Slowik: Backlash as votoers weigh in on abortion politics – Chicago Tribune

It is stunning to see how quickly the Supreme Court’s decision to end a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion is reshaping the national political landscape.

The change is affecting expectations about November’s midterms and the 2024 presidential race. The shift is affecting the Southland and other suburban areas across the country.

Abortion was on the ballot Tuesday in Kansas, where a referendum sought to change the state constitution and give the legislature the ability to restrict or ban the procedure.

“Democrats displayed a newfound sense of optimism about the election year political climate Wednesday after voters in traditionally conservative Kansas overwhelmingly backed a measure protecting abortion rights,” The Associated Press reported.

After working for decades to impose its minority view upon a majority of Americans, is a right-wing Christian movement finally discovering the limits of its reach?

Anti-abortion activists cheered June 24 when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Activists have worked tirelessly to criminalize the procedure, even though polling has consistently shown most Americans believe access should be a right.

The anti-abortion movement evolved so gradually, most Americans failed to grasp the issue’s role in the right wing’s rise to power. One way to better understand the link is to consider the notion of compromise.

Until relatively recently, American politicians generally found ways to compromise and get most of what each side wanted even when they disagreed. In regard to abortion, opponents generally conceded exceptions were needed in cases of rape, incest and to save the lives of women.

Somewhere along the line, the right developed an uncompromising stance. A noble crusade replaced nuanced debate. Both parties used gerrymandering to leverage electoral victories into legislative supermajorities. Many Republican politicians mistakenly believed extremist views favoring a total ban on abortions represented the will of the majority.

By politicizing the judiciary, Republicans used abortion to mobilize supporters to turn out in elections. This was never more true than in 2016, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court.

This tactic played a big role in Donald Trump winning the presidential election and appointing three conservative justices to the court. The decision to overturn Roe should have surprised no one.

Now comes the backlash. The Supreme Court ruling suddenly changed debate from the hypothetical and abstract to the concrete here and now. Several recent instances revealed difficult consequences of the court’s decision.

There was the Texas woman who suffered a miscarriage and was forced to carry a dead fetus for two weeks because doctors did not want to risk violating state law. A 10-year-old Ohio rape victim had to travel to Indiana for an abortion that was outlawed in her state.

Republican politicians initially responded by doubting whether the rape story was real. The Indiana’s attorney general vowed to investigate the doctor who performed the procedure.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis Thursday suspended an elected state attorney who publicly said he would not prosecute abortions prohibited by the state’s new 15-week ban. Republican supporters cheered. Critics warned about authoritarian rule.

DeSantis calculated it was politically advantageous to remove an elected official because of something that official said, not because he committed an illegal act or violated any law.

The results of Tuesday’s Kansas vote indicate such political calculations may soon change. Pundits expected a close vote because Kansas is a red state. Lawmakers placed the measure on primary ballots as opposed to the general election in November because they figured most people voting Tuesday would be Republican and favor banning abortions.

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Voters said otherwise by a margin of about 59-41. The issue either motivated large numbers of Democrats to polls or large numbers of Republican voters defied their party’s expectations. Either way it does not bode well for the GOP.

Anti-abortion activists indicate their response to Illinois and other states strengthening access will be to push for a nationwide ban. They would need legislative majorities in both chambers and the presidency to do so.

Conventional wisdom held that the president’s party loses seats in off-year midterm elections. Prior to June 24, Republicans expected to win a House majority in November and possibly take control of the Senate. Recent polling indicates Democrats are making gains on generic ballots.

In politics, one learns to not count chickens before they are hatched. Few predicted Trump’s victory in 2016. The nation remains sharply divided on political and cultural issues. Now more than ever, every vote counts.

So long as we maintain faith in the integrity of out voting systems, election outcomes are the only measure that matter, not polls.

Ted Slowik is a columnist for the Daily Southtown.

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August 5, 2022 at 04:55PM

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