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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Li Zhou writes at Vox “This past weekend, more than 30 Democratic senators had a message for President Joe Biden: They want him to do more to protect abortion rights, and they want him to do it now. “There is no time to waste,” they said in the letter, which was led by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and sent one day after the Supreme Court announced its decision to officially roll back Roe v. Wade. “You have the power to fight back and lead a national response to this devastating decision.”….This letter is the latest indication of growing pressure on the White House to take additional executive actions in response to the fall of Roe. While Biden is not able to reinstate the protections offered by Roe without Congress, lawmakers and activists have clamored for the president to take other steps, such as finding ways for the federal government to defend abortion access in every state…..Many of these proposals would likely be challenged in court, but proponents emphasize that they’d like to see the administration give them a try before forgoing them completely. For months, some abortion rights advocates have felt that the White House hasn’t been doing enough to address the urgency of the situation, whether that’s weighing more ambitious policies or simply speaking out more forcefully on the subject. Many were disappointed, for instance, to find that Biden hadn’t used the word “abortion” in any presidential speech until recently….Additional ideas that have been suggested include a proposal championed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that would establish abortion clinics on federal lands in states where there are existing bans. Because federal lands aren’t subject to states’ civil laws and there’s room to interpret criminal laws, clinics could theoretically establish themselves on places like military bases without having to deal with a state’s bans….Other ideas that have been floated include using federal money to provide vouchers to people traveling across state lines for abortions and enforcing the use of federal Medicaid dollars to provide coverage in the narrow instances in which they can be used. These schemes also face implementation questions, with the first possibly running afoul of the Hyde Amendment and the second facing uncertainty about enforcement.”

Some observations from “Politics in the Post-Roe World” by Kyle Kondik at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “It is not surprising that, in the immediate aftermath of the ruling, Democrats appear to be enjoying something of a bounce. The NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll, out Monday morning, hadDemocrats up 48%-41% on the House generic ballot. Most other recent generic ballot surveys have shown Republicans leading. The generic ballot did not really change when the Dobbs opinion was leaked back in early May, although that was a hypothetical decision, whereas this is a real one. We’ll have to see whether this is the start of a new trend, or just a blip….abortion is such a huge issue, and Republicans (through the court) have changed the status quo so dramatically, that one cannot just assume the issue won’t matter….it seems obvious to us that many key state legislators don’t possess the kind of expertise and nuance, particularly on abortion, to legislate in nuanced ways. The likelihood of Republicans overplaying their hand is high….there are opportunities for both parties to accuse the other of being extreme on the issue. It just may be that in the immediate aftermath of Dobbs, Republican extremism on abortion will be easier to pinpoint because of the coming flood of anti-abortion activity in the states and because the status quo has changed in the direction of their position….To be crystal clear: We still favor Republicans to flip the House, as they only need to win 5 more seats than they did in 2020 to win the majority. And we think we would still rather be Republicans in the race for the Senate, although we continue to have questions about the strength of GOP candidates in key states. The abortion issue could exacerbate those problems. For instance, former football star and Georgia Senate nominee Herschel Walker (R) opposes abortion even in the case of rape or incest (and he’s far from alone among Republicans in that regard). Perhaps that stance becomes difficult to defend as the salience of the abortion issue now increases….Elections are rarely ever just about one thing. Abortion is going to be a bigger deal in 2022 than it otherwise would have been, but it may not alter the basic trajectory of the election….The 2022 election will get the nation started down a future path on abortion, but the ultimate destination is very much unclear.”

Let the finger-pointing begin. Those who are looking for something more substantial than ‘it’s the Democrats fault’ should read Scott Neuman’s “The abortion ruling has forced progressives to confront past missteps in strategy” at npr.com. As Neuman writes, “With abortion already banned in at least seven states and more than a dozen others expected to either prohibit or severely restrict the practice in the coming weeks, progressives are being forced to confront their missteps in the defense of Roe as they assess how to move forward on abortion rights and other issues in the wake of the court’s landmark decision last week in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization….What occurred was “a failure to fight on a lot of different fronts,” [NYU Professor Melissa] Murray says….The overturning of Roe was, in large measure, the pinnacle of a methodical and highly effective conservative strategy patiently carried out over the past half-century. Murray points to the gradual stacking of the Supreme Court in favor of conservatives and state laws severely restricting abortion….But equally important was “an inattentiveness to the lower federal courts” on the part of progressives — as these courts were routinely upholding state-level anti-abortion legislation, Murray says….To that list, Murray adds an erosion of voting rights that made it more difficult for women of color — likely the group most affected by the reversal of Roe — to have a say at the ballot box….Samuel Lau, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, concurs. “Disenfranchising people, gerrymandering voters out of meaningful representation, confirming federal judges with records hostile to civil and reproductive rights, and instituting undemocratic voting restrictions is in large part how we arrived here — especially when you look at the erosion of abortion rights on the state levels,” he says….Many Black women see a connection between voting rights and efforts to end abortion, Murray says. But instead of fighting on both fronts, abortion-rights activists remained focused solely on abortion….Carol Sanger, a professor at Columbia Law School, says it is also important not to discount the anti-abortion movement’s deep pockets. Thanks to donors such as the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, there was no lack of funding, she says….”That’s a failure of the progressives not to have had [their] own Koch brothers,” Sanger says. “[But] I don’t know how you get [your] own Koch brothers.”….Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH), agrees. “This really was about the degree of funding and diligence and focus,” she says. The anti-abortion rights campaign “had multiple layers and was exceedingly well funded and well executed,” Miller says. “That’s really where the blame should lie. [Abortion opponents] were very clear about their goals. They were incredibly determined and refused to ever give any ground,” she says.”….Meanwhile, a majority of Americans have consistently supported abortion rights and, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll that came out on Monday, that still holds….Progressives “have some advantages,” [Florid State University professor Mary] Ziegler says. “Namely that this is not a decision that’s in line with popular opinion, including in some red states.” The states are likely to be the prime battleground for abortion-rights advocates moving forward, Miller says….”The path forward really is through the states,” she says. “I believe that that is really the place where if greater attention had been paid, perhaps we wouldn’t have seen quite the tsunami in 2018 or the number of bills restricting access to abortion and now banning abortion.”

Will Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony before the January 6th insurrection committee affect the midterm election results? Also at Vox, Ben Jacobs notes, “In conversations with a half-dozen Republican strategists who represent a spectrum of opinion within the party and were granted anonymity to speak frankly, there was a broad consensus that, yes, this might have an impact on Trump — but probably not on Republicans in the midterms. There was a sense that this would inflict real damage on Trump’s long-term ambitions, even if it did nothing to shift the needle for now…..”What more do you need to believe crimes were committed?” one Republican strategist asked, before also conceding that “There have been a million times when people say Trump is finished, but this could be the millionth and one, but I don’t see a way for him to come back from this testimony.”….As to where that breaking point was, the Republican operative noted the silence from most national Republicans. “It’s fascinating how little you’re hearing from people like Ron DeSantis,” they said, and marveled at “how few members of Congress have stepped in” to defend Trump since Hutchinson’s testimony….Whatever the impact on Trump, none of the Republicans I spoke to thought the testimony would damage Republicans in the midterms. As one veteran operative pointed out, “people right now are really focused on $5 to $6 a gallon gas and I think that’s where people’s heads are at. By and large people have tuned this out. … Maybe this would be different if the economy was better but people are focused on their own welfare right now.”….That was echoed by another Republican working on 2022 races, who said, “No one is going to vote based on something that is happening within Washington regarding something that occurred a year and a half ago.”

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