Well, What Do You Know? It DIDN’T Get Worse

Yesterday’s post ended with a gloomy “I don’t know how it can get worse.” Today, the news is considerably brighter.

I have no idea what day it is in the U.S. (Here on board the cruise ship,  where we keep crossing the international dateline, the elevators helpfully have carpets that tell us the day of the week–they’re changed daily. Unfortunately, so are the clocks…). Whatever. The day before yesterday (I think), I accessed the results of the 2023 election, and boy do I feel better!

I’m sure everyone who follows this blog already knows what a very good day Tuesday was for Democrats, and for reproductive autonomy.

Ohio voters incorporated abortion rights in that state’s constitution. (They also gave a green light to weed…). In Virginia, where the Republican governor had promised to pass a “moderate” ban on abortion if voters gave him control of the state’s legislature, the Democrats hung on to their majority in the state Senate and took control of the House.

In Red Kentucky, Democrat Andy Beshear defeated a “pro life” Republican to retain the Governor’s office. Less surprising–but still satisfying–Democrats won big in New Jersey.

The news was even good in depressingly Red Indiana.

In Indianapolis, in what has been billed the most expensive Mayoral race ever, Democrat Joe Hogsett won handily over  Jefferson Shreve, who put more than thirteen million dollars of his own money into one of the worst and most annoying campaigns I’ve seen–he came across as a creepy guy willing to say pretty much anything to get elected (Issue consistency wasn’t his strong suit.) Given that this will be Hogsett’s third term–and given that he is not all that popular even among Democrats–it should have been closer; as it was, it was just a monumental waste of Shreve’s money.

With the exception of a disappointing loss in Carmel, indiana, where the Republican candidate repeatedly refused to criticize the local Mom’s for Liberty theocrats who’d “accidentally” quoted Hitler, Democrats did surprisingly well around the state: they flipped several mayoral offices from Republican to Democratic, including  Evansville, Terre Haute, Lawrence, Michigan City, West Lafayette and Hobart.

Every local election is ultimately about the candidates in that race, but I remain absolutely convinced that Democrats owe a big thank-you to Justice Alito and his profoundly stupid, dishonest and unAmerican decision in Dobbs.

What a significant majority of Americans understand–at least at a visceral level–is that Dobbs isn’t simply about a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy–important as that right is. It is about the power of the state to dictate our most personal decisions.

Back when I was a Republican, the GOP stood for limiting government interventions to those areas of our common lives that clearly require government action. That is a position that is entirely consistent with the libertarian premise underlying America’s Bill of Rights: the principle that individuals should be free to make their own life choices, unless and until those choices harm others, and so long as they are willing to accord an equal right to others.

Today’s authoritarian, theocratic GOP has utterly abandoned that commitment to individual liberty–it has morphed into a party intent upon using the power of government to impose its Christian Nationalist views on everyone else.

As Morton and I wrote in our recent book, the assault on reproductive choice–the belief that government has the right to force women to give birth–is only one element of an overall illiberal, statist and very dangerous philosophy. The fundamental right of persons to determine for themselves the course of their own lives and the well-being of their families has become the central political issue of our time–and it isn’t an issue that affects only women.

For the last fifty years, the nation’s courts explicitly recognized the importance of drawing a line between decisions government can properly make and decision that–in our Constitutional system–must be left up to the individual. The decision in Dobbs very clearly threatens that fundamental understanding, and at some level, America’s voters recognize that threat and its very dire implications.

For much of the last fifty years, Republican electoral success relied upon turning out single-issue “pro life” voters. So long as Roe v. Wade remained in force, Democratic voters continued to base their votes on a range of issues, confident that the right to choose remained in place.

Then the dog caught the car.

Tuesday’s results bode well for 2024 and a return to American principles.


  1. Progress can be made a day an a vote at a time, History is on our side. Trump is a has been. Republicans have no direction. We the people are taking the country back. Biden’s on top of world affairs

  2. Using Indianapolis as an example, we saw a good candidate, who was well funded, make an intelligent pitch to the people. We need to ask all the people to vote and give them good reason to vote our way. We really need to do that in EVERY county, Not just in the city.

