Thursday, August 4, 2022

Abortion Vote

For those who somehow missed it, Kansas voted to keep abortion legal last night by a 59%-41% margin, or 2-1. Drudge is calling this a "Red State Shocker" as are others, but it shouldn't shock anyone. Some thoughts.

First, this is not a shock. If you want to believe the public is split on abortion, you can look at polls comparing the pro-life and pro-choice label. Then you will find it's basically 50/50. A nation torn apart, right? Only... when you look beneath the label, you'll find that most pro-lifers want abortion to be legal and most pro-choicers want it to be regulated and everybody is sick of talking about it. The end result is somewhere around 80% of the public, regardless of label, want legal, safe and rare... and off the news cycle.

Kansas voters are probably the most fringe-right in the nation and Kansas has a long history of anti-abortion efforts (including violence). If any state was going to represent the best-case-scenario for pro-lifers, it was Kansas. Yet, they lost 2-1. This will probably prove to be the high water mark too for the public's support to ban abortion. In places like Colorado, I would expect around 31%. In California, lower than that. Soooo that raises some questions:

1. What does this mean? It means, as I predicted, abortion will become the law of the land in state after state. It will probably happen quicker than I expected because of the overwhelming percentages. That kind of margin can stiffen a lot of backbones. It will also be more convincing because it will come from voters in most states before the Feds finish it off to get states that won't let their voters decide.

2. This will not end the political pro-life movement. That won't stop. But it will end public tolerance for the debate. What is their next strategy? Probably court-imposed policy: like the left did with abortion, get the courts to impose a ban.

3. Will it change the minds of GOP legislators? That's the most interesting question. It has to give them pause. The problem is the primaries are still largely dominated by the Religious Right. But the public will be increasingly hostile to people who raise this issue. So how do you placate both groups? Or do you even try? Will there instead be a shift away to a neutral position? On the gay issue, most GOP candidates simply stopped talking about it or even embraced it once they knew that 60% of their own voters favored it. Will the same thing happen with abortion? I suspect the answer is most will try to never to talk about it. But we'll see. The guy to watch here is Desantis. He's savvy and he's on the front line on this. He needs to solve this issue before he can become the GOP front runner. Trip up, and his voters run back to Trump. I would bet he shifts to talking about needing to change the hearts and minds of voters but also shifting this to voters to decide.

4. The Democrats think this will give them momentum in the midterms. I don't see that. It will only give momentum where there is a referendum, and that can't really be done before November (four states will have such referendums - California, Montana, Kentucky, and Vermont). So abortion remains a nonissue this cycle. After that, all bets are off. That said, I think the referendum in Montana may hurt the GOP. I doubt Kentucky will hurt because I suspect the GOP there will switch sides. There is no GOP in California. And the one in Vermont is pro-choice.

Ultimately, I'm not sure what the Supremes thought was going to happen when they issued this decision, but I doubt this was it. This is called an unintended consequence. What worries me is not abortion itself, what worries me are the other unintended consequences of their decision. When you mess with 50 years of settled law, you upend a lot of things. And when the politicians start taking advantage of that, you get some really ugly results. I worry very much if the court thinks that we have no right to privacy. I worry because there are masses of tech companies and insurance companies and law enforcement groups all waiting to break down those barriers in ways that will shock and surprise. I worry that laws like the one created in Texas's zeal to stop abortion will now be used to reach out of states like California and impose their insanity on the rest of us. I worry that the world is full of book burners and Karens and Nazis and others looking to control everyone else, and this decision opens doors and windows in our society to them... I worry that no one really knows what the limits are on government anymore. The Supremes could have done this very differently without unsettling so much, but they weren't bright enough... or clear-headed enough to find a better way. Now we need to worry. And this vote in Kansas shows it was all for naught anyways.

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