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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Kansas ‘Choice-Quake’ Rewrites Midterm Campaign Strategy, Ads for Dems

From “Kansas Voters Just Rewrote the Script for the Midterm Elections” by Daniel Strauss at The New Republic:

Political junkies were settling in for one of those super-long nights of see-sawing election results in Kansas. The main event was not the state’s tense gubernatorial race or the prospect of anti-immigration hardliner Kris Kobach making yet another play for electoral office. Rather, it was a ballot referendum. Kansans were the first group to vote on whether to keep or overturn abortion rights in the state since the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade.

The common refrain was that the outcome would be razor thin and come in the latest minutes of Tuesday night or the earliest hours of Wednesday morning. But at 9:26 p.m., Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report—the most authoritative voice on early election results in America, whose Twitter feed is monitored by many thousands on nights like this—announced he  had “seen enough,” his signature catchphrase for an election outcome. In record-level turnout for a primary that reached presidential-election levels, Kansans overwhelmingly voted down the effort to strip the state constitution of abortion rights, which would have cleared the way for the GOP-controlled state legislature to pass strict anti-choice legislation. It was, Wasserman tweeted, a “huge victory for the pro-choice side.”

What Kansas voters also just did was to dramatically reshape the midterm elections this November. It’s hard to interpret results this overpowering in this red a state any other way.

Strauss notes that Kansas state senator Cindy Holscher “described the Dobbs ruling as a “lighting rod” moment for voters in the state and the region.” Strauss adds that “The seriousness and immediacy of the Dobbs decision has been felt across the country. Over a dozen Republican-leaning states have taken steps to double down on abortion restrictions. In Kansas, the state has a Democratic governor and abortion is legal past 20 weeks of pregnancy, and it’s a state people have been traveling to from Oklahoma and other nearby states for abortion services as those states have passed restrictive laws.” Also,

….In Johnson County, Kansas at 10:48 p.m. ET, the tally was about 72 percent voting no on the referendum and 28 percent voting yes. Johnson County is the most populous one in the state. By comparison, Joe Biden beat Donald Trump in Johnson County with about 53 percent of the vote to Trump’s 44 percent. That the referendum ran so much more strongly than Biden is a sign that there may well be a hidden army of voters out there who are going to make reproductive rights the issue of these midterms. As former Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill said on MSNBC Tuesday night: “This should be a big flashing signal to every Democratic candidate out there.”

“This is a straight up and down vote on reproductive health,” said Kathleen Sebelius, a former Kansas governor and former secretary of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration. “It is a pretty clean test on how strong voters feel about reproductive health and constitutional protections.”

On the national level, Sebelius said, “I think what it should do across the country is just make people more comfortable talking about this issue as a galvanizing issue in the way we have, as Democrats, talked about healthcare, talked about any number of things. It’s a big difference between Republicans and Democrats. We have had record turnouts.”

As Strauss concludes, “this result was an earthquake that has rewritten, for now, the conventional wisdom about what may happen this November.” MSNBC Political commentator Jonathan Alter termed it a “choice-quake.” And it is one that feminists have been waiting for for decades.

Looking way, way ahead, if Dems are able to leverage this choice-quake sentiment to add a couple of senators to their majority, then expanding the size of the Supreme Court to achieve some balance becomes a real possibility.

2 comments on “Kansas ‘Choice-Quake’ Rewrites Midterm Campaign Strategy, Ads for Dems

  1. Victor on

    But the particulars of this vote may not translate easily to other jurisdictions. This was a vote about keeping the judicially enacted status quo against the overreach from a Republican legislature. We need more data about effects of question wording and who plays defense and offense.

  2. Victor on

    I hope Democratic politicians are not as cynical about abortion as Republicans were about gay marriage.

    This must not be used as a partisan issue.

    Democrats need to push for initiative/referendum votes as soon as possible in those states that allow it.

    Democrats frequently choose not to push for popular policies in red states, delaying votes on minimum wages and Medicaid expansion (for example) needlessly.

    When Congress is so dysfunctional it would help the national, regional, state and local brands to be more aggressive in the use of the initiative, instead of wasting so much money on failed personal campaigns.


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