The Nation: Biden Eviction Moratorium ‘Act of Presidential Civil Disobedience’

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 11: Activists hold a protest against evictions near City Hall
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

An essay published on Monday in the Nation celebrated the author’s self-described “double standard” as he heaped praise on President Joe Biden for disregarding a Supreme Court opinion and ordering a new eviction moratorium purportedly aimed at keeping people home as the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus spreads rapidly across the country. The author celebrated the president’s “civil disobedience” despite having accused former President Donald Trump of illegal “use of executive power.”  

The essay, penned by the magazine’s justice correspondent Elie Mystal, is titled “Biden’s Eviction Moratorium Is a Rare Act of Presidential Civil Disobedience” with a caption claiming that despite the high likelihood of the Supreme Court striking the moratorium down, Biden’s decision to heed the call of Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) “was the right and righteous thing to do.”

“Despite being failed by the mass of Congress members, Biden yielded to righteous voices and ordered the CDC to issue a new moratorium,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, it won’t work—much as I wish it would,” he admitted. “The Biden administration’s defense is unlikely to hold up.”

Mocking those who would expect him to “join the chorus of pundits” and chastise the president’s “Trumpian use of executive power” and for “embracing what is likely an illegal action,” Mystal appeared unmoved.

According to Mystal, criticizing Biden after criticizing Trump would be a “perfect, virtue-signaling layup,” but Mystal said he would not “join in the legal tut-tutting.” 

“I come from a tradition in which you sometimes have to violate bad laws—by any means necessary,” he said. “Sometimes you have to do an illegal thing and get rebuked or arrested doing it to highlight the injustice of the system.”

Claiming a moral distinction between “stubbornly ignoring Supreme Court guidance” to prevent homelessness versus “continuing to kidnap children at the border,” Mystal criticized those unable to distinguish between the two.

“Acting like there is no difference between helping and hurting people cedes a critical part of the argument to those who enjoy hurting people,” he wrote.

He contrasted President Biden’s process with former President Trump’s throughout his term, saying the “goals” of the Trump administration were achieved by “ignoring court orders” and making “meritless legal arguments in the face of overwhelming precedent.”

Mystal lists a slew of actions Trump supposedly took in office that, he claims, are comparable to Biden’s action, including declaring a “fake national emergency” to rob military funds to build a wall, hawking products directly from the White House, firing the FBI director investigating him, and pardoning “cronies” who lied to the government to protect him.

He then accused the former president of having “violated or manipulated the law on a nearly daily basis for four years,” lamenting that he was not held accountable for any of it. 

“Precisely zero of these grave violations of our legal norms have resulted in any prosecution or punishment whatsoever,” he wrote.

Criticizing the “pundit class” (whom he describes as “not in danger of losing their homes”) for demanding Biden not “overstep the ‘normal’ bounds of executive action” due to “the rule of law,” Mystal sees no need for Biden to be “better than that.” 

In spite of him knowing the “law” and the “consequences” for ignoring them, Biden is praised for his “act of civil disobedience” in issuing the eviction moratorium and “bringing attention” to the issue of homelessness despite likely forthcoming “rebuke by a mainstream media class desperate to show that it can be critical of ‘both sides,’” after a “smack down” by the Supreme Court.

“Progressives pushed Biden to make this move because the extension might actually help people, even if it comes at the cost of some of Biden’s institutional reputation,” he wrote.

Mystal also reserved rebuke for those government officials unwilling to make the same “reputational sacrifice” as Biden. 

“If only Robert Mueller had been willing to make the same reputational sacrifice in the pursuit of justice. If only Merrick Garland’s Justice Department would risk the same kind of media rebuke in the prosecution of the powerful,” he wrote. 

Claiming that we’ve “seen what happens when institutionalists protect their institutions instead of seeking justice,” finding that it only benefits Republicans “who have no respect for institutions,” Mystal said he “welcome[s] the attempt to try something different, for once.”

Accusing “moderate Democrats” and “seemingly the entire Republican Party” of being willing to “let people be kicked out onto the street,” he reiterated his support for Biden’s move.

“If all Biden can do is buy these people a few extra weeks of shelter, then he must,” he wrote. “If all that costs him is some bad press from the ‘both sides’ brigades, that is a small price to pay.”

Mystal then prided himself on his self-serving double standards.

“I have what the scientists would call a ‘double standard,’” he admitted. 

“If the current occupant of the White House is trying to help people, I generally think they should do what they can. If the occupant is trying to hurt people, I think they should be stopped,” he said. 

Mystal concluded by claiming to have “missed” the class in law school when students were taught that “helping people and hurting people must be treated as objectively the same thing,” adding that he was “probably out protesting some injustice” that day.  

After President Biden conceded to leftist socialist protesters, the CDC last week issued a federal eviction moratorium on people unable to pay rent during the current pandemic despite being told that it lacked constitutional authority to do so by the Supreme Court in June.

The Biden administration and Democrats in state and local governments have cast such moratoria as measures to protect the poor despite their potential to harm those poverty-stricken in the long-term as developers will likely avoid building housing in Democrat-run cities or invest in low-income housing at all.

Nevertheless, the establishment media has praised Biden’s concession to the far left by extending the moratorium, with Politico describing it as “remarkable” and “symbolic” last week.

Last Thursday, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) hit President Biden for extending the eviction moratorium, saying the decision was “jaw-dropping” and adding that the current administration is “lawless” in the same way former President Barack Obama’s was by “ignoring the Constitution.”

“It’s just so brazen. … He’s not faithfully executing the laws. He’s got an open border. He’s ignoring the Supreme Court ruling. He’s ignoring the Constitution,” Johnson said. 

He also called attention to “the other side of the equation” when it comes to paying rent. 

“It’s called the person who owns the property, that has to keep it up, that has all the expenses of maintaining it,” he said. “They deserve rent payments, and of course, we have such levels of low unemployment in so many areas that have opened, that have remained opened up, money is sloshing around in this economy,” he added.

Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.


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