Democrats in Disarray, Abortion Edition

Here we go again . . . .

WaPo (“Frustration, anger rising among Democrats over caution on abortion“):

Just hours after the Supreme Court decision ending 50 years of abortion rights, President Biden outlined his ideal response: Elect more Democrats. “This fall, Roe is on the ballot,” Biden said at the White House. “Personal freedoms are on the ballot. The right to privacy, liberty, equality, they’re all on the ballot.”

A short distance away, House Democrats gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to sing a heartfelt rendition of “God Bless America” to celebrate the passage of a modest gun control bill — a moment that felt tone deaf to many Democrats given the judicial bombshell that had just landed.

To an increasingly vocal group of frustrated Democrats, activists and even members of Congress, such responses by party leaders have been strikingly inadequate to meet a moment of crisis. They criticize the notion that it is on voters to turn out in November when they say Democrats are unwilling to push boundaries and upend the system in defense of hard-won civil liberties.

Who are these people? How many of them are there? What is it that they think Biden and company should be doing differently?

“We have Democrats that are doing the opposite, you know? They just aren’t fighting,” Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) said. “When people see that, what’s going to make them show up to vote? We can’t just tell people, ‘Well, just vote — vote your problems away.’ Because they’re looking at us and saying, ‘Well, we already voted for you.'”

Progressive lawmakers, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), have outlined several actions they want to see Democrats embrace: Building abortion clinics on federal land. Funding people to seek abortions out of state. Limiting the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction or expanding its membership. Ending the filibuster.

“We can do it!” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted recently after listing some of these measures. “We can at least TRY.”

So, at least three people, including two House backbenchers, want to do something that there aren’t nearly enough votes to do and which is surely going to be struck down as unconstitutional by this Court? (And probably rightly so.)

Warren called on Biden to declare a national medical emergency, and she said the administration could establish Planned Parenthood outposts on the edge of national parks. “The point is the acknowledgment of the emergency situation and the urgency of getting help out,” she said in an interview. “People need help immediately.”

Okay, so that’s a novel solution to the problem. It’s also one that would be unpopular even with large swaths of the Democratic base. And create a standoff with states that would almost certainly land a lot of people in jail.

Biden and his team have signaled discomfort with many of these ideas, particularly any far-reaching overhaul of the Supreme Court. Asked by reporters recently if he thinks the Supreme Court is “broken,” Biden said only, “I think the Supreme Court has made some terrible decisions.”

A senior White House official said Biden is simply being honest with the public about what he can do unilaterally, adding that the president is “taking major actions under executive authority as he fights this extreme decision very hard — but being clear and honest that only Congress can fix the situation.”

White House officials note that the administration has moved to protect access to the so-called abortion pill even in states that try to ban it, and that the president has pledged to protect women who seek to travel across state lines to get an abortion.

The official said that while the proposal to set up abortion clinics on federal lands was “well-intentioned,” it could put pregnant people and providers at risk, and that in states where abortion is illegal, women and providers who are not federal employees could be prosecuted. Some legal experts have also raised questions about whether such a proposal would stand up in court, and White House officials worry it would violate the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion except if a pregnant person’s life is in danger or if the pregnancy results from rape or incest.

Warren’s proposal presumably relies on the Federal Enclave doctrine, which exempts certain properties owned by the Federal government from state jurisdiction. Practically, though, it’s really complicated depending on factors such as the nature of the transfer of control to the Federal government, the timing of the passage of the state law, and what stipulations the enabling legislation made.

Regardless, it would appear that, outside of a handful of the most progressive members of the caucus, they’re just frustrated that they keep losing because the other side isn’t playing by the same rules.

Some activists acknowledge Biden’s ability to act is limited. Only Congress can codify abortion rights nationwide, and the Senate, where the filibuster requires 60 votes to pass almost all legislation, is split 50-50 between the parties.

But many abortion rights supporters say Republicans have routinely broken the rules in recent years and benefited enormously from it — for example, by blocking President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick — and that for Democrats to continue observing the niceties amounts to unilateral disarmament.

This is not without merit. While Democrats have played hardball themselves over the years, including eliminating the filibuster for lower court judges in response to Republican obstructionism, they have been more committed to institutional norms. Biden, in particular, is loath to completely nuke the filibuster. Then again, he doesn’t have the votes to do it even if he wanted to.

Moreover, a lot of this is just about signaling. They want to at least be seen as fighting, even if they know they’ll ultimately lose.

