President Biden showed enormous courage in withdrawing all American troops from Afghanistan and bringing the 20-year war to a close. It might have been politically easier, if more costly in American lives and dollars, to continue it, even sending in more troops.
But Biden said no. He took on the military-industrial complex, his Republican enemies, hawks within his own party, and an often sensational media that stoked fires and overly-amplified critics of withdrawal.
He was resolute and committed, and never backed down.
Now we need to see the same fortitude, determination and fearlessness in response to the Supreme Court's declaration of war on women's bodies and on American democracy itself.
In a cruel action with theocratic implications, and in defiance of its own precedents, the Supreme Court, led by five far-right members, allowed the draconian Texas law banning abortions past 6 weeks of pregnancy, including for pregnancies due to rape and incest, to stand. As Slate's Mark Joseph Stern pointed out, the court effectively overturned Roe v. Wade without even addressing it — and the court did so in an unsigned decision, a decree in the middle of the night. Even Chief Justice John Roberts, a hardline conservative, couldn't go this far and sided with the court's liberals.
The Texas law, which deputizes citizens to sue people who "aid or abet" a woman seeking an abortion and receive $10,000 if they're successful, has had no judicial review at all. The Supreme Court has allowed Texas Republicans to turn citizens into bounty hunters, and to create a tip line to put targets on lists.
This is a true turn toward fascism, coming on the heels of an authoritarian president who emboldened extremists in the GOP, including Christian nationalists in the evangelical movement, and who still leads the Republican Party.
Biden issued two statements on the law — and assailed the Supreme Court — vowing to put the full force of his presidency behind protecting a woman's right to choose, a "whole-of-government" response.
But if the president is serious about that he will right now do everything he can to end or reform the Senate filibuster, including publicly and privately pressuring Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the two Democrats who've adamantly spoken against changing the filibuster, but whose votes are needed in the closely divided Senate. Then he and the Democrats in Congress must move to expand the number of judges on the federal courts, including the Supreme Court.
On both issues — ending the filibuster and expanding the courts — Biden has tepidly pushed back against the base of the Democratic Party and certainly the progressives who worked hard to get him elected. He's allowed Sinema and Manchin wide latitude by telegraphing that he's with them.
In July he once again threw cold water on ending the filibuster, even as President Obama and other Democratic Party leaders have said that it's time to end it. On court expansion — and all of the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, can be and have been expanded or made smaller in the past by Congress — Biden has shown reluctance, keeping the issue somewhat open while creating a commission to study it and other court reforms.
Yesterday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden's position on court expansion "has not changed." What that's supposed to mean is anyone's guess, since Biden didn't take a position on it and punted to a commission, which is usually a way that presidents send issues to die a slow death.
But continued reluctance is not acceptable. Biden can issue all the strong statements he wants. But there's very little he and Democrats in Congress can do with the filibuster in place.
There is not going to be a law passed codifying Roe v. Wade — as the White House and Democrats are now suggesting as a course of action — unless the filibuster is gone. And even if that were done, courts, including the Supreme Court, could rule it unconstitutional — just as they would likely do if Democrats got voting rights legislation passed.
The only answer is to right the wrongs of the GOP and Trump. Mitch McConnell blocked Merrick Garland from the Supreme Court, trampling on President Obama, and blocked many other Obama nominees to the federal courts. Then, once Trump became president, McConnell ended the filibuster for Supreme Court justice nominations, allowing Trump to put three justices on the court with just 51 votes, and fast-tracked all the other federal court appointments, allowing Trump to appoint over 200 judges — almost as many in four years as Obama appointed in eight years.
There's simply no way out of this disaster, and the continued assault on democracy, without expanding the courts. And then means ending the filibuster.
The president has been responsive to the Democratic base on a range of issues, committed to change in the face of opposition. But not on this one. And yet, this is arguably more important than any other issue now, because the Supreme Court has declared war on American democracy. It's only a matter of time before they destroy it.
Some people say that the president can't force Manchin and Sinema to change if they're determined to stay the course. But the truth is, Biden hasn't even tried, at least not publicly. And it's hard to believe that he's privately pressured them much or at all, since his own public position on the filibuster is largely the same as theirs. Why should we believe he's advocating for something privately, pressuring others to move their position, when his own public position is in line with theirs?
The reluctance must end. We need to see the same firm and committed president who stopped the war in Afghanistan now bring an end to the war the Supreme Court has declared and the continued war launched by Republicans in the Senate.
This is a do or die moment, in which the critics must be damned. Let them attack the Democrats and call them radicals. In a short period of time the American people will be very happy things are getting done and won't care about the process. And they certainly will want to see democracy saved.