In a speech on January 5 near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, Joe Biden drew focus to the thread that gives vitality to his re-election campaign and, in no small measure, to his presidency. If his 2020 campaign was framed as a battle for the soul of America, 2024 may determine America’s commitment to its “sacred cause.”

Biden recalled the story of Valley Forge, where in 1777 George Washington’s army endured a bitter winter encamped there, exhausted and poorly supplied (a third of Washington’s 11,000-man army had no shoes). To many of the soldiers defeat must have seemed a likely outcome. But Washington inspired his troops, declaring that their mission was “a sacred cause.” For George Washington, Biden said, the mission was “liberty not conquest. Freedom, not domination. National independence, not individual glory.”

The 2024 campaign will answer the most important of questions, Biden said: “Is democracy still America’s sacred cause?” Amid an apparent ascendency of authoritarian governments around the world, will the voters choose liberty, freedom and democracy or will a thin majority of them in a few crucial states put a known prolific liar and delusional messiah over the top in the electoral college vote on a promise of “retribution” and revenge?

Biden called out the probable Republican nominee and his MAGA supporters for embracing political violence and laughing about it. At a MAGA rally, the former president of the United States joked about Paul Pelosi being attacked by a crazed intruder with a hammer and suffering a fractured skull as a result. “And he thinks that’s funny. He laughed about it. What a sick fuck.” I’m paraphrasing.

Two weeks after the horror of January 6, 2021, which saw a MAGA-inspired mob break into the Capitol looking to disrupt the counting of electoral votes, kill the vice-president and threaten the life of Speaker Pelosi, Biden swore to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and became the president of the United States. In the Valley Forge speech three years later, Biden recalled looking out from the Capitol steps on that day and seeing what he termed “an America that had been pushed to the brink.” In that moment, he said, he “felt enormous pride in America because American democracy had been tested and American democracy had held together.” He saw America’s “strength and integrity.”

The “MAGA voices” continue to believe that Democrat Joe Biden could not have won the 2020 election. It is not a matter of evidence. It is a matter of their faith in a possibly senile man who now claims to be made by God to rule the country. They believe that God’s creation is being prosecuted unfairly and that he was allowed to commit criminal acts because as president he “had to have immunity.” Biden rightly said that these MAGA believers “have abandoned the truth and abandoned democracy.”

Biden believes it is America’s choice to defend the truth and not abandon the Constitution. At Valley Forge, he said that America would “honor the sacred cause of democracy, not walk away from it.” The “central cause” of his presidency is the “defense, protection and preservation of American democracy.”

Our freedom and our democracy are on the ballot in 2024. The question we have to answer in 2024, Biden said, is “who are we?” That is what is at stake this year. “The push and pull of American history is not a fairy tale. Every stride forward in America is met with a ferocious backlash, many times from those who fear progress and those who exploit that fear for their own personal gain; from those who traffic in lies told for power and profit; from those who are driven by grievance and grift, consumed by conspiracy and victimhood; from those who seek to bury history and ban books.”

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