Thursday, August 4, 2022

How Democrats See Abortion Politics After Kansas Vote

At the New York Times, "‘Your Bedroom Is on the Ballot’: How Democrats See Abortion Politics After Kansas":

A decisive vote to defend abortion rights in deeply conservative Kansas reverberated across the midterm campaign landscape on Wednesday, galvanizing Democrats and underscoring for Republicans the risks of overreaching on one of the most emotionally charged matters in American politics.

In a state where Republicans far outnumber Democrats, Kansans delivered a clear message in the first major vote testing the potency of abortion politics since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade: Abortion opponents are going too far.

The overwhelming defeat of a measure that would have removed abortion protections from the state constitution quickly emboldened Democrats to run more assertively on abortion rights and even to reclaim some of the language long deployed by conservatives against government overreach, using it to cast abortion bans as infringing on personal freedoms. (As of Wednesday, the margin was 58.8 percent to 41.2 percent.)

“The court practically dared women in this country to go to the ballot box to restore the right to choose,” President Biden said by video Wednesday, as he signed an executive order aimed at helping Americans cross state lines for abortions. “They don’t have a clue about the power of American women.”

In interviews, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, urged Democrats to be “full-throated” in their support of abortion access, and Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, the chairman of the House Democratic campaign arm, said the Kansas vote offered a “preview of coming attractions” for Republicans. Representative Elissa Slotkin, a Michigan Democrat in a highly competitive district, issued a statement saying that abortion access “hits at the core of preserving personal freedom, and of ensuring that women, and not the government, can decide their own fate.”

Republicans said the midterm campaigns would be defined by Mr. Biden’s disastrous approval ratings and economic concerns.

Both Republicans and Democrats caution against conflating the results of an up-or-down ballot question with how Americans will vote in November, when they will be weighing a long list of issues, personalities and their views of Democratic control of Washington. “Add in candidates and a much more robust conversation about lots of other issues, this single issue isn’t going to drive the full national narrative that the Democrats are hoping for,” said David Kochel, a veteran of Republican politics in nearby Iowa. Still, Mr. Kochel acknowledged the risks of Republicans’ overstepping, as social conservatives push for abortion bans with few exceptions that polls generally show to be unpopular.

“The base of the G.O.P. is definitely ahead of where the voters are in wanting to restrict abortion,” he said. “That’s the main lesson of Kansas.”

Polls have long shown most Americans support at least some abortion rights. But abortion opponents have been far more likely to let the issue determine their vote, leading to a passion gap between the two sides of the issue. Democrats hoped the Supreme Court decision this summer erasing the constitutional right to an abortion would change that, as Republican-led states rushed to enact new restrictions, and outright bans on the procedure took hold.

The Kansas vote was the most concrete evidence yet that a broad swath of voters — including some Republicans who still support their party in November — were ready to push back. Kansans voted down the amendment in Johnson County — home to the populous, moderate suburbs outside Kansas City — rejecting the measure with about 70 percent of the vote, a sign of the power of this issue in suburban battlegrounds nationwide. But the amendment was also defeated in more conservative counties, as abortion rights support outpaced Mr. Biden’s showing in 2020 nearly everywhere.

After months of struggling with their own disengaged if not demoralized base, Democratic strategists and officials hoped the results signaled a sort of awakening. They argued that abortion rights are a powerful part of the effort to cast Republicans as extremists and turn the 2022 elections into a choice between two parties, rather than a referendum just on Democrats...

Still more.