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An Open Letter to President Joe Biden

Is the president willing to take seriously the concerns of a divided nation?

Good day, President Biden,

As you sit in the Oval Office, the transfer of power and the 2020 election now over, I and millions of other citizens pray that your administration will preserve the freedom and wellbeing of this country, the first duty of any presidential administration. I and many others hope, with good will, that your administration will somehow resolve the issues facing the country—even if the track record of federal initiatives in recent years gives us perhaps not much reason to hope. When Americans speak their ire against the federal government, they often do not distinguish between Republican and Democrat. So, it is out of concern for your administration and what it stands for that I write this letter.

Mr. President, I intend this letter to stand in for the concerns of not only myself but millions of our fellow citizens of whatever party. I will not hide that I support your predecessor; I voted for President Trump in both the 2016 and 2020 elections, and interned at the White House in 2018, where I personally met and spoke with the president. I am not a member of your party. But still I hope this letter will be worth your time on its own merits, if somehow you were to see it, and it is not passé—or prohibited—in 2021 for a Republican to voice his concerns to your Democratic administration.

During the September 29 presidential debate, you declared: “I am the Democratic Party right now.” I take this to mean that your views are a representation of your party’s, and also, that you have the personal independence needed to make decisions on policy, perhaps in accord with your party’s views, but far more importantly, with a view towards the wellbeing of America’s people. So, I will therefore assume that you might shift your views on certain issues, as you have in the past

While much has been made in the media over the fact that your Catholic faith—a faith which I myself share—is at odds with your position on abortion, I imagine you are well aware of this, and see little reason in pursuing a line of argumentation that is by now clear to you and the entire public. I will frame my comments, therefore, with your own past statements and views on the issue.

In 1974, as a newly minted U.S. senator from Delaware, you declared that you believed the decision in Roe v. Wade “went too far,” and that a woman did not have “the sole right to say what should happen to her body.” In 1977, you voted against Medicaid funding for abortion in cases of rape and incest; federal funding, you said at the time, should not be extended to such cases. Although that funding expansion did pass in 1977, in 1981 you voted against it again, as part of what NBC News in 2019 described as “the most far-reaching ban on federal funds ever enacted by Congress.” As recently as 2006 you said in an interview: “I do not view abortion as a choice and a right. I think it’s always a tragedy.” Yet, in 2021, as President of the United States, you are perhaps the nation’s most prominent proponent of abortion, declaring with your vice president that Roe will remain “the law of the land” and unceremoniously rescinding the federal ban on overseas abortion funding instated by President Trump. What explains this, Mr. President?

As recently as 2019, your presidential campaign confirmed that you supported the Hyde Amendment. As many of our citizens know, the Hyde Amendment is a law banning federal funding for abortion, except “in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman.” Yet in 2021, we see that you have, inexplicably, now declared opposition to the amendment.

In 2019 NBC News published a piece on what it described as your “long evolution on abortion rights.” However, Mr. President, your current position on the issue seems less an “evolution” than a total and acute break with the view you once held. What is the reason for this mystifying reversal in your thinking? The “moderate Democrat,” Joe from Scranton, whom the press had vaunted for years, seems to have vanished. Many observers, not only on the political right, have noted the change. The politician you used to be has evidently disappeared, to be replaced with something entirely new. 

So, since it seems to have once been your stance—or at least a stance you sympathized with—I will ask candidly: Why not be pro-life again? Outside of the militant left wing of your party, you would find support from many Americans if you returned to the stance on the topic you yourself held, apparently for much of your life, or even went further than that. I am asking you to consider, not changing your stance to that of “the other side,” but rethinking the basis of your shift in opinion; to be again, as it were, what you used to be. During your February 5, 2020, televised town hall in Manchester, New Hampshire, while answering a question about helping folks struggling with stuttering, you told the crowd:

Things that people cannot control—it’s not their fault. No one has a right, no one has a right, to mock it and make fun of it, no matter who they are. I probably got in trouble for saying I empathize with Rush Limbaugh dying of cancer. I don’t like him at all, but he’s going through hell right now—he’s a human being.

These are laudable words, but I ask: would anything qualify more as something a person “can not control” than the “handicap” of being in utero, of being an unborn child? For the uncontrollable fact of being an unborn child, someone may be mocked and scorned to the point of death, without any recourse possible, under the laws you now support. To repeat your own words, Mr. President: “it’s not their fault” and they are “human beings.”

