'People got the president they voted for': A fitting critique of Joe Biden's post-Roe response

'People got the president they voted for': A fitting critique of Joe Biden's post-Roe response
President Joe Biden pets the Biden family dog Champ in the Oval Office of the White House Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, prior to a bipartisan meeting with House and Senate members to discuss supply chains. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz).

It’s been more than two weeks since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and made Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization the law of the land. The fallout has been swift. States with trigger laws in place banned abortions immediately, and GOP legislators like those of the Texas Freedom Caucus wasted little time in attacking activist efforts to support safe havens for those seeking life-saving healthcare. “They’re now threatening law firm partners with criminal prosecution and disbarment for accommodating their employees in the wake of Dobbs,” Yale law professor Asha Rangappa tweeted on Saturday. She was responding to the Texas caucus’ plan to introduce legislation targeting law firms like Sidley Austin that vowed to pay travel costs for workers seeking abortion services out of Texas.

Republican talking heads and politicians alike continued along those same despicable lines. They bragged about policy plans and enacted legislation that progressives sincerely hoped would’ve been countered by fierce action from the president by now. But no such luck in large part.

A bill Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed to implement an abortion ban at 15 weeks was blocked by Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper, but DeSantis's office said in a statement that it would appeal the ruling to the Florida Supreme Court. “While we are disappointed with today’s ruling, we know that the pro-life HB 5 will ultimately withstand all legal challenges,” DeSantis’s office said.

Progressive Democrats have critiqued President Joe Biden’s response in the face of such Republican sentiment as delayed and lackluster, but strategists and White House officials have defended the president.

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said in a statement The Washington Post obtained on Saturday that the president has been “showing his deep outrage as an American and executing his bold plan” since this decision was handed down. “Joe Biden’s goal in responding to Dobbs is not to satisfy some activists who have been consistently out of step with the mainstream of the Democratic Party,” Bedingfield said. “It’s to deliver help to women who are in danger and assemble a broad-based coalition to defend a woman’s right to choose now, just as he assembled such a coalition to win during the 2020 campaign.”

Biden has been hesitant to follow the advice of progressive lawmakers and declare a public health emergency. “Some in the White House and Department of Health and Human Services supported the idea, believing it would bring more attention to the issue, according to a person familiar with the discussions,” The Washington Post reported. Others worried the idea would backfire and told the Post "such a declaration would not necessarily unlock many new authorities or funds for the White House to deploy."

Scott Mulhauser, a Democratic strategist who previously advised Biden’s commerce secretary, told the Post this moment and those like it are “too often laid on the White House, as if they had a magic wand to fix it all, rather just insufficient votes in Congress and a regressive Supreme Court majority.”

Jennifer Palmieri, a White House communications director during former President Barack Obama's presidency, told the Post criticism of Biden's response isn't fair. "Republicans gamed the system, and they got two Supreme Court justices they shouldn’t have, and those people had a 40-year plan to overturn Roe and they did it," Palmieri said. "And to continue to blame Biden for the fact that more Americans didn’t vote for Democrats is an epic example of missing the forest."

David Axelrod, a political consultant and former senior adviser to Obama, told the Post Biden was elected in part because he is “a decent, temperate person” who “can raise his voice, but it doesn’t come naturally to him and it doesn’t land well.”

“People got the president they voted for,” Axelrod added, “and I think those are good qualities that he has, but they may not be the qualities that some people, particularly activist Democrats, are looking for right now.”

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