“We are dealing with one side that is undermining the very essence of what it means to be a country that roots itself in this philosophy of equal protection under the law. You cannot battle that if folks on the other side are always moderating, modulating and compromising. It’s not the age we’re in,” said the Rev. William Barber, a North Carolina preacher who is co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign.

“You fight a crisis until the crisis is over,” Barber added. “You can’t overreach when you’re at the bottom, and these folks have taken us to the bottom.”

If Biden pursued aggressive executive actions to expand abortion access, even if those moves were ultimately overturned by a court, it would energize supporters and signal to voters that Democrats are putting up a fight, advocates said.

Kurt Bardella, a former Republican who now consults for Democrats, said party leaders cannot be afraid of bold actions because of potential legal challenges.

“Democrats start with the question of, ‘Are we allowed to do this or not?’ And I think Democratic voters will forgive you if you try and later on it turns out a court strikes it down,” Bardella said. “But at least you tried in the meantime to keep things in place and head toward the next election. What they won’t forgive is if you keep asking them to keep you in power but you don’t do anything with it, or at least try to do something with it.”

That’s a reasonable argument. Part of Bidens’ abysmal poll numbers is Democrats frustrated that so little of their agenda has passed. What’s the point of voting Democratic if nothing changes? That, again, they simply don’t have the votes in a 50-50 Senate with two members of the delegation who simply aren’t on board with much of said agenda doesn’t matter to the rank and file. They’re just tired of losing.

After several more paragraphs amplifying that point, we come to this:

In a letter to colleagues Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) outlined specific legislation that leaders are considering in the coming months. They include shielding women from criminal prosecution if they travel out of state to seek an abortion and protecting women’s personal data stored in reproductive health apps, in case state lawmakers try to access that information to determine if a woman has gotten an abortion.

Pelosi kept the door open for more provisions upon lawmakers’ return to Washington in July, but put the onus on the Senate to eliminate the filibuster and pass legislation codifying Roe v. Wade, which the House passed last year. Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have been the Democrats most resistant to eliminating the filibuster, and some Democrats say electing additional senators from states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin could establish a majority that would enact such a move.

I support those two measures, which strike me as incredibly reasonable. But, again, any legislation that requires ending the filibuster is simply theater at this point.

Which gets us back to where we started:

More than 30 Senate Democrats signed a letter led by Warren and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to Biden that called for “bold action,” adding “You have the power to fight back and lead a national response to this devastating decision.”

Some activists said Democratic leaders’ exhortation to vote for them to save abortion rights echoes the refrain activists heard on police reform in the wake of Floyd’s killing and on protecting voting rights — two major initiatives that have fallen short despite the narrow Democratic majorities in Washington.

“It’s very similar to what happened in 2020: ‘Go back to the voting booths.’ … It always comes back to ‘Now you, the individual, do something,'” said Paris Hatcher, executive director for Black Feminist Future. “But we’ve elected these people who are in office at this very moment to take action on things like this. It becomes a very passive way to pass the buck when we have elected them to make things happen that center on the well-being of the people.”

A related POLITICO report (“Democratic exasperation builds at Biden’s slow roll on Roe“) adds one more name to the list of the exasperated:

Frustration is building among liberals over what some see as a slow executive response from the president, despite weeks to prepare following POLITICO’s publication of a draft majority opinion forecasting the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. White House officials contend that things are more complicated than they seem, but that’s doing little to turn down the temperature in the party.

“He made a strong statement the day of. I would have liked to see some more specific actions rolled out,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who leads the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “We all knew this was coming.”

Jayapal spent part of Monday in meetings with Biden officials and encouraged them on the sidelines to do more, urging a look at further agency-level moves to protect abortion access — the sort of action that White House aides say is coming soon, albeit without specifics so far.

And a few more suggestions as to what Biden could be doing:

It’s not a full Democratic pile-on yet, even as the party’s base rages after the conservative-leaning high court stripped a nationwide right to abortion. That’s in part because Democrats recognize both that Biden’s hands are somewhat tied and that the dynamics in Congress don’t allow a robust response. Nonetheless, lawmakers like Jayapal and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are pressing the president for a more urgent counterattack.

Among their ideas: covering expenses for federal employees who need to travel to receive abortion services, helping pay for out-of-state abortions, enshrining abortion access for active-duty military and opening up federal lands to abortion counseling and procedures. Some Democrats are even examining whether tribal governments could help provide abortion services.


