This morning, moments after the illegitimate Trump Supreme Court handed down their decision about Climate Change, MSNBC had Alex Padilla, California’s garden variety “liberal” senator on. When he mentioned “reforming the Supreme Court,” José Díaz-Balart asked him to explain what he meant by “reform.” A worthless political coward, Padilla didn’t talk about expanding the court, ending the Jim Crow filibuster or limiting the terms of the justices or any other real reform. Instead he took the official Democratic Party pusillanimous wimp-out position: ethics. What a disgrace!
Writing for Time yesterday, Charlotte Alter noted that “Biden and young voters have always had a marriage of convenience. While they turned out in record numbers to vote against Donald Trump in 2020, the youngest generations have soured on Biden and lost faith in his agenda.” Or, more precisely, they lost faith in his ability or willingness to deliver on that agenda. “Biden’s approval rating with voters under 30 has dropped 23 points since the first months of his presidency, according to Gallup polling. It’s fallen 17 points with voters between 30 and 50. Only 34% of Millennials and Gen Z voters say they approve of Biden’s presidency so far, according to a Marist poll sponsored by NPR and PBS, and only 2% say they strongly approve. The trend could spell trouble for Democrats in the midterms. Young voters are crucial to the party’s coalition, boosting Democrats with record turnout in the 2018 and 2020 elections. Yet many young people feel the Biden Administration has failed to deliver on its promises as the President’s domestic agenda stalls. The progressive policy wish list items that drew many young people into politics remains undelivered.”
If you’ve followed DWT with any regularity over the last decade of so, you already know that my disappointment in Biden— loathing for Biden is a better description— began in the early 1970s, when he led the fight against desegregation and made himself one of the voices of white reactionaries. Eventually he tried to burnish his image but if Jim Clyburn made that work for his own up-for-sale conscience… well, let’s put it like this: I’ve recognized that Trump is the worst threat to America in my lifetime, and I still never considered for a nanosecond voting for Biden. I don’t hate him as much as I hate Trump, but I usually hold back on how I do feel about him— and the crew of crooked lobbyists and self-serving political hacks he surrounds himself with.
In exchange, McConnell (R-KY) has purportedly agreed not to obstruct the president's future judicial nominations— a vow that was met with deep skepticism from outside observers, given the Kentucky Republican's long record of cynical machinations that have yanked the Supreme Court and lower courts to the right for decades to come.
The broad sketch of the agreement between Biden and McConnell was confirmed Wednesday by the office of Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), who voiced opposition to any deal to elevate Meredith to a lifetime post on the federal judiciary, which McConnell has succeeded in filling with far-right, young, and often badly unqualified judges handpicked by the Federalist Society.
"That last thing we need is another extremist on the bench," Yarmuth said of Meredith, who defended state-level attacks on abortion access as Kentucky's solicitor general.
Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker also slammed the agreement, which he characterized as a "complete slap in the face."
In the eyes of reproductive rights advocates who are working to defend basic freedoms from the Supreme Court and GOP legislatures, the timing of Biden's deal with McConnell— which would've drawn outrage in any case— couldn't have been worse.
"We elected you to PROTECT abortion access, not nominate anti-abortion judges as our rights are stripped away!" tweeted Women's March, which has promised a "Summer of Rage" in response to the Supreme Court's decision striking down Roe v. Wade. The organization has also said it would support primary challenges against Democrats complicit in the right-wing takeover of the nation's judiciary.
Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates East added that "lifetime appointments to federal courts for people with records like Chad Meredith are unacceptable and the reason we have lost the federal right to abortion."
"We deserve better," the group said.
America deserves better. Don’t say I didn’t warn you— just about every day in 2020. Reuters noted this morning that Biden is unlikely to rise to the moment and meet the urgent demands being caused by a runaway Supreme Court. “The White House,” wrote Nandita Bose and Trevor Hunnicut, is unlikely to take up the bold steps to protect women's right to have an abortion that Democratic lawmakers have called for in recent days, interviews with officials show.” Biden whined there’s nothing he can do about it.
