Will we stand up for democracy?

I was sitting in a local bakery early on the Feast of the Epiphany, sipping coffee and reading President Biden’s Valley Forge address on defending our democracy, when a young family came into the bakery. Two high-pitched voices pierced the quiet, thanks to a four-year-old and his 18-month-old sister. The girl climbed out of her stroller and wandered around the room commenting incoherently.

She ran around a table, stopped and looked up at me. I asked her if she was going to compete in the 50-yard dash in the Olympics. She paused as if considering her answer.

Her mother gave her a blueberry from a muffin. She put it in her mouth, took it out again and held it up for me.

“No, thanks,“ I said. “I already ate. But maybe we can add that to the menu. We’ll call it Blueberry Drool.”

In Pennsylvania, Biden listed highlights from the Republican frontrunner’s record. The list included calling dead American soldiers suckers, inciting an insurrection at the Capitol to overturn the 2020 election and vowing retribution.

Biden added, “We all know who Donald Trump is. The question we have to answer is, who are we?”

In the bakery, the children’s mother told me about their lack of volume control. That is a social skill they will learn. I thought of the 45th president being driven to school in a limousine.

Rep. Elise Stefanik gloated last week over Claudine Gay’s resignation as president of Harvard, allegedly over plagiarism and antisemitism. Can you say hypocrite?

Where was Stefanik’s outrage when Trump dined at Mar-a-Lago with Nazi Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes? Where were her criticisms of then-Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch in 2017 after Politico reported he plagiarized portions of his 2006 book on assisted suicide and euthanasia?

Dr. Gay’s fall was orchestrated by right-wing activists and is redolent of the old “Twice as Good” rule whereby a Black person has to be twice as good to get half the credit.

Biden said, “Every stride forward in America is met with a ferocious backlash, many times from those who fear progress and those who exploit that fear for their own personal gain; from those who traffic in lies told for power and profit … consumed by conspiracy and victimhood; from those who seek to bury history and ban books.”

When House Speaker Mike Johnson led a group of congressional Republicans to the southern border last week, they were there not to offer a solution to the immigration problem but to grandstand and bash Democrats.

“You can’t love your country only when you win,” Biden said. The country I love does not demonize immigrants nor mock disabilities.

Trump responded to Biden’s speech by falsely claiming that he stuttered throughout it. Then Trump imitated stuttering. A few years ago, Biden encountered a boy who stuttered. He asked the boy’s mother if he could call the boy and talk to him about how to overcome the stuttering.

Faced with a choice between a man of such decency and a monster who enjoys mocking people, how can anyone with a soul prefer the monster?

Trump appeals to the worst in people. It is up to us to appeal to their better angels and remind them of what is at stake.

“Democracy is on the ballot,” Biden said. “Your freedom is on the ballot.” By contrast, Trump released a fan-made video on

Truth Social portraying him as a messianic figure.

The election is less than 10 months away. We can retreat from our civic duty and let our republic be torn apart, or step up and defend this nation built on an idea.

As Biden notes, we have often fallen short of our ideal. But if we walk away and let the authoritarians win, it will be the greatest dereliction of duty in our history.

America cannot hold together with one standard for Black and brown academics and another for white academics; one standard for men and another for women; one standard for straight people and another for LGBTQ people.

Supremacy is not justice.

Biden is optimistic that Americans will not walk away from our freedoms. Let us show our sturdy character as we help spread his message.

As I walked home from the bakery, a dozen sparrows flew up from a tree box. One stood in my path. I said, “Pardon me, but we have to share this sidewalk.” Seeing my hands were empty, it flew off. Snow began falling, but soon turned to rain.

Brace yourself; it’s going to be an inclement campaign.

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist at rrosendall@me.com. Copyright © 2024 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.