President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress, with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on the dais behind him

Kamala Harris’s “Do What Now?” Embodies Democrats’ Disappointing Response to Overturning Roe v. Wade

All words, no action.

We’re barely one week into “Post-Roe America,” and I am already very, very sick of it. But, honestly, what I didn’t expect was for much of that fatigue to be generated by the Democratic side of the political spectrum. On the day of the decision, anger rippled out over Twitter about all the fundraising emails people were getting from Democratic politicians, as if the loss of a Constitutional right was not an urgent call to act, but a fundraising opportunity. Instead of taking action, ye olde “just vote” sentiment once again reigns supreme.

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It’s been infuriating and disillusioning to behold. The Biden administration, as usual, has taken to saying the right things in nice-sounding platitudes, instead of—again—action. All of this was distilled in an interview Vice President Kamala Harris gave with CNN’s Dana Bash recently. Bash told Harris many in the American public want the Biden administration to “do something” right now. Harris’s response: “Do what now?”

First of all: Huge shoutout to Dana Bash. I want to thank her for pushing Vice President Harris and asking many of the questions I’ve been shouting at my television for days. She also pushed again, consistently, when Harris didn’t respond directly—which Harris does often.

Initially, Harris wanted to cite the Child Tax Credit as an action the Biden administration has taken. Bash rephrased the question: “When I say, ‘do it now,” [I mean] act legislatively to make abortion rights legal.” Harris responds, “We feel the same way. Do it now. Congress needs to do it now.” If you are now screaming and tearing your hair out, you’re not alone.

The Biden administration has loved deflecting their responsibilities onto the broken, divided Congress instead of taking action into their own hands, so nothing ever gets done. Congress has already decided not to do shit to protect women’s rights, so Harris may as well have tossed the question (and women’s rights in any kind of near future) into the void. (For some surely unsavory reason, this clip was extracted by the Texas GOP, but the reporter who posted it below is sympathetic to progressive causes.)

Vice President Harris, in the beginning of the interview, described taking away a “constitutional right recognized for half a century” as “shocking!” She went on, “When you think about it, in terms of what that means, in terms of democratic principles, in terms of the ideals upon which we were founded, about liberty, about freedom.” She’s right. The ramifications are “shocking,” yes. But … you know … every time I hear someone pick the word “shocking” to describe the Supreme Court’s decision, I wonder where the hell they’ve been, or how oblivious or blissfully ignorant they’ve decided to be.

But we’ve known this specific decision was coming for months, and conservatives have very, very vocally been pushing for this for decades. It’s as if you were sitting in your car in an intersection, and a huge, loud Hummer with ostentatious flashing LEDs around the rim were heading directly towards you in slow motion—but you don’t react, so it hits you. In light of that utter inaction, spare me your shock.

VP Harris later said she believes “this is not over,” and that the Supreme Court could go after the rights Clarence Thomas put in his crosshairs, like contraception and marriage equality. She was also clearly upset about the decision, especially the fact that—as VP Harris pointed out—rape victims in 13 states no longer have access to an abortion, no matter what. It was at that point that Bash pushed her to name exactly what is and isn’t in the administration’s plan for protecting women’s rights. (This came before the “do what now?” part.) Harris’s responses were … underwhelming. She did that politician thing where she did not say “yes,” directly, to Bash’s questions, and instead meandered around them. I’ve set the video below to that point in the interview.

Bash asked if the administration would directly challenge, in court, state laws that punish women for going to a different state to get an abortion. Harris responded by saying that Biden said he would support women’s travel “unambiguously,” then tossed Bash’s renewed questioning about court cases to the Department of Justice. When Bash asked about making abortion legal on federal lands, Harris said they’re weren’t discussing that possibility and immediately brought up the dreaded moderate talking point: “We’re 130-odd days away from an election.”

Expansion of medication abortion? “To the extent that we can, we will.” (What the hell is that extent?!) Vouchers or aid for women who don’t have the means to travel to get an abortion? “This is something we’re looking at.” (To her credit, Harris did correctly identify, in detail, many of the hardships that would make it difficult for many women to travel for an abortion.)

Any of the policies Bash suggested would be excellent answers for the question “Do what now?” I’d also throw in expanding the court and adding term limits for justices. Hell, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made a great case that many of these justices lied under oath during their interviews, and therefore could be impeached. That wouldn’t make abortion legal again, but it would hinder further damage to our rights. Even after the decision to strike down Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court has continued to issue even more horrible rulings. Ocasio-Cortez also helped my senses regain some ground by being just as mad as I am about so many Democrats’ response to just toss this to voters who have already voted Dems into the majority.

In short, there’s a whole lot of answers to the question “Do what now?” that the Biden administration could be exploring if they were serious about anything except sounding like nice people. Actions speak louder than words, Joe. If you’re so desperate for us all to vote, give us a reason to believe that the people we organize to put into office actually do something with the power we give them.

(featured image: Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

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Kirsten Carey
Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.