Democrats differ over how Biden should handle Jan. 6 anniversary

President Biden will engage in a delicate dance Thursday when he delivers remarks addressing the anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Biden’s challenge lies in not overly politicizing the anniversary while at the same time forcibly taking on former President Trump, who is set to hold a news conference later in the day.

The split-screen moment on cable news foreshadows what many think could be a 2024 rematch between Biden and Trump, who has been widely blamed for instigating the Jan. 6 attack when a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol to stop Congress from certifying the results of the Electoral College.

The anniversary is a big moment for Biden, who ran in 2020 to end the Trump presidency and hoped to help unite the country after his election.

Polls suggest that he has had at best mixed success at doing so, as many Americans remain deeply divided over what happened on Jan. 6 and who is to blame.

“His greatest strength as a political communicator is projecting calm and empathy,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne. “This week that will certainly be put to the test. 

“His primary job is to take the temperature down and create space for healing,” Payne added. “I think this actually provides a good opportunity for him to remind people of why he was elected in the first place.”

The White House has been mum on specifics surrounding when Biden and Harris are slated to deliver remarks to mark one year since the insurrection.

Trump, who will speak from Mar-a-Lago, Fla., is widely expected to continue to criticize the results of the 2020 presidential election. Despite the lack of evidence that widespread voting fraud led to Biden’s victory, Trump has repeatedly argued the real insurrection was the election and not Jan. 6.

Doug Heye, a GOP strategist and former communications director of the Republican National Committee, argued Biden should not focus on Trump in his own remarks. He said it would be better for the president to deliver a nonpartisan speech.

“If Biden talks about those democratic beliefs that bind us as a nation and talks with empathy about the Capitol Police officers and so forth, he can be successful. If he becomes political, then he’s not successful,” he said.

Micaela Fernandez Allen, the director of advocacy at Open Society-U.S. and a former special assistant to former President Obama in the Office of Legislative Affairs, predicted Biden will speak in broad strokes on accountability.

“I don’t think he will make a mention about the former president because I think it’s about more. It really is about all of us, it really is about our democracy,” she said. “He will keep it broader and above the fray, and that’s just been the style that we’ve seen from the president over the last year.”

Not every Democrat agrees with this analysis.

Some say it’s important for Biden to swipe at Trump over the deadly attack. 

More than 700 people have been charged in connection to the Capitol siege, and dozens have been subpoenaed for the House select committee investigation, including Trump allies such as GOP operative Roger Stone and Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich.

“I think there is an understandable natural urge to not overly politicize tragedies and Biden is especially mindful of trying to restore more trust and dignity to the office post-Trump,” said Democratic strategist Eddie Vale. “But I think Jan. 6 is different from a lot of other dates we remember past events because it was itself a political act and is still ongoing.”

“It is important that we honor and remember the sacrifices people made, and scars they still bear, but it is also equally important to remember that this happened because of political lies by Trump and Republicans that are not only continuing today but if anything are getting even worse,” Vale said. 

Democratic strategist Christy Setzer noted that even after the Capitol was evacuated and ugly images of police officers being beaten by members of the mob were broadcast around the world, a number of Republicans voted against certifying the results of the election in various states.

She argues that Biden needs to reflect that point in what ever he tells the country.

“President Biden needs to communicate not only that he understands the gravity of what happened on Jan. 6, as I’m sure he will do, but that he will use the power of his office to ensure accountability,” she said. “It’s still mystifying and depressing that the 147 Republicans who voted not to certify the election based on lies are still in office, as if it were just another voter. That those who helped the insurrectionists literally try to murder their colleagues are still in office, and not prison. 

She also said Biden and his team need to show what they are doing “to ensure Jan. 6 never happens again.” 

In July, the president marked six months since the insurrection with a call for unity, saying democracy prevailed and that Americans must work together to protect and preserve it. He offered condolences to the families of Capitol Police officers who died as a result of the violence or suffered wounds in the attack. 

“Biden is good in moments like this. We’ve seen him when he’s talking to parents of service members who died in action and events like what and his empathy is genuine and not an act and he does very well at things like that. This is an opportunity for him to do that again,” Heye said.

“There’s a third of the country that’s not going to listen to him and will criticize him. He simultaneously can’t worry about that but has to realize that and I think it makes what he could potentially say more impactful,” he added. 

Tags Barack Obama Capitol riot Donald Trump Jan. 6 anniversary Jan. 6 panel Joe Biden Roger Stone

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