Will Joe Biden’s Flip-Flop on the Hyde Amendment Doom His Presidential Bid?
Hey Joe! John Kerry called, he wants his campaign strategy back.
As someone who has mocked the media’s attempt to paint Joe Biden as a centrist candidate, when Biden announced earlier this week he still supported the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion, I was quite shocked. Last month I wrote that to survive the primary, Joe Biden will “embrace the most radical positions necessary to hold on to his lead in the polls.” As his party has moved further to the extreme left on the issue of abortion, affirming his support of the Hyde Amendment seemed like he was shooting his campaign in the foot with a silver bullet. Biden, the current frontrunner for the Democratic Party nomination, was actually taking a moderate stance. Could it be he might actually attempt to take a few centrist positions during his third presidential campaign?
His past support for the Hyde Amendment is well documented. If there was ever a time to announce that he’d simply evolved on the issue over time and now opposed it, the moment had come. But he didn’t. He essentially challenged the extremist wing of his party and took a stance more in line with America’s mainstream.
But, it turns out my prediction about Biden came true. Within 48 hours of announcing support for the Hyde Amendment, Biden changed his mind. This is not his first major flip-flop during his presidential campaign. Last month, Joe Biden walked back his call for a “middle ground” approach to climate policy after criticism from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Hours before Biden’s flip-flop, David Marcus of The Federalist wrote that Biden’s moderate abortion stance would help his candidacy, noting that recent polls have shown that extreme abortion laws that have been recently passed or debated in different states have resulted in a pro-life shift amongst Democrats. "Joe Biden is running a safe campaign—a luxury that being the frontrunner affords him.” He added, “this moderate, or compromising, position on abortion is of a piece with this overall approach. He is your parents’ Democrat and he’s not shy about it. This is why he is more ‘safe, legal, and rare,’ than ‘shout your abortion.’”
Well, so much for that. All it took was a solid day or of extreme backlash for Joe Biden to flip-flop on the issue. Despite the fact he was pressured from within his own party, Biden blamed Republicans for his flip-flop:
“We now see so many Republican governors denying health care to millions of the most poorest and most vulnerable Americans by refusing even Medicaid expansion,” Biden said at a fundraiser in Atlanta. “I can’t justify leaving millions of women without the access to the care they need and the ability to exercise their constitutionally protected right. If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code.”
David Marcus reacted to Biden’s flip-flop on Twitter, declaring that Biden had just “destroyed his candidacy.”
He has a point. If Biden isn’t the “centrist” alternative he’s been made out to be, what does he bring to the table besides name recognition? Polls have consistently shown that while America may lean pro-choice, an overwhelming majority believe that abortion should be restricted to the first trimester. I wrote back in February that “the base of the Democratic Party is pro-abortion, not pro-choice.” Biden’s flip-flop shows us that Joe Biden has realized this, too. Just last week at the California Democratic Convention candidates who didn’t embrace socialism were booed. Biden knows that the Democrats who will determine who wins their party’s nomination belong to the Planned Parenthood wing of the party, not the “safe, legal, and rare” wing.
Will that extreme wing of the party trust Biden after his flip-flop? Will they risk nominating someone who so quickly caves to pressure? Even though he won his party’s nomination in 2004 on his perceived electability, John Kerry’s notorious flip-flopping doomed his presidential campaign against incumbent George W. Bush. Will the Planned Parenthood wing of the Democratic Party nominate Biden because he seems to be the most electable, or will they pick a more reliably extreme Democrat?
Matt Margolis is the author of The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the bestselling The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. His new book, Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama's Legacy, will be published in July 2019. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis