Did Dobbs help the left rediscover how political change happens?

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Progressive push for Biden’s executive order illustrates that abortion rights needed to be protected, not taken for granted by party leaders

On July 8, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take action to protect and expand access to medical abortion and contraception while ensuring that patients are eligible for emergency care. In addition, the order seeks to ward off threats posed by surveillance in states prohibiting abortion by directing federal agencies to take additional steps to protect patient privacy. The order was in response to a two-week pressure campaign by leftists frustrated with the Democratic Party’s lukewarm response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationwho overturned the 1973 law Roe V.Wade decision protecting the right to abortion for women. Many have threatened not to fund or vote for the Democratic Party unless leaders act.

How that pressure moved Biden from inaction to executive order illustrates what activist scholars like historian Howard Zinn have long argued: You can’t be neutral on a moving train and change doesn’t happen. produced only by sustained protest and agitation on the part of citizens. Indeed, Lawrence O’Donnell explained that when he worked for the Democratic Party, they ignored demands from the left because many were never willing to withhold their vote on election day – ultimately succumbing to the scare tactics of the party’s “blue vote”. no matter who” propaganda campaign. As Biden’s recent executive order illustrates, those seeking to codify the right to abortion must agitate and annoy Democratic leaders into taking aggressive action.

For example, even though the decision was leaked a month in advance, Biden did not devise a plan to protect abortion rights in the wake of the Dobbs decision. Meanwhile, Republicans made plans years in advance, passing so-called trigger laws that automatically banned abortion in states in the past. Roe V.Wade was overthrown. The Democratic Party’s response was limited to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reading a poem, Vice President Kamala Harris tweeted a photo of herself watching pro-choice protests, Democratic members of Congress chanting ” God Bless America” ​​on the steps of the US Capitol, a massive fundraising campaign and berating the electorate for not “voting harder” for the Democrats who would have allowed all of this to happen.

Through podcasts, opinion pieces, street protests and more, progressives and leftists have rallied to pressure the Democratic Party to stop dithering on abortion rights and take substantive action, including removing the filibuster, filling the courthouse, or adding abortion clinics to nearby federal lands. States that have banned abortion. They chastised the Democratic Party in general and Biden in particular for serving as catalysts for the Republican Party’s anti-abortion agenda. Leftists were greeted by Democratic Party apologists who took to social media to hijack and blame supporters of Bernie Sanders, Susan Sarandon and other so-called far-left types for subverting Hilary’s campaign Clinton in 2016, which they say paved the way for Trump’s nomination. three Supreme Court justices who played a key role in overturning Roe V. Wade. However, these well-meaning social media users were overwhelmed by dozens of other Democratic Party apparatchiks, who echoed criticism from the left.

These included celebrities such as Debra Messing and “two dozen top Democratic politicians and operatives, as well as several within the West Wing.” They complained that they were being asked to do more fundraising and to vote, while the Democratic Party – which controls the executive and legislative branches – wavered on abortion rights. Some even wondered if the president was capable of acting. Some “mocked the way the President stood in the White House lobby, squinting through his teleprompter remarks as protesters poured into the streets, making only vague promises of action because he and his assistants had decided no more”.

Those protesting from the left were showing that any fundraising campaign or election campaign would be pointless until they had faith in Biden as an agent of change. It was certainly hard to imagine coming from Biden, who promised wealthy donors in 2020 that if elected president, “nothing would fundamentally change.” However, these criticisms seemed to put pressure on the leaders of the Democratic Party. After the announcement of the Dobbs ruling, Biden reportedly cut a deal to appoint an anti-abortionist to a lifelong judicial post, but as pressure from progressives grew, his rhetoric became more aggressive as he expressed his will. to remove the filibuster to codify abortion. rights. Time will tell, but further inaction probably doesn’t bode well for the president.

Despite the notable change, this rhetoric did little to mask the earlier inaction. As a result, the protests continue and his polls continue to drop. Since Biden’s election, Americans’ confidence in the Office of the Presidency overall has fallen 15 points, from 38% in 2021 to 23% in 2022, 2 points lower than the Supreme Court. Moreover, Biden’s approval rating – 36% on July 6, 2022 – was just 2 points above Trump’s dismal 34% when he left office. Translation – currently some 64% of Democrats do not want Biden to run for a second term.

Elites never admit failure. The Democratic Party will hide, but never confront, that it failed to protect far-right and GOP abortion rights. As eventual defeat may await Biden’s party this fall midterm, they will blame the other party or the voters, never themselves, for promoting candidates and policies that won’t keep them in power. This was already demonstrated in a July 10 interview on CBS where Vice President Harris claimed that the Democrats were not responsible for the overthrow of deer because they “correctly believed” that the right to abortion was an established law. That’s rich coming from someone who served in the U.S. Senate with colleagues who openly appointed anti-abortion judges and argued for overturning Roe V. Wade.

Nor will the Democratic leadership ever give progressive activists credit for forcing the party to try to protect abortion rights. Their contempt for progressives was exemplified by their efforts to undermine Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns and cut all funding from the Nevada Democratic Party after a slate of Democratic Socialists was elected to lead the party. These efforts seem to communicate that risking a Republican Party victory is worth neutralizing progressive activists.

It’s no surprise that White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said Biden’s cabinet “would not satisfy some activists who have always been out of step with the mainstream of the Democratic Party.” In reality, the activists may not be in tune with the neoliberal business leaders of the DNC, but they are not out of step with the mainstream, seeing their goal of protecting abortion rights as supported by 60% of the electorate and 80% of those who are members or lean towards the Democratic Party. Biden finally acted when he signed the July 8 executive order, which hardly replaces codified abortion rights, but it illustrates that sustained protest by those in power is the only hope for change. More protests and pressure will be needed to achieve the goal of passing legislation codifying the right to abortion.

Going forward, the party may continue to berate activists to deflect their failures, but the reality is that activists push the party to action and should be encouraged. There is still a long way to go, but this should serve as a lesson to those who support abortion rights or any other civil or human rights policy: to make a difference, you have to protest and harass those at the power, not just vote and hope. Rather than attacking the left, Democratic voters should hold those in power accountable to their base and a majority of Americans. From the 20e Joe Hill, labor activist and songwriter of the last century, once said in the face of defeat: don’t cry, organize. So wave like hell for real change. Democracy is not a spectator sport. There is a lot to do. At work.

Printed with permission from Censored project

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