Sarah Godlewski, Wisconsin’s state treasurer and a Senate candidate, wants Biden to direct Medicaid to pay for out-of-state abortions and cut red tape for abortion medication availability. There are things “the president can be doing to help folks in Wisconsin right now who are no longer able to get access to abortion care,” she said. The state’s Planned Parenthood clinics temporarily suspended their abortion services.

Again, though, the Hyde Amendment, which remains with us 15 years after the death of its namesake, precludes much of this.

At the heart of the intra-party tension over abortion is a complaint Democratic lawmakers have also offered about the White House’s approach to spiking inflation: As a problem emerges and grows, they say, the White House is slow to offer guidance and taking too cautious an approach to Congress.

White House aides protest that Biden simply can’t do all that much solely by executive fiat, saying legislation would be needed. The administration has chewed over scores of executive orders, including the potential national public health emergency that Black Democrats have sought. They’ve also looked at ways the Justice Department could fight efforts to prosecute those crossing state lines to get abortions.

Any such legal support would not fully replace what Friday’s ruling took away and would surely face legal obstacles. But some Democrats say no matter what happens in the courts going forward, the White House needs to pursue those options, and more.

“Of course, there will be legal challenges,” Warren said. “But the fact that an extremist Supreme Court has taken steps that most of America believed they would never take, doesn’t mean that we back down. It means we get into the fight harder than ever.”


For all of Biden’s willingness to use his voice since Friday, though, the White House had little concrete ready to roll out when the decision came down. After weekly meetings that drew senior Biden aides, state officials and abortion rights groups, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL, the administration’s lack of specific moves over the past 48 hours has surprised some legal experts and allies.

“It’s a shocking silence,” one outside adviser said roughly an hour after Friday’s ruling.

The difference in the standpoint of a sitting President and Congressional backbenchers and outside agitators is considerable. Biden has limited time and is focused on things he can actually accomplish. For him, expending his finite time and energy on fights he can’t win is foolish. For them, it’s a morale booster.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I get their frustrations but they simply didn’t elect enough Democrats. Partly, that’s because, despite being personally unpopular, Trump galvanized massive Republican turnout. It was the opposite of a coattail effect: even though he lost by 8 million votes, he brought enough Republicans out to keep it close in the House and the Senate. Indeed, absent the Big Lie and the attempt to delegitimate the voting, which demoralized the base, Republicans would almost surely have won at least one of the Georgia Senate seats in the January runoff, keeping the Senate majority.

And, of course, the deck is very much stacked against Democrats. The Senate wildly over-represents small states, which are overwhelmingly Republican. That advantage conveys to the Electoral College. And even the House is gerrymandered in a way that slightly advantages Republicans.

Combine that with the filibuster, which allows 41 Senators to block legislation favored by 59, and the balance is even further skewed. Then add in that Republicans are generally happy simply obstructing new legislation whereas Democrats only make progress on their agenda by passing new legislation and the see-saw is basically stuck.

One understands the frustration and recriminations. But there’s only so much Biden, Pelosi, and Schumer can do unless Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema get on board. And that’s assuming the Court that struck down Roe doesn’t strike down these provisions.

FILED UNDER: Congress, The Presidency, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DK says:

    Meh. Warren, The Squad, and “outside advisors” (*eye roll*) do not a groundswell of recriminations make. But the media is going to push its default narrative of anti-Biden, anti-Democrat negativity no matter what.

    Someone has to, and should, press for maximalist action. It’s an important role. For accountability and for allowing Biden to triangulate as the rational adult.

    But as Pelosi always says, Democrats should strive to hold the center. That’s fairly simple here, with the right overreaching on forced birth.

    What Biden and Democrats need to do is:

    a) repeat “privacy,” “freedom,” and “Republican extremism” every day

    b) pledge House and Senate votes to codify the reasonable and popular Roe/Casey standard of allowing women to safely, legally terminate pre-viability pregnancies

    c) amplify every instance of Pence and his ilk pushing a nationwide abortion ban

    d) amplify Thomas’s plan to ban contraception and marriage equality

    e) pick fights with states banning first trimester abortion and/or jettisoning exceptions for rape and incest.

    When your enemy is hurting himself, you do not rush to trip over your own shoelaces.

  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    Everything you said, and get much more active at the state level. There are a number of states that are just R+2 or 3. Flip the state legislatures and governor’s mansions. This is an opportunity.

