Now that America’s focus has zeroed in (for the time being) on the Supreme Court’s controversial decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Democrats are hoping the predictions of a midterm red wave will dissipate.
But it’s worth noting that whenever Democrats think they have a winning hand, they almost always overplay it. Will this time be any different?
On Thursday, President Biden — who clearly does not abide by Senator Arthur Vandenberg’s aphorism about politics stopping at the water’s edge — blasted the Supreme Court’s “mistake” while speaking at a NATO summit in Madrid.
He went on to tell reporters that Americans who felt the decision was an “outrage” needed to vote:
If you care — if the polling data is correct, and you think this decision by the court was an outrage or a significant mistake, vote. Show up and vote. Vote in the off-year and vote, vote, vote.
He said “vote” six times, so you know he means it.
Polling-wise, the Democratic Party seems to have the upper hand on this issue. According to Pew Research, “61 percent majority of US adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.” Knowing this, and factoring in the nationwide protests and outcry from Hollywood and woke corporations, Biden understands that his party wants him to do something.
The president responded to these demands by saying something. He told reporters that Democrats need to codify Roe v. Wade into law:
And the way to do that is to make sure the Congress votes to do that. And if the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like voting rights — it should be we provide an exception to this… requiring an exception to the filibuster for this action.
You don’t have to be an ancient politician like Joe Biden to figure out that making exceptions to the filibuster could easily backfire on Democrats down the line. Joe should ask his buddy Mitch McConnell to tell him the story about the nuclear option.
Another issue with Joe’s bright idea: while the majority of American adults think abortion should be legal in most cases, does that necessarily mean they think it should be legal in the manner set out by Roe? Up to what point in pregnancy should abortion be legal? Should there be exceptions when there are viability concerns, or in cases of ectopic pregnancy? While Roe was “settled law,” politicians didn’t have to have answers to these difficult ethical questions — and voters didn’t have to think about them. That’s not the case anymore.
Roe v. Wade was built on shaky legal ground. In fact, during the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s confirmation hearings in 1993, senators were concerned about a lecture she had delivered in which she critiqued the decision.
In said lecture, Ginsburg argued that the court had fashioned “a regime blanketing the subject, a set of rules that displaced virtually every state law then in force.” Six of the current Supreme Court justices agree with RBG’s assessment. Their decision said that “the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.” There could be voters out there who, like Ginsburg, are vehemently pro-choice and also would rather that matters outside of the Constitution are codified into law by elected representatives rather than appointed judges.
Furthermore, if the Dobbs ruling is as “destabilizing” as Biden claims, why didn’t he take action beforehand?
Biden could have had the Department of Justice challenge the legality of snap laws in certain states. He could have attempted to enshrine the right to an abortion in the terms laid out by Casey. Sure, all of those challenges and solutions might have ended up failing, but at least Joe could say he tried.
Instead, the president and his team of Ivy Leaguers were caught flatfooted once again — despite having weeks to prepare for this ruling thanks to the leaked draft in early May.
Unfortunately, Biden is not in the habit of offering up ideas or solutions. He much prefers to play defense on the issues that matter most to his base.
According to the Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein, some Democrats are complaining that “Biden and other administration officials had failed, in their initial reactions to the ruling, to reflect the urgency and anguish of abortion-rights supporters.” The White House may have been slow to spring into action, but other Democrats were not as slow to respond.
Senator Elizabeth Warren floated the idea of setting up abortion tents on the edges of national parks in states that are outlawing abortion. Representative Tim Ryan, the Dems’ candidate for Senate in Ohio who was once pro-life, proudly endorsed the “Women’s Health Protection Act” which would enshrine a national right to late-term abortions. Many “rising stars” in the Democratic party like Beto O’Rourke and Stacey Abrams refused to answer whether or not there should be any limits on abortion.
There is no doubt that Democrats will move the needle further to the extreme as the midterms approach and as they start to worry that this issue is fading in the minds of voters. Republicans would be wise not to follow them down the rabbit hole. The party that veers too far from the mainstream on this issue is going to be the one that pays at the polls. If I were the betting type, I’d put my money on blue.
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