Presidents often start an election year by touting their achievements; former President Donald Trump never missed a chance to highlight the record low rates of poverty and black unemployment seen during his administration. It’s thus natural that Trump’s successor would begin 2024 by doing some boasting of his own. Yet as he addressed supporters in Valley Forge on Friday, President Joe Biden bragged about a very different accomplishment.
Locking people up.
Obviously Biden wasn’t talking about the people who beat, looted, and murdered their way through the summer of 2020, as his Justice Department has been busy cutting sweetheart deals with them. Examples include Montez Terriel Lee Jr., who burned down a pawnshop while the owner was trapped inside. Despite his victim’s horrifying demise, prosecutors asked for a sentence that was eight years shorter than what federal guidelines recommended. The reason? Lee was feeling “angry, frustrated, and disenfranchised” following the death of George Floyd.
No, Biden was of course referring to those who went to the Capitol on January 6, 2021. At one point during his speech, he began reciting the number of arrests, convictions, and prison sentences with the same enthusiasm Trump used to display when talking about low gas prices and increased energy production.
“Since that day, more than 1,200 people have been charged for their assault on the Capitol and nearly 900 of them have been convicted or pled guilty. Collectively to date, they have been sentenced to more than 840 years in prison,” the elderly president bellowed. Those in attendance dutifully cheered, as if these numbers reflected some kind of positive change in their lives.
Biden’s narrative about January 6 has taken something of a hit over the past year, as the release of security footage showing that most of those who entered the Capital behaved peacefully, with some even being escorted by police and having doors opened for them.
Treating their incarceration as a triumph for humanity thus comes off as rather odd. However, if you’re wondering why Biden would make this a sales pitch, then the answer is simple: it’s the only one he’s got.
According to a poll commissioned last month by CBS News and conducted by YouGov, 76% of Americans say their income is not keeping up with inflation. Another 62% rated the state of the economy as being “bad.” And when asked who has a chance to get ahead in today’s economy, 64% said the answer is “just a few at the top.”
What’s more, other surveys show the president is underwater when it comes to the border, crime, and foreign affairs. Since he has no record that can be lionized, his only option is to demonize a massive share of the population. It’s why his Justice Department tried to intimidate parents who were concerned about what was going on with their local school boards. It also explains why Biden once again falsely claimed that multiple officers were killed on January 6.
The president ominously told his supporters on Friday that “MAGA Republicans have made their choice.” They aren’t alone, as current polling data suggests that most Americans have arrived at a similar decision: they’re voting him out. While their living conditions are unlikely to go up between now and November, the amount of hate they get from a desperate president certainly will.