Since then, lawmakers including Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have suggested Biden limit the Supreme Court's jurisdiction or expand its membership, end the legislative "filibuster" rule, build abortion clinics on federal lands, declare a national emergency and establish Planned Parenthood outposts outside U.S. national parks, among other options.
More than 30 Senate Democrats signed a letter to Biden, urging him to 'fight back," take "bold action" and "lead a national response to this devastating decision" after the court overturned the right to abortion.
But the White House is pursuing a more limited set of policy responses while urging voters and Congress to act. The White House's plans include a range of executive actions in the coming days, as well as promising to protect women who cross state lines for abortions and support for medical abortion.
Biden and officials are concerned that more radical moves would be politically polarizing ahead of November's midterm elections, undermine public trust in institutions like the Supreme Court or lack strong legal footing, sources inside and outside the White House say.
…[T]the White House is not publicly entertaining the idea of reforming the court itself or expanding the nine-member panel, an option pushed by Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Representative Pramila Jayapal.
Privately, Biden has expressed skepticism about a wide range of Supreme Court reform proposals, including restricting the court's power, setting term limits for justices, and strengthening ethics and transparency rules, according to a person involved in the conversations weeks prior to the most recent Supreme Court decision.
Last week's ruling is unlikely to change his thinking, this person said. An expert commission Biden created to examine the issue of Supreme Court deadlocked on reform proposals in December.
Biden has not endorsed scrapping the Senate filibuster rule that could allow them to pass a federal law making abortion legal with a simple majority. Democrats only have 50 votes in the 100-seat Senate— not enough to get around a filibuster— and Republicans have lined up against proposals to make abortion a legal right nationwide.
…The White House does not support calls to allow abortion providers to work from federal property, because it is worried the federal government won't be able to keep them safe on or off the property, two sources explained.
Offering federal funding to women to travel out of state could run afoul of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding of abortions except in cases of risk to a mother's life, rape or incest, two sources said.
And that brings me to a Washington Post column by Perry Bacon I’ve been holding onto for a few days, The fall of Roe is the culmination of the Democratic establishment’s failures. “The overturning of Roe v. Wade, and the underwhelming reaction from senior Democratic leaders to that huge defeat,” he wrote, make the case even clearer that the party’s too-long-in-power leaders— including President Biden— need to move aside. On their watch, a radicalized Republican Party has gained so much power that it’s on the verge of ending American democracy as we know it. On the day of the court’s momentous ruling eliminating a constitutional right that the Democratic Party had pledged to fiercely defend, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats held a big event on the steps of the Capitol— to celebrate the passage of a fairly limited gun-control bill. Biden gave a short speech that didn’t include any ideas on how to reform an increasingly radical Supreme Court but did include a call for Democrats not to violently protest the ruling, as if his supporters would otherwise have started rioting en masse. Majority Whip James Clyburn (SC) called the decision ‘anti-climactic,’ as if it were at all important that the ruling was expected. Officials across the party, including Pelosi, sent out fundraising emails, unwilling to focus solely on the ruling’s terrible policy impacts for even a day before mining it for electoral upside.
That behavior was discouraging, but it was not surprising. The past year and a half of Democratic control of Washington has been a major disappointment: Biden is more unpopular than Donald Trump was at this time in his presidency; the party’s agenda has stalled; Republican judges and state-level officials have aggressively attacked voting and abortion rights and Black and transgender people in particular with little pushback from Democrats. Biden’s kindwords for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, architect of so much of what is happening, are both infuriating to Democrats and ineffective in winning any Republicans to his side.
…[T]he Democratic Party’s leaders have made constant blunders along the way. Most fundamentally, they have not adjusted to how politics is increasingly fought online, in state capitols and in other venues outside of Washington where Republicans are notching many of their victories. And while Republicans are attacking America’s democratic system itself, Democratic leaders and their allies are deeply invested in a far-less important cause: defeating candidates associated with star progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) in Democratic primaries in heavily liberal districts.