  3. One aspect of the vote that is simultaneously positive and troubling is the number of eligible voters who turned out in Indiana. 26%.
    What is positive and hopeful about that number is that it was a “high” turnout, some say a record high, which is good for a local election.
    But the fact that 26% is a record high is troubling because it means that three out of four eligible voters did not bother to show up. That may be complacency or disillusionment. But it does indicate that there are many Democrats in Indiana who could be reached and may be motivated to show up to the polls in ‘24, and who knows, maybe Indiana will send a D to the Senate instead of the odious Banks, and even put someone in the Governors seat instead of MAGA Mike Braun.
    If the DNC and the IN DEM get their heads together with a strong GOTV campaign, there may be hope for a better life for everyone here. We can hope, and we can work to make it so.

  4. 100%correct on this one. The Dobbs case shows how voters will turn out if you, the Republicans don’t shave the edges and make it clear their choices are for everyone.
    I still am unhappy with many streets in Indianapolis as they are repaired in a washboard manor. In two years more patching and more washboarding. The Indiana general assembly needs to properly fund our highways snd biways as well as highly travelled local roads.

  5. And these Democrat wins came despite intense GOP legislative and administrative efforts to make voting more difficult, especially for populations seen as more likely to vote D. Unfortunately, these election outcomes will no doubt increase GOP efforts to suppress voting. “Getting out the vote” has never been more important.

  6. What amazed me, was that in Kentucky, Beshear ran against a black Republican with a white wife. I’m sure that many black voters who would normally vote Democrat, voted for the black Republican because he was… well, black. That means that many white Republicans voted for Beshear for the equally obvious reasons… as well as the sane ones surrounding women’s rights.

    Maybe the electorate isn’t as polarized as the media would like/want us to believe. Maybe there is hope for our democracy. Republicans keep losing. That is what is necessary to save our Constitution from the grubby intellectual dwarfs now directing the GOP.

  7. James Todd – For the 1st time in a while, I was part of the non-voting 74% this time around. I used to always vote in midterms, but I recently moved out of Marion County and my new home county is quite red. In fact, the majority of the positions were running unopposed Republican. County stats from previous elections indicated only 10% of voters (1% of registered) vote democratic.

    I couldn’t bring myself to show up this time, but I will try to have more faith in the future.

  8. James Todd; do you have numbers for the mail in votes? I’m sure that would add to that low 26% turn out vote. Of course we can only hope that our mail in votes are counted. I was living in Florida in 2020 for that infamous “recount” in the state where George Bush’s baby brother Jeb was Governor. During the recount news media reported the “find” of a closet full of boxes of main in votes which were purged for not arriving in time for the count.

    The last time I turned out to vote was in 2016; my polling place had been changed from a large church out building with plenty of parking space and housed 3 precincts. It was moved to a large medical facility at East 10th Street and Arlington with limited parking and in a small room where there were 5 precincts. I was 75, disabled and had to park in the grass behind the medical building, walk the length of it and half a block north on Arlington to get to the end of the line. When I entered the building the Security Guard who was on his phone had a woman by her upper arm pulling her through the crowd, two people were following her. Once inside and registered an had filled out my ballot I turned to go to the ballot machine and was grabbed by my upper right arm by a very large woman who dragged me through the crowd. I was unable to use my cane because my arm was raised and out of my control; I kept telling her to let go of me before she made me fall. We reached the ballot machine which spit out my ballot, I reinserted it a second time, she grabbed it and yelled something at me (I am also deaf) and drug me to another ballot machine which accepted it. As I was leaving the Security Guard was leading the woman with her two friends back through the crowd. Did my vote count, who the hell knows? I have always been proud to go to the polls every election since my first in 1958. I no longer feel safe so apply for a mail in and then wonder if it is counted.

  9. Dirk, even if there is only one candidate on the ballot who is Democrat…vote! Better yet, run yourself.

  10. I am inclined to agree that Trump is, now, a thing of the past, an angry, infected, infested ball of dung in the intestines off the country, on the way out, no matter how loudly he screams at reality.
    Alito, and the Roe decision have energized the Dem voters, and, I’m hoping, Johnson, and his blind obeisance to his favorite book, will fuel that fire. He’s already shown how phenomenally stupid his agenda can be…just ask Pete Buttigieg.

