An August poll found that about one-third of registered voters, when asked to categorize Joe Biden on the political spectrum of “very conservative” to “very liberal,” believe him to be “moderate.” Only about a quarter of the respondents consider Biden to be “liberal” or “very liberal.” This is likely because his campaign and the Democratic party have focused on Biden’s aww-shucks, “devout Catholic,” Joe Lunchpail persona rather than his actual policy positions. This has made him an elusive opponent and effective candidate.
Thus, as Peter Beinart put it in The Atlantic, “Despite embracing an agenda that is further to the left than that of any Democratic nominee in decades, [Biden has] avoided the specific policy proposals and catchphrases that Republicans find easiest to attack. As a result, he appears more centrist than he actually is.” Beinart is correct about where Biden’s agenda sits on the policy spectrum, but he is wrong about Biden avoiding specific proposals. In fact, it would be difficult to present his positions on social policy issues as further to the left than he has presented them himself (or has allowed them to be presented on his behalf) on his campaign website. Biden carefully describes his proposals in coded language and in less-than-obvious places, and a compliant press allows him to avoid discussing them on the stump. But the website sets forth policies that are unambiguously extreme.
For example, in his “Health Care” agenda, Biden’s position on abortion and contraception is as extreme as any articulated by Planned Parenthood or NARAL. Contraception, he says, is “preventive care,” which would be free under an expansion of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act in a Biden administration. Of course, “free” means paid for by someone else, including those who have moral objections to abortion and contraception. Similarly, Biden supports repealing the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the federal government from directly paying for elective abortions. As his website states, “health care is a right that should not be dependent on one’s zip code or income.”
As president, “Biden will work to codify Roe v. Wade.” And he promises aggressive action against states’ reasonable regulation of abortion access, charging his Justice Department to “do everything in its power to stop the rash of state laws that . . . violate the constitutional right to an abortion.” To further this “health care” agenda, Biden would double down on federal funding of Planned Parenthood and crusade against states that would refuse Medicaid funding to the national network of abortion clinics. Immediately after the Little Sisters of the Poor won a long-fought Supreme Court exemption from the mandate that required them to provide contraception and abortion coverage to their lay employees, Biden announced that his administration would work to restore the mandate against them.
Biden would also force physicians and hospitals to bow to gender ideology, and for employers and insurers to finance it. “President Biden will defend the rights of all people—regardless of . . . gender, sexual orientation, [or] gender identity—to have access to quality, affordable health care free from discrimination.” Of course, no hospital in the U.S. does or would deny medically indicated care to any LGBTQ+ persons. But Biden’s language is code for forcing health care workers to perform—and for forcing employers’ insurance plans to cover—elective sex-change therapies and surgeries that are not medically indicated, but driven by ideology rather than medicine. As he tweeted in January, “Let’s be clear: Transgender equality is the civil rights issue of our time. There is no room for compromise when it comes to basic human rights.”
And, to avoid ambiguity, a Biden presidency would aggressively work to eliminate any conscience clauses or other protections for health care workers who have religious objections. “Religious freedom is a fundamental American value,” the Biden campaign says. But not so fundamental that it will protect businesses, medical providers, and social service agencies from being forced to violate their religious consciences. A Biden presidency will “eliminate . . . religious exemptions,” such as those provided by the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and similar state legislation. And he will have vigorous support from Vice President Kamala Harris.
Nor would infringement on religious liberty and other civil rights be limited to health care in a Biden administration. He would also force the most extreme gender ideology on schools and universities. “On his first day in office” Biden will issue administrative orders forcing schools to allow males access to female restrooms and locker rooms, and to permit boys and men to compete against girls and women in scholastic athletics, “in accordance with their gender identity.” And he would charge the Department of Education with aggressively enforcing these orders. The privacy interests of girls and women, as well as the Title IX protection of equal access to athletic programs, would be eviscerated under these ideology-driven orders. One cannot overstate the extreme threat to girls and women that such a policy poses.
Biden's website states that he will also aggressively pursue the so-called “Equality Act,” designed to force the same gender ideology into all other aspects of American public life. For example, women’s shelters would be forced to allow biological males to share space with women who have suffered domestic violence. Religious adoption agencies and foster care programs would be forced to place children in social environments to which they have good-faith conscientious objections, or lose federal funding. And again, Biden would not only refuse to provide administrative religious exemptions, but would also work to eliminate judicially protected exceptions.
To point out that Biden’s agenda is extreme, aggressive, and uncompromising is not to endorse Donald Trump, his administration, or his reelection campaign. It is reasonable for particular voters to be appalled by the incumbent as well as by Biden and his policy positions. But it is a serious mistake to consider Biden a “moderate” alternative to Trump. Nor should this be read as a judgment on the integrity of Biden’s personal faith. I am not competent to make such a judgment, and decline to do so. But the domestic policy positions discussed above are certainly not informed by the Catholic moral tradition. In fact, they are hostile to it. For many Catholic voters, at least, this is a vexing election.
Of course, because Biden must win the votes of citizens who would be appalled by his extreme positions, these positions do not appear in his campaign commercials or stump speeches. But each of the policies, proposed orders, and legislative intentions that I have outlined above are clearly articulated on Biden’s campaign website, even though the site attempts to soften them with strategic phrasing. Biden’s policies on almost every domestic social issue—including contraception, abortion, gender ideology, religious discrimination, women’s access to athletic and educational opportunities, conscience protections, privacy interests, and religious liberty—are as extreme as any proposed by a major party presidential candidate in recent memory.
Kenneth Craycraft is a licensed attorney and the James J. Gardner Family Chair of Moral Theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and School of Theology.
Photo by Gage Skidmore via Creative Commons. Image cropped.
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