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.