President Biden memorably passed the gun on Barack Obama by endorsing same-sex marriage more than a decade ago, but at a June fundraiser near San Francisco, he he couldn’t remember the LGBTQ letters
And even though the Democratic Party puts the fight for abortion rights at the center of its political message, Biden declared himself « not big on abortion » last week.
At a time when American political parties are exchanging vicious fire from the trenches of a war for social and cultural policy, the president is staying out of the fray.
White, male, 80, and not terribly up to date on the language of the left, Biden has largely avoided getting involved in contemporary battles over gender, abortion and other hotly contested social issues, even as he does things like host what he called « the largest Pride Month celebration ever held at the White House. »
Republicans have tried to bring him in, but they seem to recognize the difficulty: When GOP presidential candidates vow to end what they derisively call « Awakening » culture, they often aim their barbs not directly at Mr. Biden but at large corporations like Disney and BlackRock or the vast “administrative state” of the federal government. Republican strategists say most of their party’s message on abortion and transgender issues is aimed at primary voters, while Biden is seen as far more vulnerable in a general election on the economy, crime and immigration.
Mr. Biden’s armor against culture attacks might seem unlikely for a president who has strongly supported LGBTQ people, the leader of a party whose fortunes ride the wave of abortion policy, and a man who owes his presidency to the unbending support of black Democratic primary voters.
Yet, despite adopting positions over the years that have pushed Democrats – and then the country – to embrace more liberal attitudes on social issues, Biden has kept a safe distance from elements of his party that could pose political problems for him. In June the White House he said it was barred a transgender activist who went topless at his Pride event.
And while Mr. Biden’s age has become one of his major political weaknesses, both his allies and opponents say it also helps insulate him from cultural attacks from Republicans.
“Everyone wants to talk about how old Joe Biden is, but the truth is that his age and experience allow him to be who he is and allow him to say things and help people in a way that no one else can” , said Henry R. Muñoz III, former chief financial officer of the Democratic National Committee.Mr. Muñoz, who is gay, had Mr. Biden served as her wedding officiant in 2017.
Much of Biden’s loyalty from LGBTQ Democrats stems from his endorsement of same-sex marriages in 2012, when Obama was still officially against them. Biden’s stance was seen as politically risky at the time, before the Supreme Court recognized the right of same-sex couples to marry in 2015, but it has evolved into something he bragged about during his 2020 campaign.
He has also been at the forefront of recognizing transgender rights. In his first week in office, Biden ended a Trump-era ban on transgender troops in the military. In December, he signed the federal same-sex marriage protections bill into law.
At the same time, Biden has not adopted the terminology of progressive activists or engaged in public debates that could leave him out of the political mainstream. After the landmark Supreme Court ruling Thursday that ended affirmative action in college admissions, a reporter asked him, « Is this a rogue court? »
Pausing to think for a moment, Mr. Biden replied, « This is not a normal court. »
He also doesn’t always remember the words most American politicians use to describe people of the same gender. At a fundraiser near San Francisco last month, Mr. Biden bemoaned last year’s Supreme Court decision that ended the nation’s right to abortion and suggested the court would come for gay rights.
Paraphrasing two of the Conservative judges, he said: “There is no constitutional right in the law for HB, excuse me, for gays, lesbians, you know, the whole, the whole group. There is no constitutional protection. »
During a stop at the Iowa State Fair during his 2020 campaign, a conservative provocateur following Democratic presidential candidates asked Mr. Biden, « How many genders are there? »
Mr. Biden he answered: “There are at least three. Don’t mess with me, boy.
Then, perhaps not realizing that his interrogator was a right-wing activist, Mr. Biden added: « By the way, I was the first to declare for marriage. »
Sarah McBride, a Delaware state senator who recently started a campaign to become the first transgender member of Congress, said Biden’s language gave him the ability to consolidate Democrats behind a progressive social agenda and « reach communities and demographics that are not yet fully in the coalition”.
« Don’t get caught up in rhetoric that isn’t understandable to your middle-of-the-road constituent, » Ms. McBride said.
He also indicated that Mr. Biden’s age is helpful in making Democrats’ case on social issues without alienating skeptical voters.
« His background allows him to say things that I think would feel more radical if said by a younger politician, » she said.
As did most Americans accepted gay marriage, social conservatives have made opposition to transgender rights a mainstay of their policy. And Republicans running to replace Mr. Biden have tended to focus on energizing GOP primary voters rather than turning the president into a villain.
« It’s hard to paint an 80-year-old white man as a flamboyant warrior awake, » said Whit Ayres, a longtime pollster for Republican candidates.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is perhaps the main purveyor of the Republicans’ anti-‘wake-up’ message, throwing jabs both online and in speeches. On Friday, his campaign even called Mr. Trump too liberal on LGBTQ issues in a provocative video posted to Twitter.
At a June rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, DeSantis described being approached by military veterans who don’t want their children and grandchildren to join the military because of liberal policy changes instituted by Democrats, even though Governor he blamed Mr. Obama. as he did with Mr. Biden.
« A smart military is not going to be a strong military, » DeSantis said. “You have to remove the politicization of it. And on day one, we’re tearing up all the Obama-Biden policies to wake up the military. »
Mr. Biden has never presented himself as a leftist culture warrior. A Catholic, he has long been wary of jumping headlong into abortion rights struggles. Even as his campaign and his party are preparing to hold a referendum on his re-election on Republican efforts to further limit abortion, Mr. Biden proclaimed to a crowd of donors in suburban Washington that he himself was not eager to do it.
“You know, I happen to be a practicing Catholic,” Mr. Biden She said last week. “I don’t like abortion. But guess what? Roe v. Wade got it right.
This stance has long caused some consternation among Democrats. It took until June 2019, weeks into his 2020 campaign and under enormous pressure from his party allies, for Biden to relinquish his longstanding support to ban federal funding for abortions.
Renee Bracey Sherman, the founder of We Testify, a group that shares the stories of women who have had abortions, said Biden should adopt a more forceful pro-abortion-rights stance to energize liberal voters in 2024. She suggested that in the same way that Mr. Biden hosts championship sports teams in the White House, he should invite women who have had abortions to come and tell their stories.
« The midterms show that Americans love abortion, » Ms. Bracey Sherman said. “Abortion has a higher approval rating than him. It should ride the wave of abortion. »
Kristy Eaton contributed reporting from Tulsa, Okla.