The “big” story of the Democratic primary Friday morning is Joe Biden reversing his position on the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for most abortions and has been around in some form since 1976, three years after Roe v. Wade. The important thing to know about this change of heart is that NBC News ran a story Wednesday in which Biden’s campaign confirmed that he still supported the Hyde Amendment. Heavy scrutiny followed, and then—presto—he didn’t support it anymore.
This is the point in the story at which liberals of a more centrist persuasion, especially the ones who lurk on Facebook, say things like:
“Are we so rigid that we can’t accept a candidate who evolves? Isn’t changing your mind over time a good thing?”
“Criticizing Joe Biden now just makes it more likely that we’ll lose to Trump if he’s the nominee!”
“We get it, Paste, you hate Biden. Thanks for showing your privilege by helping Republicans…you won’t be the ones who have to live with the results of another Trump win.”
All of which, of course, is just a copycat script from 2016, when the Democrats ran another miserable, principle-free candidate who inspired no enthusiasm and crashed and burned against an historically terrible candidate in Trump, saddling us with our current dystopia.
Because here’s the thing: If you honestly believe that Biden “evolved” on the Hyde Amendment, as he’s trying to claim, you are a dupe. The time for evolution has come and gone—2016 would have been a decent time, when Democrats began their serious pushback against Hyde—and his reversal now is nakedly, obviously a response to political pressure. He changed because he cares very much about being president, not about women’s reproductive rights. This is a guy who in 1977 and 1981 voted against Hyde Amendment exceptions for abortions due to rape and incest. This is someone who has repeatedly said that he opposes abortion due to his Roman Catholic faith. This is someone who has voted against allowing federal workers to use their health insurance for abortion.
“If I believe health care is a right, as I do,” Biden said in Atlanta on Thursday night, “I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code.”
Why now? Because he saw, very late in the day, which way the progressive wind was blowing. If you needed more proof of his insincerity, note that he refused to apologize for his previous position, just like he refused to apologize for his key role in crafting the ‘94 crime bill, or to fully apologize for his treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings (despite his attempt to gain her public support, knowing it would be a potential obstacle on the way to the presidency).
Let’s move past abortion rights for the moment. Let’s talk about his fetish for compromising with Republicans, and his apparently legitimate belief that Trump is an “aberration,” and that he can govern successfully by reaching across the aisle. This ignores literal decades of GOP obstruction, and proves he learned almost nothing from his eight years serving under Obama. Did he watch the Merrick Garland debacle? Did he pay attention when a million concessions were added to Obamacare, only to yield exactly zero Republican votes? The Republican party is antagonistic to its core, and compromise is met with intransigence every single blessed time.
But Biden is more conservative than any other major Democratic presidential candidate, so maybe what looks like historical ignorance is just the pursuit of his ideal politics.
Biden doesn’t care about young people, and he openly mocks them. He’s about as tough on lobbyists as Obama was on Wall St. If he embraces a single-payer healthcare system, which he probably won’t, it will only be because he’s staring down the same barrel of the same gun that “changed his mind” on the Hyde Amendment.
But all of these issues, critical as they are, pale in comparison to the one issue that threatens our existence: Climate change. A month ago, we learned that he and his campaign are all about finding the “middle ground” on climate policy, which is a formulation that should have all Democrats reaching for their pitchforks. When he finally released a concrete plan, big chunks of it were plagiarized, which not only signals how unimportant climate change is to Biden and his team, but is also a repeat of the same mistakes that cost him a previous run at the presidency—this man has been plagiarizing for his entire career.
Biden is welcome to his beliefs, on climate change, abortion, healthcare, and more. The problem is that an enormous chunk of the Democratic electorate seems to believe that he’s more progressive than he actually is. As I wrote last week, major U.S. elections are often decided by voters who care the least about policy, and that dynamic, in which name recognition and superficial associations (he was Obama’s VP!) matter the most, has made Biden the front-runner. His campaign has been riddled by mistakes since the moment it began, but it hasn’t made a significant dent in his poll numbers yet, and I’m not sure it will. By and large, we’re not paying attention.
A future in which the next president will be decided in a race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump is a hopeless future. Yes, things will be better in the short-term under Biden, because for all his ineffectual policies, entitlement, and arrogance, he’s not a monster. But in the long-term, on a societal level, a Biden presidency will not turn back the destructive forces that threaten our dignity and our lives.
We live in a time of crisis. It’s a crisis that has already hit some Americans, and though others (myself included) have the means to stay on the safe side of the fireline for now, it’s coming for us too. If the American left in 2020 fails to respond with a more inspired choice than Joe Biden, who will almost certainly do nothing on the issues that matter and could very well pave the way for a nightmare electoral reaction in 2022 and 2024, we will forfeit our right to hope. We don’t have the luxury of sacrificing four years to this man, much less the decade or more it will take to fix our mistake as conservatives run rampant with their global death wish. This is why Paste continues to criticize him, despite the rage from our liberal allies, and despite the wild accusations that we’re helping the other side.
Electing Donald Trump would be a massive loss for the United States. But what many people fail to understand is that electing Joe Biden would also be a massive loss for the United States—he doesn’t understand the urgency of our situation and he doesn’t care, which means he doesn’t have the willpower or capacity to change our course. The hypothetical Trump-Biden election is a lose-lose situation, and if you’re not fighting against that outcome today, you’re marching in lockstep with the forces of hopelessness.