Dems Need Biden Activism

It’s been six days since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade and provided ultimate judicial authority for the wave of woman-hating activism against abortion rights that has engulfed red states like Texas, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Kentucky. Here’s a passage from early in President Biden’s speech in reaction:

Fifty years ago, Roe v. Wade was decided and has been the law of the land since then. This landmark case protected a woman’s right to choose, her right to make intensely personal decisions with her doctor, free from the inter- — from interference of politics. It reaffirmed basic principles of equality — that women have the power to control their own destiny.  And it reinforced the fundamental right of privacy — the right of each of us to choose how to live our lives. Now, with Roe gone, let’s be very clear: The health and life of women in this nation are now at risk.

During that time, Democrats have been embroiled in arguments about whether President Biden and Congressional Democrats are at all effective and whether voting is worth it.

The arguments for Democratic leadership uselessness largely comes from the Sanders Hard Left but are also being energetically posed on twitter by figures like Stephen Robinson and Oliver Willis. For example, Willis poses the Democrats as weak and vacillating Gotham City type figures stupidly refusing to stand up to the Joker.

The counter-argument to “Democratic uselessness” is that the Court was lost because of the relentless attacks on Hillary in 2016 and specifically the rejection by Sanders of Hillary’s warnings about losing the Supreme Court if Trump was elected. Biden Democrats also point out that many of the solutions being proposed to the Court’s overturning Roe are either far-fetched or offensive. The offensiveness is especially true of the proposal to use tribal land as a haven for abortion rights but many Democrats also point out that proposals by Elizabeth Warren and others to use federal property or military bases for abortions would run afoul of the Hyde Amendment which bans the use of federal money for abortions. Likewise, the specter of Republican retaliation makes others highly skeptical of overturning the filibuster or expanding the Court.

Isn’t true that President Biden has done nothing. On the day Roe was reversed, Biden proposed to

  1. Codify Roe v Wade into federal law
  2. Guarantee that women can travel to states where abortions are available
  3. Protect women’s access to abortion pills and contraception.
  4. Seek to elect more Democrats to “restore the protections of Roe as the law of the land.

After the Alito draft leaked, the White House engaged with “dozens of representatives from reproductive rights groups, state legislators and private law experts to discuss a path forward.” My guess is that the meetings were either private or conducted with as little publicity as possible because I don’t remember much in the way of advanced publicity, public forums, news conferences, or media comment. There will be another meeting with blue state governors on July 1 and President Biden called today for the Senate to carve out an exception to the filibuster in order to re-establish a national right to abortions. Unfortunately, occasional Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona shot that down in the name of her undying commitment to preserving the filibuster.

According to CNN, Vice-President Kamala Harris was heavily involved in the discussions many of which focused on the possibility of state police agencies gathering information from menstrual tracking apps.

Harris has also assumed a leading role, convening her own discussions with advocates, faith leaders and law experts to collect different perspectives and policy ideas on how the administration could intervene to ensure the protection of certain safety and security rights should Roe be overturned. In a conversation on June 14 that focused on privacy, Harris was focused in part on questions about digital technology like period trackers, according to Melissa Murray, a constitutional lawyer and reproductive rights expert from New York University who participated in the discussion. “She was right there, asking really good questions, thinking about not only the sort of nuances of the issue, but also what’s the best way to explain this to the public so that they understand what’s actually at stake,” Murray said of the conversation.

As I’ve stated on twitter, these proposals and this consultation with “stakeholders” are definitely something rather than nothing. But it’s also far from being enough considering “the enormity of the Supreme Court taking away rights from more than half the American population.” In particular, the Biden administration needs to give up its preference for “insider politics” and conduct its resistance to abortion bans and promotion of women’s rights out in public and on both small and large scales. In the short term, the Biden people could:

1. Publicly coordinate with activists in abortion states which means President Biden, Vice-President Harris, and the many well known women in the Biden administration traveling to abortion ban states, meeting and publicizing pro-abortion and women’s rights activists, coordinating federal policy with the imperatives and needs of abortion rights activists, and promoting abortion rights activists and activism in the media;

2. Formulate federal policies that set standards for medical care in abortion ban states and seek to prevent states like Texas from letting women die from miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and other hazards of pregnancy in their hospitals;

3. Host legal critics of Alito’s belligerent decision for a public WH conference on abortion rights and their moral and Constitutional justification. One issue that could be addressed by legal critics is the issue of expanding the Courts to re-establish full citizenship for women and protect the citizenship rights of other segments of the American population.

