To be honest, this cave was predictable. Once upon a time, Democrats like Jesse Jackson, Al Gore, and Ted Kennedy could publicly oppose abortion. Changing political winds made that untenable within the Democratic Party, at least at the national level.
Now, we have moved even further. Biden’s reversal on the Hyde Amendment signaled that it’s no longer possible for a Democrat to be personally anti-abortion for religious or other reasons, even while believing it’s beyond the scope of politicians to impose their personal values on women.
As Michael Wear, who worked on faith-based initiatives for the Obama administration, points out, Biden said during his 2007 campaign that he supported Hyde because it’s not about “not imposing your view” on the American people.
What’s changed? Why did Joe Biden—a man whose candidacy is premised on reaching the silent majority of Democratic voters (and independent ones who can vote in the Democratic primary in states like California)—immediately fold under duress this time around? Why would he do this when 2016 polling showed that just 36 percent of likely voters supported overturning Hyde (the question specifically asks if Medicaid should cover abortions)? The answer is simple: Because that same poll showed that 57 percent of Clinton voters supported scrapping Hyde.
As such, Biden’s latest flip-flop clearly demonstrates that the Democratic Party is not a viable option for social conservatives who take their faith seriously enough to be morally offended by Donald Trump’s toxic rhetoric and uncompassionate conservatism.
Indeed, one could argue that Biden and Trump are mirror images on abortion. Trump probably isn’t really anti-abortion, but has—for political purposes—nominated anti-abortion judges. Biden (somewhere in his Catholic heart) probably really is anti-abortion—but has abandoned it for political reasons. When it comes to one of the most important hot-button issues facing our nation, both men are primarily motivated by political, not moral, considerations. If you are a anti-abortion conservative, though, it’s probably better to go with the phony who flips in your direction.
Of course, there are other issues to consider when casting a vote. What is more, “life” is about more than the unborn—which is why some of us still can’t vote for Trump. Charlie Camosy, a college professor who is on the board of Democrats for Life, recently published a book called Resisting Throwaway Culture. It advocates what is called a “consistent life ethic.”
What this means, essentially, is that we should consistently care for the vulnerable. This includes immigrants and refugees, human trafficking victims, people who are in prison (criminal justice reform), animal rights, and, yes, unborn children. Not all of us are 100 percent consistent (I’m in favor of the death penalty, for example), but there are a lot of religious Americans out there who cannot, in good conscience, support Donald Trump for obvious reasons. However, we also cannot support even the most moderate Democrat in Joe Biden.
Right now, neither party can make a consistent claim to be the party that defends the dignity of the vulnerable. So a lot of deeply religious Republicans—and Democrats—find themselves homeless.
This conundrum is controversial. There is a sense that voting is your duty and that (realistically) you have a binary choice. Personally, I reject this notion, but it is damn-near sacrilegious. During a recent episode of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, I explained why I could not and would not vote for either Donald Trump or Joe Biden. For many observers, who (rightly) view Trump as a vulgarian, this choice seems irresponsible and almost un-American.
But for those of us who view life itself as an important issue, voting Democratic is, very clearly, not a viable option. Even if a candidate were to declare a truce on social issues, the Democratic interest groups (in this case, feminists) are too powerful within the coalition to deny. The Hyde Amendment protected people who deeply oppose abortion from being compelled to bankroll it via their tax dollars. If Joe Biden can no longer support that, what should we expect from the more liberal judges he will be nominating and bureaucrats he will be appointing?
I understand that while principles may be clear, public policy is messy. As such, I would support compromise legislation, like a 20-week ban, that some conservatives view as tantamount to selling out. I’m of the opinion that incremental gain is good, saving some unborn lives is better than saving none, and compromise is the only way to get things done in Washington.
But like a lot of conservatives in the Trump era, Joe Biden isn’t just opposed to new compromises—he now wants to rescind a past concession that helped people in opposing tribes abide each other.