Now that ‘Roe’ has been overturned, feigning surprise and asking people to "vote blue" just ain't gonna cut it.
On Friday morning, the lopsidedly conservative United States Supreme Court finally achieved what Republicans have been working towards for decades — overturning the precedent established by the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade case and officially nullifying the half-century precedent of a federal right to reproductive health care.
The court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization should hardly come as a surprise; a draft of the decision was leaked to the public earlier this spring, to say nothing of the fact that this enterprise of conservative theocratic minority rule is what Republicans have been loudly, and unambiguously trumpeting as their tentpole issue for the nearly 50 years since Roe became law. Despite the obvious inevitability of Friday’s decision, however, Democrats in Washington have somehow managed to cede these opening hours of our new abortion-less future to their conservative counterparts, acting as if they had no idea this — this! — is where things were headed. In a flurry of statements and emails and breathless fundraising appeals released in the wake of the ruling, the party currently in charge of both chambers of Congress and the White House seemed wholly unprepared to actually address the fundamental reality of what happened that morning.
In an emotional press conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used her time to, uh, read Israeli poetry, ask people to vote for Democrats in November, and act shocked that Supreme Court nominees may have lied about their (extremely obvious) plans to overturn Roe during the nomination process.
“Were they not telling the truth, then?” Ma’am, what line of work do you think you’re in? Relatedly, encouraging people to simply vote harder this coming midterm election is pretty rich, considering the current Democratic-led Congress and White House. Yes, of course Democrats could always be in an even stronger majority position, but to date when that’s been the case they’ve squandered it on the reproductive rights front, to the point of leading us ... well, right here!
What Pelosi didn’t squander, however, was the opportunity to turn Friday’s ruling into a fundraising pitch, emailing from her Pac To The Future group that “this election just turned into the biggest fight for women's rights in our nation's history” (debatable) and asking recipients to “rush $15 to stand with me on the right side of history.”
Pelosi wasn’t the only high-profile Democrat to respond to Friday’s ruling with the sort of head-scratching “bwaaa?” best suited for people not in immeasurable positions of power. Sen. Joe Manchin, the ostensible Democrat from West Virginia, also released a statement claiming he was “alarmed” by Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch’s obvious lies that they believed Roe v. Wade was settled law.
Manchin, to his credit, did say he’d support legislation to “codify” the rights millions of Americans just lost, although he couched it in the hopes of a bipartisan agreement between a party that fundamentally doesn’t believe in reproductive health and one that largely (but not exclusively) does.
To that point, consider the response by House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn, who just weeks ago was campaigning in support of anti-choice Democrat Henry Cuellar, lending his political heft to the one Democrat to vote against a bill to codify Roe’s protections. “I would ask anybody: Which is more important — to have a pro-life Democrat or to have an anti-abortion Republican?” Clyburn said at the time. “Because come November, that could very well be the choice in this district.”
Well, now that the Court’s decision is out, here’s what Clyburn had to say:
It’s a little anticlimactic, I think we all expected this. And I'm hopeful, you know I have to read the decision to see exactly the extent to which we can move legislatively to respond to it.
Anticlimactic? We expected this? And yet he still doesn’t know “the extent to which we can move legislatively”? Please. If you knew this was coming (you did) then there should have been a plan in place ready to trigger the moment the ruling was handed down. Republicans sure had plans in place, which is why multiple states have already fully banned abortions just hours after the Court’s decision. Hell, they’ve even declared a holiday!
Somehow, however, Democrats simply cannot muster the will to address Friday’s ruling with any sense of urgency or action beyond their usual theatrics — which is to say, stuff like this:
A hearing next month, you say? Well, that should do it. Thanks Senate Dems!
Meanwhile, over on the House side of things, Democratic congressmen and women were busy doing ... this:
Even President Biden, in his remarks to the country following the ruling, seemed resigned to kick the can down the road, telling the public that “Roe is on the ballot” come November. Perhaps that’s a rousing campaign message, but for the millions of people living in states where Roe’s protections have already quite literally been obliterated, that’s hardly any comfort.
Democrats have known this day was coming. Everyone knew this day was coming. There should have been plans. There should have been rafts of bills ready to bring to the House and Senate floor the moment the court made its decision. There should have been executive actions and comprehensive messaging and a genuine sense of urgency over this anguished moment in American history. Instead we’ve been given campaign promises and vague platitudes.
The federal right to an abortion has been dead for less than 24 hours now, and so far, the Democrats seem conspicuously ill-equipped to do anything about it. And if they won’t, who will?