Republicans Try To Paper Over Their Abortion Disaster (It Won't Work)
The Party Pays A Political Price For The Mess They Made
After seizing the presidency following two elections in which a majority of voters voted against the party’s anti-choice nominee (2000, 2016), the Republican Party installed Supreme Court justices far out of touch with the American public on abortion. Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett took away the federal right of women to have an abortion in a country where a majority of the public has supported abortion rights for nearly 50 years of public polling.
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The result has been an unmitigated disaster for American women, with Republican-led states enacting draconian measures designed to control their reproductive organs. The Republican abortion ban has made life more dangerous and traumatic for the American people.
The political backlash began almost immediately, with a surge of voters transforming the predicted 2022 “red wave” into a pathetic trickle, resulting in the public humiliation of Kevin McCarthy as he scrounged for votes to become Speaker of the House. Abortion rights keeps winning at the ballot box, with referendums in blue and red states coming out on the side of choice.
I think the best sign that abortion has become a political disaster for the right is that the party is pulling a bad play out of the Democratic Party’s playbook. Perhaps the most prominent supporter of this strategy is presidential candidate and former Trump administration ambassador Nikki Haley, who also happens to be the only woman in the two major parties currently running for the presidency.
Haley and other Republicans, like Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, have come up with the idea of pushing a 15-week ban on abortion as some sort of “consensus,” or compromise position. I say this sounds like failed Democratic Party actions of the past because it tries to synthesize the results of opinion polling and focus groups into a message that — in theory — sounds like a workable solution. After all, if a 15-week ban polls decently it can surely defang the intensity against the destruction of Roe, right? Nope.
Republicans are also halfheartedly promoting legislation with somewhat pro-contraception language, which is undermined by the push from the bulk of the right to also undermine the availability of contraception care.
These products of focus group research cannot win against the simple and true concept that has taken hold with the public since the conservative court ruled against women. It is an attempt at finesse in a fight where blunt force and blunt language has won the day and continues to do so.
If voters are presented with the choice of a restoration of women’s rights versus legislation that continues to curtail their rights but throws them a bone or two, they’re going to choose restoring their rights. Thus far Democrats have thankfully not followed in the footsteps of their historical mistakes on policy, lured by the shiny object of “bipartisanship” and “compromise” that polls well but is political kryptonite. The party, from President Biden on down, has stuck to its guns in calling for a restoration of Roe at a minimum. That’s the right call.
This is not only the right moral position to hold, it also contrasts perfectly with the true position of the right held by people like Mike Pence and Lindsey Graham, who both want a federal abortion ban replicating the failed laws in place in Republican states. People like Pence and Ron DeSantis then resort to absolute absurdities like arguing that Democrats want abortion “up until the moment of birth” as a way to shield the conservative movement from the stark reality that - like in so many other ways - the conservative position is not the position of normal Americans.
This isn’t an issue where a lot of education and groundwork needs to be laid. The brutality of the Supreme Court’s decision is unfortunately extremely simple to convey. What was once a worst case scenario that women could not imagine seriously becoming reality is now a reality thanks to the zealotry of Justice Samuel Alito and his allies. And the public knows that it was the party of George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump that enabled these justices to impose their unpopular will on us all.
It is unusual to see this much flailing from the Republican Party on an issue. The closest issues in recent memory that I could compare it would probably be Bush’s failed scheme to privatize Social Security that ran into a blue wall of Democratic opposition, or the turn against the Iraq War following 2005 when the Democrats finally realized the right position was anti-war and not a squishy, poll-tested in-between.
Job one of the Democratic Party should be the restoration of abortion rights, and you’ve seen this in states led by Democratic governors and in states with significant Democratic power in the legislature. The second job should be the work of turning this monumental disaster into a perennial mill hung around the neck of the Republican Party. The right should not be allowed to get away with their assault on reproductive rights the way they have been allowed to skate away from their opposition to same-sex marriage and the Iraq War. Decades from now the Republicans’ undemocratic dismantling of Roe should still be something that Democrats, liberals, and progressives refer to. They deserve the blame, they built it.
Historically I think too many Democrats were complacent about abortion rights and at the same time the overall liberal movement didn’t rightly prioritize the power of the federal judiciary as an election motivator. At this point it’s too late to undo those mistakes, but going forward as we live in the world the conservative court made, it is imperative to always keep these issues top of mind. It is a prime example of the folly of conservative governance in the way that it is an unpopular idea imposed without popular support and has created measurable harm in people’s day-to-day lives.
It is a perfect example of what happens when conservatism is put in power. The ideology has failed over and over again, on fiscal policy, international policy, and social policy. It doesn’t work because it is divorced from reality and exists to control people, oppress certain classes of people, and empower those who already wield much of the power in our society.
Don’t ever forget what it has done to us and never stop reminding each other that we can never let them hold power if we want to be free.
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