  3. Jen says:

    she said the administration could establish Planned Parenthood outposts on the edge of national parks.

    That’s certainly one way to welcome people to a national park.

    Hold votes on these issues and if they fail, use that. Republicans have been doing this type of performative voting for ages.

    Pushing for action is important.

    I agree with @DK‘s list above.

  4. grumpy realist says:

    Make a big fuss about the potential use of Big Data to track/pinpoint women who “might” have had abortions or are “thinking about having abortions”. Basically, come up with legislation governing the sale of personal information. We’ve got HIPAA for medical data; we now need an equivalent for personal data.

  5. Stormy Dragon says:

    I’m reminded of a segment I saw a day or two ago where a reporter asked press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre if the Whitehouse had a strategy in place for dealing with the Dobbs ruling and the response was that the administration was in the process of developing one.

    Given this ruling was telegraphed two months ago by the leak, the idea they’re still DEVELOPING a strategy to respond is a jaw-dropping admission. It is, however, typical of the rather low energy approach to the presidency Biden seems to be taking, and I think a lot of people are getting frustrated by the endless sitting around “developing strategies”. How long has the admin been “discussing” the student loan debt issue?

    Likewise, I think a lot of people are frustrated by the lethargy of the Democratic Senate leadership. Part of the Republican success came from using their leadership to force Democrats to constantly make painful votes even if the bills ended up being defeated. Why isn’t Schumer forcing Republicans to, every day, vote down widely popular bills like assault weapon bans or child tax credits? If they won’t agree to a BBB framework, make them vote up or down on each individual chunk.

    I think a lot of the resentment is a the geriatric Democrat leadership treating their office as part-time retirement jobs where they’re expected to show up and fart around occasionally, but without any urgency to actually do anything.

  6. Chip Daniels says:

    It seems weird, where the last remaining pockets of non-fascist Republicans are being attacked by other Republicans, sometimes violently, yet there doesn’t seem to be a lot of “Republicans in disarray!” stories.

  7. Mike in Arlington says:

    Well, I, for one, am disappointed at the reaction of the democrats. I’m not saying “sputtering, incoherent rage”, but more than singing god bless america and reciting a poem.

    The democrats knew this was coming, so there should have been a plan. A message. A coherent push-back against this BS.

    To be sure, there has been some push-back, and some of it good, but for those few exceptions, I didn’t detect any heat or a desire to fight in their responses, which is something they absolutely needed.

    They needed to bring the fire and they gave us “God bless america”.

  8. Scott says:

    @Jen: A little more quixotic but I would push on the the right to privacy issue: Bring right to contraception to vote, bring right to marriage to vote, bring right to be left alone in your bedroom (or however you want to phrase it) to vote. Make everyone take a vote and a stand. Even start pushing a constitutional amendment for a right to privacy. All those rights that Thomas says is not in the Constitution, make them vote.

    Find a wartime consigliere to replace Schumer. No vacations, 6 day work weeks, midnight votes. Act like you mean it.

  9. Jen says:

    @Scott: Absolutely. Quixotic is fine, that’s how they chipped away at Roe. Vote after vote after vote.

    I’d also like to see a medical privacy case that is centered on a man’s autonomy/rights. That’s the tactic RBG took with Frontiero v. Richardson. Come at individual, medical privacy from the male side of the equation.

    This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint, but Dems need to at least be on the starting line. Right now they are clicking around online shopping for the right shoes.

  10. DK says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Given this ruling was telegraphed two months ago by the leak, the idea they’re still DEVELOPING a strategy to respond is a jaw-dropping admission. It is, however, typical of the rather low energy approach to the presidency Biden seems to be taking, and I think a lot of people are getting frustrated by the endless sitting around “developing strategies”.

    It’s a fair critique.

    Hillary would have had a 12-point plan ready to go, footnoted.

  11. Chip Daniels says:


    Hell, Hillary saw this coming and warned us about it, and was admonished by pundits to stop being so shrill.

    I suspect that there is also a large overlap of those people in 2016, and the “sputtering with rage” people now.

  12. Kathy says:

    I see two problems:

    1) There’s no immediate solution.

    2) There is a long term solution, but such things are hard to get moving, harder to keep moving, and take a very long time to pay off.

