Editorial: Biden’s address highlights demise of American democracy – unless we are willing to change

On the evening of Sept. 2, U.S. President Joe Biden delivered a primetime address on the state of American democracy outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Flanked by members of the U.S. Marine Corps, Biden arrived to give his speech against the backdrop of continued mistrust for elections among segments of the populace and growing calls for political violence from ideological extremists.

Throughout his address, Biden portrayed those engaged in election misinformation as threatening facts and principles at the foundation of the nation’s democratic system of governance.

A president whose speeches have typically been characterized by light-hearted overtones instead emitted an aura of sobriety in giving what The Atlantic described as “The Speech No President Should Have to Give” – and rightly so.

The disinformation peddled by conspiracy theorists and fringe groups has now made its way into mainstream political discourse as public figures and prominent entities have echoed claims that American elections and democratic processes are rife with voter fraud aimed at ensuring that one major political party remains out of power.

To this day, such claims remain without evidence to support them.

Irrespective of the political affiliation of those who spread such misinformation and other veins of mistruths, such must be repudiated as the burgeoning digital age brings with it the mass dissemination of conspiratorial fallacies.

In the digital age, it’s important to be informed when consuming media. With hundreds of millions of Americans having the capabilities to post online, it’s harder to discern what is factual to what is fiction. When scrolling through social media, something may appear unbiased and look trustworthy, but even then it’s important to do one’s own research to make sure that what one is reading is true and comes from credible sources.

The idea that such a speech from a sitting U.S. president was deemed necessary, in itself, signals a dire message for the state of our nation should we choose not to alter our current course.

These concerns, amplified by threats against government and law enforcement officials including Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, need to be addressed.

By letting such calls for violence continue unchecked, Americans signal complicity to those who threaten the truths and ideals of American democracy and will continue to do so. This fosters a country that thrives on division and unquestioned acceptance to the first claims of which one is made aware, without regard for factual accuracy. As a nation, there needs to be a focus on acceptance and accountability, not fear and division.

Therefore, it is incumbent on all Americans – journalists, public figures and every private citizen – to reject the proliferation of misinformation that threatens the shared reality of truths that has made our democracy possible for over 200 years.