Opinion: The biggest challenge for Biden is getting enough people to truly believe that democracy is at risk

Editor’s note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow it @DanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this comment are his own. See more reviews on CNN.


A line from President Joe Biden on Wednesday about our democracy being on the ballot raised the hairs on the back of my neck. It was halfway through the speech when the president said, “What we do now will determine whether democracy will last.”

This line was jumped for two reasons. First, here’s a 2022 president to make Americans understand that our democracy could end if it is not protected from anti-democratic and autocratic forces. And secondly, the words “endure long” immediately evoked the same phrase used by President Abraham Lincoln in his historic Gettysburg Address in the middle of the Civil War.

Lincoln gave that address on November 19, 1863, at the memorial to those soldiers who had died in the bloody battle of Gettysburg, which happened four months earlier. He began by declaring that our nation was “founded in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are equal.” He then added: “We are now engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so devoted, can long endure.”

It was hardly an accident that Biden invoked the same phrase as “long-term.” But the stark difference is that in the midst of the Civil War, Americans did not have to believe in our nation’s democracy – or the future of our country. was in danger. Today, however, even though Biden has just given two national addresses about what’s at stake in our democracy – the first in September – not enough Americans believe the threat is real or think it’s as important as other issues right now.

But Biden was right when he said, “Recent polls have shown that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that our democracy is at risk, that our democracy is under threat.” But saying you’re concerned about an issue and saying why you voted for that issue are two different things, as the polls go back.

CNN’s September/October poll found 85% of voters said “voting rights and election integrity” are very important to them. But when a CNN poll of registered voters in October asked what was “most important.” when voting this November, the top issue for 51% was the economy/inflation. Next came abortion at 15%, and gun policy at 8%. Then – in fourth place – “The right to vote and the integrity of elections” came – only 7% said it was the “most important” issue.

While another recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found more voters agreeing that preserving democracy was a top issue, even then only 28% of voters saw that. If Americans feared the end of democracy based on the results of this election, those numbers would be much higher. After all, we all understand that inflation is temporary, but the loss of our democracy can be permanent.

Former President Barack Obama was also sounding alarm bells about democracy being on the ballot in his speech following Biden’s national address at a rally in battleground Arizona. The former president warned the audience that if the election rejects candidates running for top state office – like GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake – if they win, “democracy as we know it may not survive in Arizona.” Obama added: “That’s not an exaggeration. That’s true.”

The threat, however, is not confined to Arizona. As Biden explained on Wednesday, the denialist election “is on the ballot all over America this year.” This is confirmed by the Washington Post’s latest report that this year the majority of GOP candidates for the House, Senate and statewide offices have denied or questioned the results of the 2020 elections. We have never seen anything like it in our lifetime, if ever in the history of the United States.

And if these “deniers of democracy” – as I think they should be called – win, they will be able to potentially become the murderers of democracy. They will not need another violent attack on January 6 designed to prevent the transfer of power, such persons may refuse to certify the results of an election if they do not agree with the result.

In a speech on Wednesday, President Biden told Americans, “In our bones, we know that democracy is at risk.” For some Americans, that is very true. But for many others, they don’t seem to believe that our democratic Republic can end “in their bones,” despite obvious threats, both recent and ongoing, including Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election and hundreds more. In the votes of the election deniers.

Lincoln closed his Gettysburg Address with the powerful line that we must resolve that our “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not die from the earth.” That same challenge is presented to us today. And unless we come together to vote to defeat those who threaten democracy, it is very unlikely that our democratic Republic will “last long”.