Most of the time, politics is like a jumble of puzzle pieces. On any given day, there are hundreds of news stories, some promising, others ominous. How they fit together is anyone’s guess.
Right now, it feels as though American politics is like a simple puzzle consisting of five pieces. While each piece of the puzzle has been widely discussed, it is easy to miss how they all fit together. But once you put the pieces together, the picture that emerges is very bleak.
The first piece of the puzzle: The words and the actions of Donald Trump demonstrate that he is a serious danger to democracy. The second: If Trump wins another term, he is likely to do a lot more damage than he did in the first. The third: Unless Democrats win a resounding victory in 2024, the country will likely find itself in a deep constitutional crisis. The fourth: Joe Biden, the incumbent president, is old, weak, and deeply unpopular. And the fifth: Kamala Harris, who is very likely to become the Democratic nominee if her boss does not seek reelection, is even less likely to beat Trump.
It is too early for firm predictions. But right now, the single most likely scenario would see an emboldened Trump, or one of his close allies, return to the White House. Unless America changes course, it is headed for disaster. [Continue reading…]
The White House’s response to last week’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, which in 1973 established a constitutional right to abortion, once again has exposed the tension between the conciliatory instincts President Joe Biden developed during his long career in Washington, D.C., and the ferocity of the modern combat between the two major political parties.
An array of frustrated Democrats this week openly complained that Biden and other administration officials had failed, in their initial reactions to the ruling, to reflect the urgency and anguish of abortion-rights supporters. Although Biden quickly denounced the decision last week, he has avoided any broader condemnation of the Court’s direction or legitimacy and dismissed proposals for changing its structure. Biden’s aides have stressed the limits of what the executive branch can do to mitigate the impact of the ruling.
Most notably, Biden initially refused to endorse rolling back the Senate filibuster in order to pass legislation that would restore a national floor for abortion rights—before dramatically shifting gears this morning at a press conference in Madrid to endorse a change to the Senate’s filibuster rule to create a carve-out not only for abortion but potentially also for all privacy-related rights that the Republican-appointed majority on the Supreme Court might threaten. At that same press conference, he also toughened his language against the Supreme Court, calling its abortion ruling “destabilizing.”
Biden’s earlier tepid reaction had drawn loud alarms across the party. Yesterday, Representative Ted Lieu of California, a co-chair of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, told me he was “mystified” as to why Biden had not endorsed a filibuster exception, which is the most plausible option to reverse the Court’s decision because it would theoretically enable this Senate, with its bare 50-seat Democratic majority, to pass a law codifying Roe.
These complaints echoed the frustration of voting-rights activists last year, when Biden was slow to resist the broad red-state push to pass laws making it more difficult to vote. And they recall the impatience among legal analysts who have questioned the pace of the Justice Department’s investigation of former President Donald Trump’s attempts to overthrow the 2020 election. Eventually, Biden did back a filibuster exception for voting rights, and the House January 6 hearings may soon galvanize the Justice Department’s investigation.
Even so, many Democrats share a sense that on all these issues, abortion included, Biden and his team have been following, not leading. And that tendency points to an enduring question about Biden, who was first elected to the Senate in 1972 and was shaped by a clubbier, more cooperative Washington. Can he be the inspirational leader his party needs to counter the aggressive moves by Republicans in Congress and in the states, together with their appointees on the Supreme Court, to reverse long-held civil rights and even threaten democracy itself? [Continue reading…]