New Orleans As Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis leapfrog each other in trying to push voters into engaging the culture wars, red state governors and legislators are rushing to line up. I wonder if this is really going to work out for them with the voters in the way they are hoping?
For sure, they are leading the pack. DeSantis wants to ban books with his gang in Florida, and a host of red meat folks including in Arkansas, Louisiana, and elsewhere are second lining on that parade. In Florida, DeSantis is pushing so hard against freedom of the press that even conservative media and podcasts are worried that they could be liable for lawsuits and big time payouts.
That’s just the tip of this rightwing culture wars tsunami. Tennessee Republican legislators are threatening to expel three Democrat because that protested the inaction on gun control after the massacre in a religious school in Nashville. Kansas is banning transgender athletes from girls’ and women’s sports from kindergarten through college, the first of several possible new laws restricting the rights of transgender people pushed through by Republican legislators over the wishes of the Democratic governor. Idaho’s governor signed a bill into law that makes it illegal for an adult to help a minor get an abortion without parental consent. The law is the first of its kind in the U.S. and creates a new crime of “abortion trafficking.” And, don’t forget that Florida’s legislature under DeSantis’ thumb now wants to ban abortions after six weeks, although I’m not sure how many women would even know they were definitely pregnant that early?
Maybe they need to all take a breath, if they think this is the path to power. Wisconsin’s judicial election turned out to be a blowout by the Democrat who expressly campaigned on her support of a woman’s right to choose, but that’s not all she campaigned on. She was also beating the drum about protecting democracy against the specter of election denial and January 6th. Some may think, oh, well, the Dems must have just gone so hard that they overwhelmed her opponent. Think again. Looking at the numbers, nonpartisan observers find that she did very well in rural, white, and non-college voters. These voters weren’t just hanging around Madison or Milwaukee and infected by the momentum. These were voters that had gone decisively for Trump in 2020. They are sending a message not just that extreme anti-abortion is a problem, but that they may agree or disagree about some pieces of someone’s politics, but they aren’t happy about kicking democracy to the curb and making that a wedge issue that divides the country. They are saying, as they mark their ballots, that there is a line they are willing to draw on this madness.
Maybe DeSantis and the Republican wannabes think that they can out-Trump Trump by courting the heaviest breathing conservative voters out there in the nation’s hinterlands. Don’t read their lips, but good advice would be to count their votes. The message from Wisconsin is that voters are drawing a line in the sand between winners and losers, and candidates better pay attention or face the consequences.