  13. JKB says:

    Interesting that none of the call to arms is to set to work in state capitals and at least restoring say a 15 week abortion limit in those states now falling back on old laws that banned abortion. Of course, such work, puts congresspeople and senators on the back bench and would require NY Times and WaPo operatives to travel into the interior of the country to report on such goings on.

    Instead, we had AOC calling for a purge of any and all Democrats in Congress who had pro-life tendencies toward abortion limits. Hardly the way to garner vote for legislation. After all, the protestors in LA and NY so prominent in the news coverage aren’t going to be voters in South Dakota or Wisconsin in November.

  14. Steve Fetter says:

    The Dems are just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic while The Squad plays the music in the background. The sinking of their ship is inevitable. Rather than issuing some strongly worded statements or undertaking a major hashtag campaign, I recommend to just sit back and enjoy the ride down to the depths (minority).

  15. steve says:

    The time to save abortion was the vote 2016. This is all just finger pointing and blaming.


  16. Jen says:

    @Steve Fetter: Americans supporting abortion rights are the majority, and have been for years.

    More Americans identify as Democrats than Republicans–even though that gap is narrowing recently, it’s been pretty consistent over time.

    Republicans have benefited, particularly in the Senate, where land is prioritized over people.

  17. grumpy realist says:

    Two other suggestions:

    1) start asking nosy questions as to what this means about IVF in those states who want to outlaw abortion from conception.
    2) Get Democratic politicians in “pro-life” states banging the drum loudly about increasing funds for NICU units and any other pregnant women support systems. Also long-term financial support for children with Downs syndrome and all other types of disabilities, especially the more severe ones.

    3) insist on a long-term plan to fund and carry out research on uterine replicators.

    (As I’ve always said: cultures end up with ethics that they can financially support. A lot of “pro-lifers” have been able to push the maximalist position on abortion because they never have had to pony up for the costs of their ethical position. I think we should make it pretty obvious exactly it is that they are demanding of society. Oh, and no, they don’t get to try to shove this off on the Federal government. SCOTUS has said that this is an issue that goes back to the states, then each state should at least have the guts to take on the financial responsibilities of what they decide is “moral” and “ethical.” No more free-riding on the economic productivity of the blue states.)

  18. DK says:

    @Chip Daniels:

    Hell, Hillary saw this coming and warned us about it, and was admonished by pundits to stop being so shrill.

    I thought of Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado often this weekend. Challenged by Cory Gardner in 2014, Udall focused half of his advertising on protecting the right to abortion and warning that a Republican takeover might mean the end of Roe.

    For this, the “liberal media” mocked him with the nickname Mark Uterus, said he was scaremongering, and endorsed Gardner, explicitly and implicitly. Gardner won by ~2% I think.

    Somehow I doubt we’ll be getting any “Where does Mark Udall go to get his apology?” headlines in Politico.

  19. Mike in Arlington says:

    @grumpy realist: 4) (similar to your #1) start highlighting and pushing on the consequences of abortion criminalization, something that the activists never had to actually deal with because they could say whatever they wanted without consequence. For example:
    If a pregnant woman is diagnosed with cancer, is she banned from getting an abortion?
    What about ectopic pregnancies? There are a bunch of anti-abortion activists claiming that ectopic pregnancies can be “reimplanted”. This is, of course, at best dead wrong, and at worst, a complete lie. But this sort of restriction has introduced in some states. Are they really ready to kill women so they can insist on this fantasy?
    IIRC, one of the final straws in Ireland was a pregnant woman dying in the hospital because she came down with sepsis and the hospital refusing to perform the procedure. Where is this line going to be drawn?
    Are we really ready to start paying for the care and provide services for all of these new babies?
    They’ve been pushing for this authority, so fine, they have it. They’re now responsible for answering these sorts of questions.

  20. Scott F. says:

    This seems an appropriate place to link to this post from Jonathan V. Last at The Bulwark. We never see Republicans in Disarray in the headline. The Republicans have found coherence in their radicalism, but it’s still radicalism. All the ‘back-benchers’ are saying is “take off the gloves.”

    As JVL explains, it is true that the Democrats will pay for such aggressiveness in ways Republicans never will – the parties are held to different standards by the media and by themselves, frankly. But, now is the time to challenge that.

    James notes:

    While Democrats have played hardball themselves over the years, including eliminating the filibuster for lower court judges in response to Republican obstructionism, they have been more committed to institutional norms. Biden, in particular, is loath to completely nuke the filibuster. Then again, he doesn’t have the votes to do it even if he wanted to.