4. Hold large-scale rallies for women’s rights in both red states and blue states, encourage public agencies and private employers to give employees time off to attend rallies, and adapt “bans off our bodies” (which is an effective slogan) as a symbol of the resistance to abortion bans.

Given the failure of Build Back Better, the Biden administration has become more about managing the federal apparatus and engaging in foreign policy than anything else. However, the Biden administration needs to become more of an activist, resistance administration if they are going to be effective in helping women in the United States recover their full citizenship and fundamental rights.

Biden Speech on Guns Gets It Done

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

On Thursday evening, President Biden gave a nationally televised speech on gun policy in the wake of the mass shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde, Tulsa, and other places. President Biden has a reputation as a poor communicator stemming from his days as a shoot from the hip gaffe machine. j

But those days are long over.

Since the beginning of his 2020 presidential campaign, President Biden has disciplined himself to avoid egregious gaffes and has emerged both as a skilled and forceful presidential speaker and a master of making policy through spontaneous policy.

The speech on guns is a good example of President Biden’s speech chops. President Biden has a clipped manner of speaking that communicates his points in a forceful manner. Instead of being “eloquent” in the manner of Barack Obama (and his vision) or Bill Clinton (with his lists), President Biden is pointed and sharp and it’s a highly effective way of getting his message across. Some of the effect comes across in the text.

The day before, we visited Uvalde — Uvalde, Texas.  In front of Robb Elementary School, we stood before 21 crosses for 19 third and fourth graders and two teachers.  On each cross, a name.  And nearby, a photo of each victim that Jill and I reached out to touch.  Innocent victims, murdered in a classroom that had been turned into a killing field.

Short sentences, briefly expressed thoughts, combining quickly to generate rhetorical force culminating in the image of a killing field. It’s not “To Be Or Not To Be” and it’s not Obama’s Philadelphia speech, but it is effective oratory.

Another virtue of the speech is that Biden did not kowtow to GOP Senators. No mention of “hardening schools,” video games, pornography, abortion, or other Republican bullshit distracting attention from the role of firearms availability in mass shooting. Likewise, the only mention Biden made of mental illness was in the context of helping people deal with the trauma of surviving so much loss. Biden’s proposals to ban assault weapons, pass red flag laws, repeal gunmaker immunity, and the like were designed to address the problem rather than cater to the right. And he proposes them directly:

We need to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.  And if we can’t ban assault weapons, then we should raise the age to purchase them from 18 to 21.  Strengthen background checks.  Enact safe storage laws and red-flag laws.  Repeal the immunity that protects gun manufacturers from liability.  Address the mental health crisis deepening the trauma of gun violence and as a consequence of that violence.

A small group of Senate Democrats is negotiating with Republican colleagues like Susan Collins. But Biden was emphatic about the irresponsibility of Senate Republicans.

I support the bipartisan efforts that include a small group of Democrats and Republican senators trying to find a way.  But my God, the fact that the majority of the Senate Republicans don’t want any of these proposals even to be debated or come up for a vote, I find unconscionable. We can’t fail the American people again.

He finds the majority of Republican senators to be unconscionable. With my small twitter account, I’m one of the people who persistently urges President Biden to be more aggressive and partisan with Republicans and more persistent about that partisan aggression as well. But President Biden has made a fundamental break with Republicans and conservatives. He no longer cares what they think and no longer cares about their sensitive, snowflake feelings. That’s a big step for Joe Biden and even a bigger step for the Democratic Party.

And President Biden deserves credit for that.

Biden further helped his cause by summarizing his list of seven gun reform proposals before explaining them in more detail. That bit of speech writing strategy kept the president’s gun policy agenda from getting lost in details and contributed to the clarity of the speech.

As a result, the substance of the speech had a clarity and urgency that matched President Biden’s mode of delivery.

Another striking element in President Biden’s speech was the way he generated outrage for mass murderers from his empathy for the suffering in Buffalo and Uvalde. Having talking about the crosses at the school, faces of the children, and the grief almost everywhere, Biden conveyed a growing sense of outrage over the failure to control mass murders that culminated as he kept intoning “enough.” Much of that happened after the policy proposals and gave further moral and civic weight to Biden’s policy ideas.

Altogether, President Biden’s speech got the job done. Now the President and his people need to be just as effective with their follow-up.