Joe Biden’s risky bet on abortion

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The President of the United States on Tuesday promised federal abortion rights legislation in January if the Democratic Party wins the midterm elections in early November. A bet to mobilize his electorate three weeks before an election which promises to be tight.

In a somewhat bleak campaign, Joe Biden is taking a risky bet. By promising, on Tuesday, October 18, to enshrine the right to abortion in federal law in January in the event of a victory for the Democratic Party in the November 8 mid-term elections, the American president hopes to create a stir within his electoral basis.

The highest court in the United States, the Supreme Court reversed on June 24 its Roe vs. Wade decision, which had guaranteed for half a century the right of American women to terminate their pregnancy, and gave freedom to each State in matters of IVG.

“Remember what you felt that day (…), the anger, the worry, the disbelief”, launched Joe Biden Tuesday during a speech in front of the Democratic Party in Washington, denouncing the “chaos” that followed this decision.

“In four months, laws prohibiting abortion have come into effect in 16 states”, he continued, and “the elected Republicans in Congress have gone further” by promising to adopt such a ban at the federal level. they were regaining control of Congress. “But let’s be clear: if such a law were to be adopted in the years to come, I would veto it,” thundered the tenant of the White House.

On the other hand, if the voters strengthen the Democratic majority, “the first law that I will send to Congress will seek to codify Roe”, he promised. “And as soon as Congress has adopted it, I will sign it, in January, for the 50th anniversary” of this judgment.

The economy and inflation, the main concerns of Americans

Joe Biden did not detail the text he would send to Congress and pretended to forget that a bill protecting the right to abortion had already been adopted by the House of Representatives. This text has been blocked for several months in the Senate, where the Democrats do not have a sufficiently large majority to override the parliamentary obstruction of the Republicans.

Worse, “he is wrong in strategy” to win the “midterms”, according to Jean-Éric Branaa, lecturer at the University of Paris-Panthéon-Assas. “There have been no phenomenal demonstrations in the American streets since the cancellation of Roe vs Wade, underlines this specialist in the United States. Of course, this will reinvigorate a certain base among the Democrats, but it will not be enough to win in November. This is a subject that interests neither the Republicans nor the independents.”

>> To read also: “United States: midterm elections that promise to be ‘unpredictable’ for Joe Biden”

Polls also show that abortion is far from being the priority of Americans. About 26% of them cite the economy as their main concern and 18% inflation, far ahead of abortion at 5%, according to a survey published this week by the Siena Institute with the New York Times.

Even more worrisome for Democrats, independent female voters also appear to have revised their preferences. In September, Democrats were 14 points ahead of Republicans in this segment of the electorate, they are now 18 points behind.

A flawed analysis of the Kansas referendum results?

“It’s really a surprising choice on the part of Joe Biden, insists Jean-Éric Branaa. The issue of abortion is not even mobilizing among young people, who would have preferred to see the Democrats campaigning on the environmental issue. The social question is also glossed over. There is an error in the analysis of what happened in Kansas.”

In this conservative Midwestern state, a proposal to remove the right to abortion from the Kansas Constitution was rejected by voters in a referendum held in early August, and many Democrats saw it as a sign that this question could mobilize the electorate.

Since then, some Democratic strategists, like James Carville, a famous former adviser to Bill Clinton, have felt that abortion should be made a major issue. Former President Barack Obama also lent his support to this strategy with a video posted on social media on Wednesday. They are based in particular on certain polls showing that the decision of the Supreme Court would push voters to go to the polls.

Thus, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation published on October 12, 50% of registered voters say that the reversal of Roe vs. Wade motivates them more to go to vote next month. Even better: according to the same publication, three out of five women aged 18 to 49 say they are more certain of going to vote since the Supreme Court’s decision.

But beyond the contradictory polls and the importance of the issue of abortion among voters, it is Joe Biden’s very promise that seems unreliable. To be able to pass a law in January, the Democrats would have to retain the House of Representatives while gaining ten seats in the Senate, in order to reach the 60 senators necessary to put an end to the obstruction of the Republicans. Such a scenario is highly unlikely.

Another solution, mentioned by Joe Biden on Tuesday during his speech: change the “filibuster” rule, a technique used by Republican senators to obstruct. But since two of the 50 Democratic senators do not want to touch it, the Democrats would have to win two new seats in the Senate, while maintaining their majority in the Lower House, to change the situation. An objective, here again, which seems too ambitious. According to the specialized site FiveThirtyEight, the Democrats should be able, on November 8, to keep the Senate, but lose the House of Representatives.

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