Did “Dobbs” help the left rediscover how to effect political change?

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. The order also aims to fend off threats posed by surveillance in states banning abortion and would direct federal agencies to better protect patient privacy.

The order was a response to a two-week pressure campaign by leftists frustrated by the Democratic Party’s lukewarm response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision and effectively eliminate abortion right protections at the federal level. Some have threatened not to fund or vote for Democrats unless leaders of the Biden administration take action.

Biden’s move from inaction to executive order illustrates what activist scholars such as historian Howard Zinn have long argued: you “can’t be neutral on a moving train” and change only happens through sustained protests and unrest from the people.

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 votes on Election Day – ultimately succumbing to scare tactics. of the continuous “vote” of the party. blue anyone” propaganda campaign. As Biden’s recent executive order illustrates, progressives seeking to codify abortion rights at the federal level should legitimately worry about Democratic leaders walking away from the party in order to see them take aggressive action.

For example, even though the decision was leaked a month in advance, Biden did not devise a plan to protect the right to abortion after the Dobbs decision. Meanwhile, Republicans have been planning years in advance, passing so-called trigger laws that would automatically ban abortion in certain states once. deer was overthrown. The Democrats’ response was largely limited to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reading a poem, Vice President Kamala Harris tweeting a photo of herself watching pro-choice protests, Democratic members of Congress singing “God Bless America” ​​on the steps of the US Capitol, a massive fundraising campaign and berating the electorate for not “voting harder” for the same 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 institutes systemic reforms such as removing the filibuster, filling the courts, and adding abortion clinics to nearby federal lands. States that have banned abortion. These activists have 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. Others “poke fun at 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 Dobbs decision was announced, Biden would have struck a deal to appoint an anti-abortion judiciary for life, but as pressure from progressives grew, his rhetoric became more aggressive as he expressed his desire to suppress the systematic filibuster to codify abortion rights.

Further inaction probably doesn’t bode well for the president.

Meanwhile, the protests continue and his polls continue to drop. Since Biden’s election, Americans’ confidence in the Office of the Presidency overall has fallen fifteen points, from 38% in 2021 to 23% in 2022, two points less than the Supreme Court.

Moreover, Biden’s approval rating – 36% as of July 6 – was only two points above Trump’s dismal 34% when he left office. 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 has 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, but 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 Kamala 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. It’s from someone who served in the US Senate with colleagues who openly appointed anti-abortion judges and argued for overturning deer.


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 indicate that risking a victory for the Republican Party 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, abortion rights activists are not out of step with the mainstream, given that their goal of protecting abortion rights is 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.

As early 20th century labor activist and songwriter Joe Hill 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.

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