President Joe Biden speaks outside Independence Hall, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, in Philadelphia. Credit: Matt Slocum / AP

The BDN Editorial Board operates independently from the newsroom, and does not set policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on

We’re not big fans of presidents giving speeches, with patriotic backdrops, that can easily be construed as a campaign address. Yes, we know other presidents have done it, but it makes the president’s words easier for his opponents to dismiss.

However, in the case of President Joe Biden’s prime time address to the nation Thursday night from Independence Hall in Philadelphia, his dire warnings about threats to America’s democracy are real. His warnings about “MAGA Republicans’” refusal to accept election results, of admiration of authoritarian leaders, of wanting to move America backwards aren’t hyperbole or simple political rhetoric.

Biden’s words were harsh — some would say divisive — but they are backed up by rhetoric and actions from the former president and a small, but vocal and devoted, group of Americans seemingly intent on a different path for this country.

As Biden made clear Thursday, not all Republicans subscribe to these radical ideas and plans. “I know because I’ve been able to work with these mainstream Republicans,” he said. But, without more of them speaking up, the Republican Party remains adrift and largely under the sway of a man who bent, if not broke, the norms of American government.

As Donald Trump himself made abundantly clear days before Biden’s address, the former president has not abandoned his false, and dangerous, claims that the 2020 presidential election was a fraud. Last Monday, on his social media network, he demanded that he be declared the “rightful winner” or that the 2020 election be redone now. This time, Trump based his claim on new information about a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden, the president’s son.

For months before and after the November 2020 election, Trump asserted that the election was rigged. It does not matter to him that election recounts, courts and a congressional panel have shown the hollowness of claims made by Trump and his associates. Trump repeats these claims, and a small, but devoted, group of people continue to act on his lies, working to gain positions to undermine our election systems and our democracy itself.

The danger is real, as we witnessed so clearly on Jan. 6, 2021, when Trump directed a large group of his supporters to the U.S. Capitol, where the presidential election results — and Biden’s victory — were set to be certified. As we watched on live television, some of these people stormed the Capitol, beating police officers and threatening to shoot Nancy Pelosi and hang Vice President Mike Pence. Inside the Capitol, 147 Republican lawmakers raised objections to the election results, which were ultimately certified.

Last week, Trump vowed to pardon, and issue a government apology to, those who have been convicted of crimes related to the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol if he is reelected president.

In recent weeks, America has learned about another front in Trump’s refusal to abide by American laws and norms. Through court filings, new details have emerged about his possession of presidential documents, including, the FBI says, classified materials, that were kept at his Florida resort. As Trump’s former Attorney General Bill Barr made clear last week, there is “no legitimate reason” for Trump to have these documents. What we don’t yet know is why Trump had these documents, what he did with them and whether our national security was compromised.

In a pre-rebuttal to Biden’s address, which came before the president’s speech, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy echoed Biden’s language, calling policies of the president and other Democrats “an assault on the soul of our democracy.” He faulted the president and Democrats in Congress for the failure to stem inflation, immigration and crime.

Some of these may be valid criticism, but what McCarthy was speaking of are political policy differences. Taxes rates, government regulation and government spending are worthy of strenuous political debate. But, whether Democrats or Republicans prevail on these issues isn’t a matter of preserving the soul of America.

Disagreements over these policy differences are not equivalent to working to change election outcomes after the votes are cast or encouraging, empowering and even coordinating with militia groups that have an dangerously outmoded view of America.

Rather, preserving our democratic norms — peaceful transitions of power, the expansion of civil rights for all Americans, the rejection of violence to avenge political losses — is at the soul of our country and its future.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Opinion Editor Susan Young, Deputy Opinion Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked for the BDN...