The Democratic Disappointment over Roe
By WILL ALLEN
As the Supreme Court relegated women to second-class citizens, President Biden had the chance to summon the wrath of the presidency. The White House had just announced the President was going to deliver an emergency address. With such an act, Biden had the chance to plot a radical path forward and clearly define how the democratic party was going to organise the entirety of the federal government to protect abortion.
Yet standing at the podium, with states signing away rights, all Biden did was tell America he thought the Court was wrong. The 20-minute speech was a futile exercise which saw Biden reel off empty aesthetics to the nation. No purposeful plan to mobilise government institutions was presented, instead, he jumped straight to trite reminders it was down to voters to protect women.
Biden is boxed in, but he’s also not being honest to women - as a matter of fact, all voters - across America. As rights are ripped away from millions, the President commands end-to-end control of powerful institutions, and with such power he can wield a concerted attack on those who mandate forced birth by the state. Progressives know this and are calling on their party, a party built around protecting reproductive healthcare, to fight. Elizabeth Warren wants Biden to declare an all-out war for the cause. Warren wants Biden to come out swinging against the Senate filibuster and the illegitimate court that handed down this decision.
She also wants democrats to go further and declare a national medical emergency. Under the emergency declaration, Biden could mobilise the government to build abortion clinics on federal land and provide access to abortions there. Another of Warren’s initiatives is for the government to fund those seeking abortions out of state. This roadmap laid out by Warren would violate countless norms and the Hyde amendment, but that is precisely Warren’s point – “The point is the acknowledgement of the emergency situation and the urgency of getting help out”. Other progressives like Cori Bush and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are sounding the same alarm saying as democrats “we can at least TRY!”.
While some democrats get it, the response was again, poor from legacy democrats who wield (or more accurately refuse to wield) the levers of power. After watching a rouge Court strip women of equal standing in society, Speaker Nancy Pelosi decided she would let America know that she was sad and read a poem. Jim Clyburn, the majority whip, another of the most powerful Democrats in the House couldn’t even muster the performance Pelosi attempted stating, “It’s a little anticlimactic, I think we all expected this”. These lacklustre responses are all the more jarring considering the entire suite of house democratic leadership went out of their way to crush the pro-choice candidate Jessica Cisneros in the TX-28 primary. In this race, the leadership moved hell and high water to save the last anti-choice democrat by providing endorsements, robocalls (and even their own money). Now Pelosi and co. want Americans to believe they are doing everything to stand in defence of the right to safe legal abortion.
As Roe fell, House democrats stood on the Capitol steps and sang ‘God Bless America’ to mark the passage of gun legislation – this again became a moment which had many asking whether their leaders understand the gravity of the situation that was unfolding. Were they serious? While Democrats sang, protesters’ chants rang out and legions of riot police marched towards the Supreme Court. Democratic voters are rightly frustrated with their leaders who aren’t willing to push boundaries despite them asking for a commitment from their base.
As legal abortion ends, the democratic party should be raging. It should also be radical. It is a party that is built on the promise of protecting a fundamental right that a woman has agency over her own body. Democrats have seen Republicans routinely break the rules and reap the benefits, but today Biden and leadership are tepid and unable to meet the unfolding emergency. It’s unforgivable that the Democratic leadership is seeking to work within the parameters that have already failed them. Roe is dead, more women will needlessly die, they should act like it.
Tragically Biden, along with the rest of the legacy democrats sat in leadership, have chosen unilateral disarmament. They have pledged further fealty to a view that fictitious compromise and moderation will one day prevail. The best they can offer is a message of “sit tight and wait for the next election” while a core reason their party exists dies. This is not good enough. Democratic leaders sit on their hands as the right, emboldened by a rogue court, subjugates women and rips apart the fabric of the American promise – freedom and equality for all.
Surveying the scale of the response, if it can even be called that, is dismaying. Democratic leadership has failed on all accounts. It wasn’t just one democratic leader who fluffed it, they all did. One by one, leadership stood before the press to illustrate they aren’t all that alarmed. More shamefully, the leadership already seems to have turned its back on those presenting plans and is dismissing those imploring for a change of course. These are the leaders of the democratic party, a party that swore it would do everything to protect abortion, they have failed.
Image: Flickr/ jlhervàs