New Orleans The off-year election returns in the United States are a stark reminder about what happens to political power when it is forced to measure its weight in democratic elections. In elections, votes are actually counted. Unlike courts appointments, the packing of the judiciary or gerrymandering, when a party can draw magic maps to stay in power and continue to wheel and deal, in elections people actually vote, the votes are in fact counted, and there are clear and uncontested winners and losers, no matter what some big and little politicians want to claim about the results. In elections, the majority of voters rule, no matter who has or claims to wield political power. There’s a lesson in that that should be obvious to anyone making a career out of politics, but some continue to resist paying attention in class.
It has been clear for years in every major poll that a substantial majority of the American people, usually more than 60% support a woman’s right to choose. The percentages among women, when polled separately, are often higher. Heedless to women’s voices, Christian nationalists, evangelicals, and others have made asserting the will of the pro-life majority a litmus test for Republican candidates in many jurisdictions. Former President Trump was more than willing to toe that line and change his New York-rooted position favoring the right to choose for women to wave the pro-life banner to win his election and appointed judges to the Supreme Court to implement those minority positions and give them the cover of law. That’s political power in action, but there are limits, when the majority is allowed to speak through their votes for candidates that support their positions and in referenda that inscribe them into law, where their voices demand to be heard.
The Ohio Republican legislative majority was under no illusions that they were touting a minority position. They tried to prevent the majority will from being expressed by changing the voting threshold for passing a referendum, which was rejected soundly by voters in the dog days of August. Surely, they are not surprised to lose by double digits in November and now find that the right to choose is part of the state’s constitution. The ambitious Republican governor of Virginia thought he could moderate the extreme rejection of virtually all abortions in some states with a 15-week plan, and lost control of the legislature as Democrats held one and took the other delegate assembly from him, putting a stop to the takeaway of their rights. A Democrat was re-elected as governor in Kentucky by labeling his opponent as extreme on abortion. A judge will be joining the Pennsylvania Supreme Court with the same strategy.
There are lessons here. The new Louisiana-based Christian nationalist who is now the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, who has made his whole political career about opposing abortion, has been clear that the issue is off the table for him in his new job, because it’s a loser. Alabama Republican Senator Tuberville is holding up military appointments based on access to abortion for females in the military services. His day is coming. You can do all of this mischief of taking rights away from people on the sneak, but it’s harder to do it when everyone is watching, especially when women’s voices are now heard and they get out to vote in their own interests.
There was a squib recently about the fact that Republicans are no longer talking about trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. They know it’s a loser and people want healthcare. That day is going to come for women’s right to choose as well. Men in politics and religion deciding what’s best for women is only going to work behind closed doors. Out in the open, the rule is the same as it has always been: mess with women, and you’re going to lose.