Why Joe Biden's abortion flip is craven politics at its worst

Why Joe Biden's abortion flip is craven politics at its worst
Digital Campaign Manager Doug Jones for Senate - Doug Jones for Senate Committee

After two days of getting his ass beat, Joe Biden reversed his opposition to the Hyde Amendment. ”I can’t justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability to (access) their constitutionally protected right,” Biden said. “If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone's zip code.”


Generally speaking, there is oftentimes too much emphasis put on politicians being pure and forever consistent in their viewpoints. People are a product of their times, and both personal and societal beliefs can shift over time (such as on marriage equality and marijuana). Thus, the “flip-flopping” narrative was always a dumb one, so long as the shift was honest and genuine. Yes, it’s often hard to know how honest a politician is (insert joke here), and there is always gray. Does anyone really think that Barack Obama opposed marriage equality until he didn’t? That always seemed like a political calculation more than a personal one, and he was happy to flip once the general public sentiment supported equality.

Other times, it’s more obvious. Sen. Cory Booker voted against cheaper drug reimportation from Canada when it mattered, literally using Big Pharma talking points as his justification for doing so. Then, a week later, he was suddenly a co-sponsor of a Bernie bill to … reimport drugs from Canada! Why? Because he was gearing up for a presidential run and, whoops, he didn’t realize regular people cared about, you know, the insane cost of critical lifesaving drugs. Oops.

Biden’s flip on the Hyde Amendment was neither honest nor from a place of true personal evolution. Check out the timeline:

1. Biden is asked about his support for the Hyde Amendment. He says he opposes it. It’s the correct answer! People are happy!

2. Turns out, Biden had misheard the question. He instructs his campaign to issue a retraction, directing them to publicly and loudly take the wrong position. He cared so much about his support for the Hyde Amendment that he figuratively took a political knife and stabbed himself in the eye with it. There was no political gain from doing so! Everyone had been happy with his mistaken answer! So why do that?

He did so because he truly believed in the Hyde Amendment, and it was important for him to be honest and consistent, just as he had always been, on the issue.

So after two days of relentless fire, we are to believe that he has truly, honestly, and genuinely changed his mind on the subject?

Had he stuck with his mistaken answer all along, people might have not even noticed the discrepancies with his past dogmatic support for the Hyde Amendment (including in instances of rape and incest). And even if they had, it would’ve been easy to explain. Yes, people do evolve, and women’s issues—thanks to the success of our female-dominant candidate corps in 2018, the emergence of at least two serious female presidential candidates this year, and the rise of the #MeToo movement—are on the forefront like never before. It would be natural for male politicians (and men in general) to be more finely attuned to the core concerns of women.

But Biden is stuck in 1992 (or even earlier!): From his love of Dick Cheney, to his unrepentant opposition to school busing during desegregation, to unfunny jokes about creeping on women, he’s a creature out of touch with the modern zeitgeist.

So are we really to believe that two days ago, he was so supportive of the Hyde Amendment that he had to issue a correction when he accidentally said he opposed it, and yet today, merely 48 hours later, he’s legitimately opposed to it?

Sometimes people change because they truly do evolve. Sometimes they can “change” publicly because the world is a safer place for them to do so. And sometimes, they do so because it’s the politically expedient thing.

It’s obvious which one currently applies to Biden.

Update: Excellent twitter thread here.

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