  11. James Todd – you hit the nail on the head. We have no real democracy when people don’t vote. For too many Americans, politics is boring and they see little or no change from the results. But, of course, if that changes for the worst, it will be too late…

  12. “All the evidence
    Many Democrats have come to believe that abortion access is the solution to their political problems. This week’s election results — with Ohio guaranteeing abortion access in a landslide and Democrats winning in both Virginia and Kentucky — support this notion.

    But I continue to think that recent elections offer a more complex picture, and I want to use today’s newsletter to explain. I know that some readers are skeptical.

    Widespread abortion access is clearly popular, even in many red states. When Americans have voted directly on the issue since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, abortion rights have gone seven for seven. What’s less clear is how much abortion politics affect general elections between a Democrat and a Republican. Is the effect large — or usually only enough to tip very close races?

    Ohio, the center of the abortion fight in this year’s election, offers a useful case study.

    ‘It is the issue’
    A year ago, the Democratic Party set out to turn Ohio blue by emphasizing the Republican Party’s opposition to abortion.

    Tim Ryan, the Democratic Senate nominee, protested outside the Supreme Court the day it eliminated the constitutional right to abortion access. “J.D. Vance wants a national abortion ban,” Ryan said about his Republican opponent later in the campaign. “I think we go back to Roe v. Wade.”

    In the Ohio governor’s race, Nan Whaley, the Democratic nominee, went further than Ryan and organized her campaign around the topic, as Jessie Balmert of The Columbus Dispatch reported. “It is the only thing we’re really talking about,” Whaley said three weeks before Election Day. “We think it is the issue.”

    None of this worked. Ryan lost to Vance by six percentage points. Whaley lost to Gov. Mike DeWine, the Republican incumbent who had signed abortion restrictions, by 25 points.

    These failures were part of a pattern. In Texas, Beto O’Rourke focused on abortion in his campaign for governor last year. So did Stacey Abrams in Georgia, as well as the Democrats trying to defeat Gov. Ron DeSantis and Senator Marco Rubio in Florida. All these Democrats lost, some of them by double digits.

    Nationwide, not a single Republican governor or senator has lost re-election since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

    That pattern might seem to conflict with this week’s election results, but I don’t think it does. Most Americans support widespread abortion access and will vote for ballot initiatives that protect or establish abortion rights. Yet in an election between two candidates, only a tiny slice of people is likely to vote differently because of any one issue, including abortion.

    That slice can still decide some elections. In Virginia this week, Democrats won several swing districts in the state legislature (although not as many as they had hoped, the political analyst J. Miles Coleman says), partly by emphasizing abortion rights. Similarly, two of the few Republican House incumbents who lost last year — one in Ohio, another in New Mexico — struggled to defend their abortion opposition.

    But many other examples that Democrats cite as proof of abortion’s political potency are weaker. Yes, Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky emphasized abortion during his successful re-election campaign this year, much as Gov. Laura Kelly of Kansas and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan did last year. Here’s the thing, though: Almost every incumbent governor, from both parties, who ran for re-election this year or last year won. The only exception was Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Nevada Democrat.

    To argue that abortion has become a dominant factor in U.S. politics requires ignoring the results in Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Texas and elsewhere.”

  13. Perhaps Alito didn’t do a favor for Republicans with his Dobbs decision. Why? Well, Republicans had a 50 year ride with Roe in which they were not called upon to defend their prehistoric view(s) of women’s reproductive health. He stripped them of that cover with Dobbs and we saw the positive result a few days ago. Gracias, Sam!

    Republicans have made their political beds on this issue and are now desperately trying to amend their position in order to bring women back into the voting fold. Even Trump, hardly a women’s champion but recognizing the danger a year from now, is (uncharacteristically on the QT) calling for reform. He’s too late.

    I predict that such attempts won’t work and that abortion rights will be an issue in future elections. I also predict that there will be similar issues of women’s freedom in future elections that will determine the outcome of such elections. Women’s freedom in a democratic society, after all, should not be limited only to whether they and their doctors rather than politicians decide on what they do with their bodies, and Title IX is just a start.


  14. The abortion question is a motivator. It gets people out to vote. We know from years of experience that large turnout generally means Democratic victory. The wrong wing doesn’t have many policy positions. They didn’t even bother with a platform in 2020. Most of the country lines up better with the Dems, who are at least doing something constructive.