It seems apt, at this point, to requote those words of yours from 2006: “I do not view abortion as a choice and a right. I think it’s always a tragedy.” Indeed, Mr. President, many agree with that statement; yet there are those in your own party who, today, would consider this an “extremist” view, not welcome in the political discussion. I cannot help but feel that if the Joseph R. Biden, Jr., of years past—that hopeful senator with his whole career still before him—returned today, he would be called “extremist” and be disavowed by the party he now claims to lead. These shifts on policy call into question, unavoidably, everything your party and administration stand for, or could be expected to stand for over the course of a Biden presidency. If you have shifted or “evolved” so dramatically in the past, what is to say you will not “evolve” again, on whatever issue?      

Not only with regard to the abortion issue do we see this “shift.” In 2006, you voted for border fencing; today, even though the border barrier has seen success in reducing drug flow and human trafficking, you have inexplicably halted construction of the wall begun by your predecessor. Again, who could be a more at-risk person, for reasons he or she “can not control,” than a minor being abusively trafficked across the U.S.-Mexico line? In 2007, you said that sanctuary cities should be banned; today, the entire leadership of your party, to include your administration, seems rabidly intent on turning the entire nation into a sanctuary country. Again, what could explain this change in your views on a philosophical level?

Not so very long ago, you supported the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy in the military, a regulation that was operative, and accepted by many, for years. Today, we see you pushing for the military to completely accept the same radical gender identity policies you yourself disavowed for years. What accounts for this? Where has “moderate” Joe from Scranton gone? Further, how exactly does the new policy help transgender or homosexual individuals on a personal level, if that is indeed your true objective? I will give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that is your objective—but the question unavoidably still stands. This shift in policy has also, so far, not been satisfactorily explained by your administration.

Moreover, as the above policy change is enacted, your administration at the same time appears to have started a campaign to purge the armed forces of ideological enemies. Many observers are concerned that, simultaneously with a change in transgender policy, a political double standard under the guise of fighting “extremism” has been established in the military, just as “intolerant” as the old gender policies were considered by your party. Mr. President, I and many others would much appreciate if your administration gave a definitive definition of “extremism,” a word whose meaning seems to be constantly in flux, always coincidentally serving the needs of those employing it.

I always thought that the government only disciplined private citizens for legally prosecutable actions—not for mere “attitudes.” Now, though, it seems to many that we are rapidly starting down this route. We should entirely abandon the idea of hounding our fellow citizens for supposed “extremism.” I think you should ponder the issue. Are you an extremist for hanging a portrait of FDR, who placed over 100,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps, in your office? Where does this end; what is the logical conclusion? Is President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., a “racist” and “extremist” because he admires Franklin D. Roosevelt? FDR attempted to pack the Supreme Court with the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill in 1937; are you a “white supremacist” by association because you refuse to reject court packing? Should someone be barred, legally or in practice, from serving the government if he or she is determined to be a “racist” or “extremist”? This line of reasoning is un-American and absurd. I hope you will stand against this dangerous trend.

Finally, there is the Second Amendment. In March 2020, during a public meet and greet in Michigan, you had a spat with an autoworker on this topic that was widely reported on. When this gentleman questioned your stance on the issue, you told him he was full of it; you said in no uncertain terms that you were a Second Amendment supporter, and went on to list the guns you owned. But then, you called for outlawing semi-automatic AR-15’s—or as you called them, “AR-14’s”—even though this is a weapon of a class that has been legal for Americans to own since before the Second World War. Your view, if codified in law, would represent a serious infringement to how the Second Amendment has been applied across the country for decades, if not since its 1791 ratification. I agree with you that supporting the Second Amendment is important Mr. President, but your words belie your claimed intention to uphold it.

So, I conclude this letter as I began: stating that I hope, for the good of the country, that you will somehow resolve the issues assailing America during these times.

I ask again that you reconsider the positions on all these and other issues that you personally—not some radical Republican ideologue, but you personally—held not that long ago. I and many others would applaud you. Perhaps if you returned to your old views on some of these points you could then achieve the goal you based your campaign on: American unity. You are president now; you hold the office—you have no need to pander. So Mr. President, I say as a gesture of goodwill: consider reaching out on these issues, as you have called us to “reach out” to our fellow citizens. To quote your speech at the Manchester town hall: “We didn’t used to be like this…as a nation, we weren’t like this.”

Yours sincerely,

A Citizen

Jack H. Burke has contributed to National Review. He is also a former White House intern and served as a U.S. congressional staff member.