally connect the dots between the attack on democracy in all these states and the avalanche of extremism all around them—a connection that too often goes unexplained. This way, the real-life consequences of the broader attack on democracy—including the direct undermining of freedoms like abortion access and choosing IVF—become far more clear and painful than the endless DC debates, complex court cases and heated elections that most folks don’t perceive as impacting their daily lives.

Third, as Gevin and I explain, by doing so, President Biden will make it clear that the battle for democracy spans way beyond the swing states that usually get all the attention in presidential years. Instead, he “can engage Americans in all fifty states, make them feel seen, and let them know that they too have a role to play in saving our democracy. We are all on the front lines.”

And fourth, such a speech would “remind Americans that the threats to our democracy go far beyond the presidential and congressional races that will be decided this November.” He can “remind the American people that it is they who have the power to fight back. How? By participating in and voting for democracy up and down the ballot.

(And yes, that also happens to be a heck of a way to drive turnout everywhere, even where enthusiasm for Biden itself may be lagging at the moment).

Finally, this emphasis also allows Biden to make the case why it’s so critical that the Congress, as its first act in January 2025, pass the voting rights bills that will revitalize the Voting Rights Act, curb voter suppression in states while ending gerrymandering. It’s a promise he should make explicitly tonight. Boy is that something so many Americans, worried about our democracy, will want to hear.

Doing this will only take a few minutes.

But true straight talk from the President about the breadth and depth of the attack on American democracy would dramatically change American’s understanding of why things appear so broken, and how we can can ALL play a role in fixing them. Everywhere!

No doubt, Biden will rightfully declare that the state of our union is strong. But as Gevin and I write, as he does so, “he must emphasize….that the state of democracy in our union is only as strong as it is in the states where democracy is weakest. In this ongoing battle, there is where we must focus our fight.”

For Gevin’s and my full piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, go HERE .