  15. What a relief to see positive outcomes in the 2023 elections! The victories for reproductive autonomy and the recognition of individual rights are truly uplifting. It’s a reminder that democracy can still prevail against attempts to erode personal freedoms.

  16. Interesting today,

    In the grand scheme of things, I would imagine that religious influence is going to get dinged for trying to control people’s free moral rights.

    As free moral agents, everyone has the right to live their lives as they choose as long as it’s not infringing upon one’s fellow citizens. And bedroom issues should not, in any way shape or form, again, should not, be anyone else’s rights/business but the persons in the bedroom!

    As I recall, during the election year were Hillary Clinton was defeated, people were claiming that the GOP was the next incarnation of the Whig party. They were going the way of the dodo. And guess what? Daffy Duck let the air out of those sales.

    Fear of being in subjection to anyone but the belief system that has been chosen by an individual, is a huge driver energy-wise and financial support-wise, to those who have willfully deluded themselves!

    So many were overconfident concerning that particular election year. And, they ended up getting slapped right across the kisser which gave those who are liberal-minded, or should have given, a lesson in overconfidence. The cost of that that was SCOTUS. And you can see how well that turned out!

    Are there lessons to be learned from that previous election and all of the ramifications there in? Absolutely, unfortunately the attention span seems very short. This is just the beginning of a time period that’s going to get much uglier, And this is the exact reason for the separation between church and state.

    Polarization and hatred absolutely drive production of homegrown terrorism and terrorists. And this is something that needs to be monitored very closely. The FBI chart shows that homegrown terrorism and terrorists are rapidly on the rise. Use the spirit of a sound mind, watch and be aware.

  17. James Carville on Ari Melbar show last night, tipped his cap to Senator Warner for helping to bring about the legislative sweep in Virginia and setting Govenor Youngkin back on his heels. I’ve heard that what happens midterm in Virginia is bellwether for the Presidential race?
    Carville was disappointed with the results in Mississippi but said he would have to go down there and “work it”. It was reported that Presley was a pro-life Democrat, so he might have missed the wave?
    Here in Red Indiana the war on women attitude showed a crack when Federal Judges sanctioned Todd Rokita for using his office to go after a female doctor that helped a 10yr. old rape victim. That kind of persecution is intolerable, and the reversing of Dobbs has opened the floodgates to all levels of sexism being exposed.

  18. Always thank the poll workers….Volunteers (I believe…) and thanks to them we continue to exercise our civic rights & responsibilities….

  19. Add to the Democratic victory list the GOP stronghold Elkhart which elected not only a Democratic mayor but 8 of the 9 city council seats. Lawrence and Evansville also had the distinction of electing their first ever black female mayors. There is much to celebrate.

  20. Lester, I believe it’s appropriate to acknowledge in your comment that it is a regurgitation of a report from the New York Times. I agree with you that their reporting makes sense. Having said that, I think it’s important and appropriate to acknowledge the original source. That’s one reason I enjoy Helen Richardson Cox’s blog. She takes it a step further by footnoting sources.

  21. I need to fact check more before posting, my earlier post I wrote that Federal Judges sanctioned Rokita when it was the Ind. Supreme Court. I already corrected which elections were just held. Sigh.

  22. Michael – you are correct and I apologize. Had a VERY BUSY day and thought the report was strong and needed to be shared.

  23. Dirk – You should always vote, even it you write in Mickey Mouse. I always point the a school board election, decades ago, where I disliked all of the candidates. I entered the old mechanical machine, threw the lever to the right, closing the curtain, and then threw it to the left, recording one voter, voting for none of the above. It felt proper. I wasn’t going to skip an election.

    Working the polls as an inspector reinforced my disdain for signature matches, among other Republican suppression techniques. I am not certain that any signatures were identical, and if you compared my signature on forms in the morning with my signature when we closed the polling place, they really, really didn’t match.

  24. Rose- MS native here. Presley is a democrat- but he is supports Dobbs. He might have made more headway without that. Reality is Mississippians like my 86 year old father truly believe that democrats are evil. they know no other news but faux 24/7/365. Why yes, I left at 17 and damn glad I did.

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