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Biden's Georgia speech is full of partisan election rhetoric

Rich Lowry

Well, it looks like we’re headed for autocracy, then.

In his wisdom, Joe Biden decided to declare in his Georgia voting speech that there’s a crisis in our democracy that can only be fixed if the Senate filibuster is eliminated to rapidly pass two sweeping Democratic voting bills on narrow partisan votes, an unlikely prospect that already looks completely dead.

Democratic Senator Krysten Sinema, in keeping with her consistent commitment, one that Biden was fully aware of before he headed to the podium in Georgia, said once again in the immediate wake of the president’s speech that she opposes ending the filibuster.

If Biden’s rhetoric in his speech is to be taken seriously — and it shouldn’t be — this makes Sinema the moral equivalent of Jefferson Davis or Bull Connor. Even Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, a reliably left-wing member of the Senate, allowed that these comparisons might have been a bit much.

Biden tried to make Georgia the poster child for the advent of a new American autocracy based on last year’s election reform. Biden’s case was, predictably, incredibly weak. What it lacked in facts it tried to make up in hysteria.

Georgia has limited drop boxes! Well, yeah, it took a pandemic-driven innovation and made it permanent, although on a more limited basis.

It has long lines! Sure, in certain places, but this is a local issue, often in cash-strapped, small jurisdictions (and the new law has provisions attempting to address it).

It’s making it harder to vote by mail! No, it’s moving from signature match on mail-in ballots, which Democrats had criticized, to the more reliable driver’s license or state-ID number.

It’s making it impossible for third-parties to give food and drink to voters standing in lines at polling places! This provision is meant to prevent electioneering as voters wait to get into the polling place, a practice known as “line warming.” The Georgia lawmakers got the idea from a similar rule in New York State. Poll workers and others can still provide food and drink to voters, as long as it is 150 feet from the entrance to the polling place and 25 feet from the line.

If Georgia has been determined to suppress the vote, it’s done a very poor job of it. Turnout in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election — the one that Democratic activist Stacey Abrams says was stolen from her — was almost as high as turnout in the presidential election of 2016. Last January’s Senate runoffs smashed the record for turnout in a runoff.

Georgia has had both no-excuse absentee voting and widely available early voting for more than a decade and adopted automatic registration in 2016.

Biden smeared the state, and the American electoral system more broadly, for the cheapest of reasons. It’s not as though he was going to push the voting bills over the finish line in a transformational legislative achievement. No, the thinking apparently was that he had to try to keep his party’s base interested and motivated by convincing it that he’s fighting tooth and claw to nationalize the country’s voting procedures.

In so doing, he neglected to even mention the bipartisan push to revise the Electoral Count Act. A growing group of senators wants to make it clear, contra Donald Trump, that the sitting vice president can’t unilaterally decide what electoral votes to count and generally to tighten up the poorly drafted 130-year-old law. This a worthy, incremental, achievable reform. But Biden once again, in pandering to progressive delusions, emphasized the almost-sure-to-fail over the likely-to-succeed.

This isn’t a formula for political success. Nor is it good for the country. The supposed promise of a President Joe Biden in the 2020 election was that he’d be the adult in the room, but if there was any doubt, his Georgia speech removed it — he’s the same hack he’s always been.

Rich Lowry is editor of National Review.

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