    Signaling and theatrics are called for when winning the votes isn’t feasible. Institutional norms are for patsies.

  21. Jay L Gischer says:

    This is not remotely a disagreement about policy. It is a disagreement over how to do politics.

    Bear that in mind. The rifts in the Republicans are often about policy. Any policy difference among Democrats tend to be of the 12 inches or only 10? sort of variety.

  22. Scott F. says:

    @Mike in Arlington:

    Are we really ready to start paying for the care and provide services for all of these new babies?
    They’ve been pushing for this authority, so fine, they have it. They’re now responsible for answering these sorts of questions.

    Exactly. If it’s really about “the babies,” make them pony up the money. Hammering on this point could have the added benefit of improving pre-natal and early childcare for all. It’s win-win.

  23. Jay L Gischer says:

    I have two “quotes” (in translation) from the Tao Te Ching that I quite like and think are applicable.

    “The superior man [sic] moves as if wading across a deep stream.”

    “When you move, move with the whole household”

    So, I don’t know that I’m eager for a rush to action. (Also, I don’t generally embrace hyperbolic speech). It would be better for the WH to take its time and to launch a political counteroffensive that is well grounded, has very broad support among Democrats, and good timing.

    That may or may not happen, but it doesn’t require any rush into ideas that I’ve never seen discussed before. But that’s the role of the part of the party quoted in the story, to spin out new ideas and voice them, see what others think of them.

    So, I see this as normal functioning of the Democratic Party. Not disarray at all.

  24. grumpy realist says:

    @Mike in Arlington: There are a lot of so-called “pro-lifers” out there who don’t have a clue about women’s biology….we’ve still got the idiots running around claiming “a woman who gets raped won’t get pregnant!”

    And yeah, we’re going to have a lot of deaths of pregnant women before this all shakes out. Followed by pious “I never would have thought…!” or “she died for the Glory of God”.

    If I were Emperor for a Day, I’d say: ok, you pro-lifers. We’ll give you everything you want. But for every woman who dies or has her health permanently damaged by being forced to carry to term, a thousand of you have the same damage done to you. You die, or have your own health similarly degraded. Are you willing to sign up for the risk? And if not, why are you so willing to push it on other people?

  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: The whole “economics of ethics” issue is interesting, but how much does it really cost to ignore women dying of sepsis from coat hanger abortions? How much does letting children die slowly of malnutrition and street violence cost? Seems pretty cheap to me. Economically, that is.

  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “I support those two measures, which strike me as incredibly reasonable. But, again, any legislation that requires ending the filibuster is simply theater at this point.”

    While I see your point in real world terms, I will assert you’ve got it backwards. The filibuster is the actual theater, and it’s damaging.

    Then again, you can only have government as good as the people who run and the people who elect them. Culturally, the US is as short of good people as it can be and still hold together.

  27. Kurtz says:

    While Democrats have played hardball themselves over the years, including eliminating the filibuster for lower court judges in response to Republican obstructionism, they have been more committed to institutional norms.

    This really isn’t the best example of “hardball.” It’s more like the Dem pitcher threw three strikes down the middle of the plate even though the GOP never sent a batter to the box.

    Before the ninth inning, Republicans called in a bomb threat to the stadium so they could send their own pitcher in to throw meatballs to their batters. They won 6-3.

  28. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    This whole thing is more depressing evidence of my belief that when it comes to political power, Republicans abuse it and Democrats don’t know what to do with it.

    It’s ridiculous that the D’s are even remotely in disarray at this outcome (and they are, even though yes it’s unfair the way the media always portrays D’s in disarray and R’s are never held to the same standard). They’ve known it’s happening for months. But a White House response is still “coming”? Bills, even performative ones (politics IS performative in many ways) aren’t rolling out immediately in response to force votes? Why do Congressional D’s yell at Biden-THEY are the ones in Congress who should have been talking legislative actions no later than 2 months ago and being prepped and ready for this.

    State level too. Why was a whole god-damn package of executive and legislative actions (and ads) at state and federal levels not READY to be released when the decision dropped? Yes, they won’t necessarily go anywhere-that’s NOT THE POINT. Look, I get and accept Steven’s point that messaging and policy are secondary to the systemic issues we have in our representation, but they aren’t COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT.

