Where’s the Unity?

A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER: Mounting evidence suggests the president has abandoned his 2021 inauguration pledge to heal a politically divided nation.

Police use metal barricades to keep protesters, demonstrators and activists apart in front of the U.S. Supreme Court as the justices hear arguments in a case about a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks,  on December 01, 2021 in Washington.
Police use metal barricades to keep protesters, demonstrators and activists apart in front of the U.S. Supreme Court as the justices hear arguments in a case about a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks, on December 01, 2021 in Washington. (photo: Chip Somodevilla / GETTY)

In his inaugural address, delivered only a little more than a year ago, President Joe Biden repeatedly promised he would strive to unite America. 

After the debilitating political polarization that featured prominently throughout the 2020 election and in the weeks that followed, a promise of unity was what Americans on both sides of the nation’s political divide needed to hear — assuming in goodwill that the new president was sincere.

But even at the time Biden made his pledge, there was reason for skepticism. During his bitter electoral battle for the presidency, Biden was every bit as quick as his rival to resort to contentious partisanship whenever he judged it would score political points. His explicit alignment with the Democratic Party’s unqualified support for unrestricted abortion rights at the beginning of his bid for the presidency was one such utterly divisive political move, considering that abortion continues to be opposed by the majority of Americans.

This pro-abortion stridency was conspicuously reaffirmed in the fall of 2020, just ahead of the election, when he joined himself to congressional Democrats’ vilification of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett primarily due to their fear that, if confirmed, she might join with other conservative justices to overturn the profoundly flawed Roe v. Wade decision. 

And the divisiveness over abortion continues now that Barrett and the other justices of the court’s conservative majority appear poised to strike down the national framework for legal abortion when they deliver their verdict in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case. 

Biden has already communicated that he intends to respond by mobilizing a “whole-of-government” push to reinstate and enhance the abortion license that Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey extended by default to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. Biden’s full-court press in support of legal abortion includes endorsing congressional Democrats’ extreme Women’s Health Protection Act and the efforts to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits direct federal funding of most abortions. 

Further, Biden’s Justice Department is collaborating closely with abortion activists to overturn Texas’ new heartbeat law. 

The Department of Health and Human Services, meanwhile, has been even more contentious in terms of pushing abortion rights forward via an array of executive actions, including the agency’s recent establishment of a “reproductive health care task force” on the very same day that the March for Life took place in Washington.

Leaving aside the abortion issue for a moment, there’s plenty of other evidence that in recent weeks Biden has abandoned his unity pledge. Even though the Democrats control the evenly divided U.S. Senate only courtesy of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote, and hold only a meager majority in the House of Representatives, he eschewed bipartisanship with respect to the scope of his massive “Build Back Better” economic plan. Biden similarly discarded bipartisanship when it came to his voting-rights package, instead supporting the failed bid by the Senate’s Democratic leadership to override the Senate’s long-standing filibuster provisions in order to push the contested legislation through Congress.

Probably the most striking example of Biden-engendered disunity in recent weeks was the content and tone of his widely criticized voting-rights legislation speech last month in Atlanta. The president castigated Republican opposition to the initiative, alleging that by their resistance they were aligning themselves with George Wallace, Bull Conner and Jefferson Davis. This incendiary implication, that his political adversaries are complicit with institutional racism, incensed Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who rejected the comparison as “profoundly unpresidential” and “incorrect.” Even reliably progressive media outlets like MSNBC acknowledged that Biden’s harsh rhetoric was “out of character” and hard to square with his allegedly conciliatory approach. 

Responding to this palpable shift in presidential tone, Newsweek published a Jan. 25 news analysis proclaiming that “Joe Biden Has Given Up Healing America.” The president isn’t likely to concede this to be true, of course. And certainly we should hope and pray that in the weeks and months ahead, he will back away from his recent propensity for intemperate and inflammatory comments. 

Returning to the abortion issue, this is where Biden’s intentions in terms of being a unifier are likely to get their next test, in the wake of liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s announcement that he will retire from the court after a successor has been nominated by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Dating back more than three decades, Democrats at the national level have reacted with extraordinary hostility to any Republican Supreme Court nominee who, they judged, was insufficiently committed to upholding Roe v. Wade. 

The viciousness of these successive pro-abortion attacks, starting with President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork in 1987, may have done more to erode bipartisanship and civility in the public square than all other recent political differences combined. 

Emboldened by their successful scuttling of Bork’s nomination, Senate Democrats and their media allies mounted similar campaigns of character assassination against a succession of Republican nominees. Catholic Justices Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Barrett were all targeted in this way, to varying degrees.

Biden and other Democratic leaders collectively blame their outpouring of political vitriol on the “extremist” nominees that Republicans supposedly have put forward, not on their own ideological rigidity on abortion. 

If that were true, one would anticipate the president is going to be inclined to bypass an extreme pro-abortion-rights nominee in favor of someone more moderate, now that he’s the one making the selection. 

But even though Biden publicly has prioritized picking a nominee who is a Black woman, it’s a foregone conclusion that he will also apply a stringent pro-abortion litmus test. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki intimated as much on Feb. 1, reaffirming that her boss “believes in a woman’s right to choose” after initially sidestepping a direct question about whether the nominee must be pro-abortion. 

It could be that the only thing that will compel Biden to shift course from his pro-abortion extremism, to a more moderate and unifying approach on the issue, is a sharp rebuke from voters in this fall’s midterm elections. That remains to be seen, but in the meantime we can pray that, for whatever reason, he will rediscover his earlier presidential promise to promote national harmony. 

God bless you!

Washington Surgi-Clinic on F St. NW in Washington, D.C., on April 7, 2022.

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