President Biden is hosting a unity summit at the White House later this week. It’s supposed to combat what they are calling hate-fueled violence on democracy and public safety. This has, of course, been the central mission of Joe Biden’s presidency. He said he was motivated to run for office after the racist violence in Charlottesville, and he campaigned as a uniter.
President Biden focused on unity ahead of the midterms
Unity has probably been the most consistent through line, I think, we’ve heard from President Biden, more so than even, perhaps, the economy or COVID, right? It’s just been the constant message that we’ve heard from him in terms of why he ran for office.
The causes of violence are so widespread in the country. You have, obviously, some of the racially fueled violence that Biden has focused a lot on, but then you also have political violence, thinking of things like the attack on the Capitol on January 6. And they come from sort of different root causes.
You know, when he held a rally raising concerns about, you know, in his words, MAGA Republicans, you know, the faction of Republican leadership that supports or continues to support former President Donald Trump. And, you know, he ended a speech, a presidential speech, you know, basically saying, vote, vote, vote and said, you know, the main concern was, you know, against extremism. I would not characterize that speech as a uniting speech.
It was more of a, you know, warning, a watch-out type speech. Now, the White House says that there are moderate Republicans as well. But, you know, certainly, the message from the president and Democrats are more Democrats need to be in office in order to counter those Republican factions that have excited the Republican Party.
The President ran for office because of the white supremacist rally in Virginia
The president, you know, says that he was inspired to run after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., you know, and there have been more or a number of hate-fueled attacks during his administration, including in Buffalo, where 10 African Americans were killed in a supermarket. You know, and that led a number of groups calling for Biden to kind of use the power of the presidency to, you know, address hate crimes and extremisms. So there are going to be a bunch of different groups coming to Washington, to come to the White House and – you know, from the federal level, from the state level, from the advocacy level – you know, to get together, hold panel discussions, all with the idea of trying to get together to find a way to prevent radicalization, encourage unity.
But, you know, as we were just talking about, you know, it is midterm election season. Some of these kind of topics kind of run parallel to what the president has been saying. I should also just note that President Biden is going to give a keynote address during the summit.
And as I’d said before, you know, the White House is just talking about a lot here. There are so many different types of violence. There are so many different drivers of violence. But in this context, I think one thing they’re focused on, too, is political violence, the kind that is meant to disrupt the government or target elected officials. Obviously, this country has a very long history of political violence. Political violence is not a new phenomenon in America.
Threats of violence have been on the rise
There’s no question there have been a rise in threats. I mean, very recently, there was the high-profile threats against FBI agents who, you know, searched the Mar-a-Lago home of former President Donald Trump in search of classified documents. And you’d be able to talk about this probably better than I is, you know, all the threats against members of Congress being up.
You know, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which just did a big report on this, threats against members of Congress are up more than 10 times where they were just five years ago. You know, there’s also an increase in armed demonstrations across the United States. And, you know, before the break, we were just talking about hate crimes. In 2020, there were more than 8,000 hate crimes reported by the FBI. That’s the highest number since 9/11. And I didn’t even mention the increase in white supremacist propaganda, which is also up in very high numbers.
The threats to elected officials, at least on the federal level, is clear. I mean, the Capitol Police has publicly said that they’re dealing with more incoming threats to members. They deal with the security for members both at their homes and here in the Capitol. Just over the summer, they recently approved giving members more money so they can actually beef up security in their homes. There’s been some pretty aggressive attempted attacks against officials. I’m thinking of Lee Zeldin, who’s a Republican member of the House who’s running for governor who – you know, there was an attempt – knife attack on him.
Congress aware of their safety
When it comes to members of Congress, they are much more aware of their safety. They’re much more aware of the safety when they do public events, when they do – especially things that are, you know, sort of notified public, like town hall meetings or any other kind of events they do. Local police and local security have, I think, definitely been beefed up and almost beefed up across the board. I think both Democratic and Republican lawmakers are seeking more security around themselves and their families these days.
Biden, while he’s not any more popular than Trump was, or, at least, you know, not really noticeably different – Trump had many more people who strongly disapproved than does Biden. So Trump is more polarizing.
Talking about Trump is relevant here, too, because he might run again. And to that point, half the electorate saw how Trump led, they saw how they used racial resentments and they liked his style – right? – like this idea that the whole country is hungry for this Biden version of unity, I think, is really suspect. I mean, there are a lot of people in this country who actually kind of prefer the Trump approach.
When it comes to unity, it’s important to consider Trump running again in 2024
He’s talking about unity. Biden’s talking about combating extremism. He’s pointing to certain factions of the Republicans as supporting some of this extremism, you know, kind of looking the other way when it comes to political violence. And, yes, I do feel that he certainly is hoping to grab more unity to kind of lower the temperature from the Trump years. But it is also a tactic to differentiate himself from the former president and kind of show a different way.
It is also a way for the president not to talk about things that he’s vulnerable about. Biden can talk about Trump instead of talking about concerns about the economy. He can talk about Trump and, you know, his supporters instead of talking about immigration. He can talk about that instead of crime, areas where Biden is vulnerable politically. So this is an opportunity to kind of change the narrative, asking voters, which way forward do you want? Do you want a way that is kind of a little bit more extreme than Trump is kind of running or do you want something a little bit more moderate like Biden?