    This is a disaster for so many women. It was also a political gift heading into midterms IF we had a functional party capable of mobilizing and capitalizing on it (that’s no more than a silver lining, I would have preferred it not happen, but it does offer the potential to change the direction the midterms are heading). And it’s been completely bungled.

    It’s so frustrating.

    PS-I can’t help but bitterly laugh at how the nutcases on the R side are convinced the Democrats are so organized they could coordinate a multi-state election theft, when the reality is they can’t even coordinate a message and plan with months of advance notice, and in fact are SHOCKED, SHOCKED I Say, overturning Roe vs Wade actually happened.

  29. Kurtz says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    Any policy difference among Democrats tend to be of the 12 inches or only 10? sort of variety.

    Yeah, for the most part. But once they agree that it’s 10 and put the plan in motion, one or two of them decide that 8 is really the most they can do. Then the GOP gets their cut and we end up with half of a 6″ sandwich from Subway with old “tuna” and stale bread.

  30. Gustopher says:

    I’ve been very disappointed the the Dem leadership on this — the ruling wasn’t a surprise, and yet they seem to have been caught flat footed.

    Much of what they can do is just theater at this point, but theater is important. It’s not enough to be doing something, you have to be seen to be doing something — and this is more true when there’s little you can do.

    A few months ago, the Senate had a vote to codify and expand Roe, and didn’t even get 50 votes. Manchin objected to the expansion. Do it again, smaller and get to 50.

    This is an unpopular court decision, make the headlines be that Republicans voted lockstep to support it. And then we can do it again right before the election — there’s no powder to keep dry there.

    I don’t know whether it would be good or bad to force a vote on the filibuster that will fail. We may want to protect our red state senators from that vote. Same with expanding the court.

    We can follow that up with a child tax credit, getting the IRS to handle child support payments, and things to make raising a child easier — these can be passed by reconciliation, and we have an available reconciliation bill or two. Manchin was opposed to the child tax credit, so go with Romney’s version and try to peel him off.

    But don’t just stand there.

    A lot of this is theater, but so is protesting in the streets. Hell, so is sitting in front of a planned parenthood accosting women going in calling them baby killers and sluts. Theater is important. Theater changes hearts and minds.

    And if Biden wants to focus on other things he can get done, he has misread the mood of the country and he chances of getting those other things done. Plus, there’s a perfectly adequate Vice President who can be put in charge of tilting at windmills, with Biden himself just being a special guest star.

  31. Jen says:

    Okay, I thought the whole “just set up PP on national parks” was a offbeat idea meant to draw attention to the fact that Democrats will consider many workarounds, but there are people who are treating this as a serious consideration and are upset that Biden doesn’t have groundbreakings scheduled or some such thing.

    I shouldn’t have to point this out, but…national parks are not exactly located near population centers. It’s sort of their thing, to be out of the ways a bit.

    Good grief.

  32. Gustopher says:

    @Jen: Courthouses.

    I’m at the Courthouse,
    I’m at the abortion clinic,
    I’m at the combination Federal Courthouse Abortion Clinic

    Not a serious proposal, but more practical.

    The Federalist justices who have been installed throughout the judiciary would, however, be annoyed, so maybe it’s worth considering.

  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Paul L.: From Texas Paul’s lips to God’s Democratic voters’ ears. Turn Texas blue? Not holding my breath.

  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: ” yet they seem to have been caught flat footed.”

    Not caught flat footed. One of those “not willing to invest political capital on” things I was talking about a couple of days back. The pronouncements are reader service–offered to keep people coming back.

  35. Mike in Arlington says:

    @Paul L.: I hope you’re right, but I don’t know if the democrats can harness the energy, anger and fear into election results.

    There was a time I thought as you do, but the democratic leadership is just not ready for the fight they’re in.

    If I had my way, I’d have anybody retire who wasn’t born before 1980 (full disclosure: I was born in 1971). Nancy Pelosi needs to train a bunch of people the art of vote whipping and vote counting, something she’s a master at. But her messaging, well, she’s not great at it.

    This might be what finally gets democrats ready and together, and in their defense, I’ve been watching them since the late 80s, and they’ve slowly gotten better and better ever since the 90s. But they’re not getting better fast enough, it seems like a case of learned helplessness and I’m stunned that there isn’t a major push to use abortion, guns, and Republican crazy in the midterms.

  36. Mimai says:

    Both Rs and Ds think the media are against them. They’re both probably right.