But the problem runs deeper than the past 18 months. Biden, Pelosi and the group of political and policy strategists who perpetually hold top jobs in Democratic politics have presided over disappointing results for more than a decade, setting the stage for the fall of Roe and the other struggles of 2021-2022— most notably, the wipeout of Democrats in 2010 and 2014; Donald Trump’s victory in 2016; the narrower-than-expected Democratic win in 2020. The Republicans’ gains, particularly at the state level, have allowed them to pass restrictive abortion laws and other unpopular provisions, as well as gerrymander states so they don’t have to fear much electoral backlash. Trump’s victory resulted in the appointments of three of the five Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe. The failure to defeat Trump and Republicans resoundingly in 2020 left the Democrats with only 50 Senate seats, too few to change the filibuster rules and pass much of anything, including a national law guaranteeing abortion rights.
Pelosi, Biden and other Democratic leaders of course don’t sit on the Supreme Court or in state legislatures. But too many of them have been major players in the party over the past two decades as it has failed to create an apparatus of media, think tanks and other institutions to rival what exists on the right. They have been deeply involved in bland Democratic campaigns and candidates who often lose key races to Republicans, even as the GOP has much less popular policy goals. …Their losses have allowed a radicalized Republican Party to gut abortion and voting rights, take control of most state governments and the federal judiciary, elect democracy-eroding figures such as Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and now stand on the verge of taking control of Congress and even more state governments this November and potentially the entire federal government in 2024.
And it’s not that the Republican establishment has done better— it has lost half the time, too. The critical difference, though, is that there have been several different Republican establishments over the past two decades, allowing the party to test out different strategies. In contrast, the Democratic leadership has aggressively blocked fresher faces from having much of a role in the party’s decision-making. Instead, we have watched over the past 18 months as Democrats made many of the same strategic mistakes that they did in 2009 and 2010, with some of the same people involved in the foibles.
It’s worth emphasizing just how long many Democratic leaders have been at the helm. In 2003, Pelosi became leader of the House Democrats, Steny Hoyer (D-MD) became the party’s No. 2, and Clyburn became, the third-ranking leader. Biden, then a senator, was the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (NY) and Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (IL) have been in the party’s Senate leadership since 2005. The Republicans who held equivalent roles when these Democrats took power were Rep. J. Dennis Hastert (IL), Rep. Tom DeLay (TX), Rep. Deborah Pryce (OH), Sen. Richard Lugar (IN, Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY) and Sen. Elizabeth Dole (NC). All the Republicans but McConnell are long gone from national politics.
Now, the fall of Roe v. Wade is the culmination of these Democrats’ failures. I think it’s still possible Democrats keep control of Congress this November, because the party base could aggressively mobilize against the Republicans, particularly in light of the abortion decision. But that’s really another indictment of party leaders, who spent 2021 downplaying GOP radicalism while emphasizing building roads years from now. No matter what happens this election cycle, their previous defeats, lack of new strategies and open disdain for the party’s activists is too much to allow this group to remain in charge. The Americans who will most suffer from entrenched GOP rule— Black people and other traditionally marginalized groups in particular— deserve leaders who will fight as hard and creatively as possible for them, not a leadership class so invested in defending its own power, legacy and political approach.
It is essential that Pelosi follows through on her previously announced plans to step down from congressional leadership after this election. Clyburn, Durbin, Hoyer and Schumer should do the same. Biden should not seek reelection and instead allow a fresh voice to lead the party. If he insists on running again, he needs to bring in new advisers and rethink his political approach.
…We don’t know exactly what can save the country from this radicalized GOP. But Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden don’t either— and after about 20 years, it’s well past time to give others a chance to lead.
One last thing. Just change for the sake of change doesn’t solve any problems either. Obviously, Pelosi and her octogenarian crew need to go, but the corrupt, Wall Street-allied leadership team led by Hakeem Jeffries that she’s backing is meant to keep her blinkered regime going— and Jeffries will be far, far worse than she ever was. Over on the Senate side, there’s incessant talk of Durbin retiring. That’s fine but Illinois’ corrupt billionaire governor, J.B. Pritzker, has already promised the job to the worst possible choice: reactionary Blue Dog Cheri Bustos. You think Biden is bad, perhaps the second worst president in contemporary American history? You're right but Kamala Harris or Mayo Pete are hardly improvements.