president Joe Biden delivered a remarkable prime-time speech In Philadelphia Thursday night a warning of the existential threat Proposed by the MAGA . Republicans. But some political observers noticed something unusual: two Marines flanked him in the background as he spoke.
CNN’s Jeff Zelini, for example, claimed That the Marines, along with the nearby Marine Corps that played Biden on stage, represented “a break with White House tradition.” This claim has been refuted by many critics, who noted that many previous presidents used the presence of troops as part of their background during their high-profile speeches. And of course Donald Trump Use the military symbolism of General Mark A. Millie, The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a now infamous photograph during the then president’s tenure I raised the idea of flooding the streets with troops To quell anti-racism protests.
Biden sought to demonstrate his belief in the military apparatus and its ability to support the democratic system.
But while it is true that the presence of military personnel was not unprecedented, it is also not the norm. And it was deliberate Stagecraft is a major part of political rhetoric. So it’s worth discussing why the administration chose to display the Marines so prominently.
White House He said In a statement issued Friday, he said it was a gesture of “respect” to these military personnel. But that doesn’t really explain why they are in that specific event. The discourse itself provides evidence. Biden focused his remarks on identifying Trump and his more hawkish supporters as a danger to the Republic, with their disregard for democratic governance and their penchant for political violence. By placing the Marines in his periphery, Biden sought to demonstrate his faith in the military apparatus and its ability to uphold the democratic system—to defend against future attacks on the electoral system. It was a response to Trump’s attempts to thwart a peaceful transition of power and mobilize the military against democracy during his tenure.
“We’ve been telling ourselves for a long time that American democracy is guaranteed, but it’s not,” Biden said. “We have to defend it, protect it and defend it.” He noted that these Marines, who stood with him in front of Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was approved and where the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, are an essential part of protecting democracy.
Biden’s faith is (probably) not misplaced. Senior military officials were instrumental in thwarting Trump’s rebellion while he was in office. Milley and other military officials spoke with Trump after he invited them to do so They shot protesters in the legsdelusion secret maneuver To ensure a peaceful transfer of power Trump also made lies about election fraud. Trump’s Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, publicly dropped His calls to invoke a law of rebellion that would have deployed troops in the streets. in 2020, More than half of the army officers They said they strongly reject the president and it is a phenomenon Explain probably Through the association of military officers with legal mores and decency, and Relatively high levels of education (One of the most common predictors of opposition to Trump.)
Biden’s military optics were a bit of a ballpark. Talking about the urgent need to form a national coalition against what it is formerly called “quasi-fascist”, The president was implying that he not only needed the solidarity of citizens from the left and the mainstream right, but also the support of those whose job it is to keep the country safe to remain vigilant against fascism.
Some analysts have symbolically criticized Biden Military politicization. But Biden was actually responding to Trump’s attempt to politicize him.
Trump and Biden have now played the symbolism of the military’s relationship with democracy in political rhetoric, but toward radically different ends: Trump wished to use the military to subvert democracy, while Biden hoped the military would help protect it. Trump wanted the military to act as a personal security force – he was eager to crack down on dissent and deploy the National Guard on January 6th. Protecting pro-Trump protesters. Biden did not actually attempt to bring the military into political affairs and civic life. This is clearly convenient, because civil-military division It is still the cornerstone of democracy. The army’s loyalty is to the state, not to a political party or leader.
Personally, I wouldn’t use the Marines for my photo shoot. And I understand why that symbolism, amplified perhaps by the dramatic red backlight, might be ominous. But if you listen to Biden’s words and notice his actions – which happened effectively like Trump Moving toward launching paramilitary forces – It is clear that this speech was not about praising or glorifying martial law. It was about protecting him.