    Nevertheless, because of the frequent assertions around here, I asked google to search for “Republicans in disarray” and here’s what they said:

    Republicans in disarray

    Maybe Republicans Really Are In Disarray

  37. Mimai says:
  38. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Not caught flat footed. One of those “not willing to invest political capital on” things I was talking about a couple of days back.

    Political capital isn’t a finite resource that gets expended. It’s not capital.

    To the extent that it is though, it comes from energizing people on your side. Well planned, even performative steps would increase the “capital” — leave the base feeling like we are all fighting the Republicans, rather than that the base has to fight the Democrats to get them to do something.

    And it’s not like much else is going to happen during Dobbs week. The only currency is abortion talk (and 1/6 treason). If there’s some 12 dimensional chess that gets Build Back Better passed this week while no one is paying attention or something, I’ll admit that was an amazing plan, but so far… this is just the administration wasting an opportunity and annoying the base for nothing.

  39. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: My point being that this issue is not one that the White House/Democratic leaders wished to expend effort reacting to. Can’t listen to the progs ya kno. Gotta reach out to the moderates. Pfui.

  40. Kurtz says:


    Thanks. I didn’t bother looking it up, but I was pretty skeptical because I’m quite sure I’ve read plenty of articles over the years describing tensions within the GOP.

    I also sometimes wonder if there are plenty of those articles about the Republicans, but the writers use different language. If that’s the case, it may or may not produce a different effect. But even then, I’m not sure that it truly matters given how most voters don’t seem to pay much attention.

    It’s easy (and true) to criticize the cognitive dissonance required to believe the Dems could rig elections effectively without discipline and organization. But there is a similar, if less egregious, tension between complaining about media claims of disarray never or rarely applied to the GOP while also acknowledging that Republicans are more disciplined.

    I think the best explanation is that the GOP has natural advantages that go beyond American institutions that our hosts discuss regularly. For example, the more diverse a constituency, the more difficult it is to maintain discipline and formulate policy. In short, the bigger the tent, the more difficult it is to formulate policy.

    Is their asymmetry in media coverage? Yes. Especially when the Right leaning/wing outlets are less concerned with best journalistic practices than their counterparts on the center and center-left.

    And there is certainly asymmetry between the parties in terms of tactics. Republicans are better equipped and much more willing to use Democratic adherence to norms against them. (Yes, I think they are less ethical as a political organization.)

    I got more, but I need to go be productive now. Maybe, if I have time, I’ll put my thoughts in order about the proliferation of stickers all over the place, the most common and visible ones are “I did that” on every fucking gas pump. I’ve noticed others. And there may be other explanations for it. But…dammit. I gotta go.

  41. DK says:

    @Paul L.:

    Go on, Democrats. Run on repealing the 2nd Amendment. I want you to run multiple ads and make it part of every campaign speech across the country. You want to do something? Do that.

    Go on, Rethuglikkklans. Run on giving every elementary school kid an AR-15. I want you to run multiple ads and make it part of every campaign speech across the country. You want to do something? Do that.

  42. Mimai says:


    Having grown up in a “the media is* so unfair” household, this is one of my bugaboos. I’m not proud of this trigger, but at least I recognize it. I don’t commit to being better.

    Of course, the nature of articles written about Rs and Ds will differ — this reflects the different dynamics of the parties. As you note. That’s why, when Ds behave counter to their expressed values about, say, social class, we see headlines and stories about this. Similarly when Rs behave counter to their (formerly?) expressed values about, say, free market economics.

    And this is amplified during periods when the parties differ radically in big vs. little tent ethos. Which you also note. Although the size of the tent depends on the issue being considered. And of course these issues are not weighted equally — they are ordered.

    I’ll be interested to hear what you have to say about stickers. If you get around to it.

    Relatedly, on one of these threads, people were talking about billboards, the short/long game, and how Rs have mastered this medium. With apologies to Tim Ferriss, I’m curious what people think should go on said billboards to get the D message out….specifically to denizens of R country. Theory of mind test for the Ds.

    *singular used intentionally

  43. Kurtz says:


    *singular used intentionally

    I have an interpretation of this, but I’m curious about the meaning.

  44. Mimai says:


    The received wisdom (implicitly and explicitly communicated) was that the media is singular. And coordinated. And motivated, first and foremost, by a desire to misrepresent, slander, etc one political party.

    What was your interpretation?

  45. Marissa says:

    @DK: No. The chants have turned everyone off.