IN KANSAS … A POLITICAL EARTHQUAKE — By a stunning, roughly 20-point margin, Kansas voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have given state lawmakers the chance to either further restrict or ban abortions in the state. Turnout swelled — “approaching what’s typical for a fall election for governor,” per the AP — and the “no” vote did well not just in Democratic strongholds, but in conservative and rural areas, outperforming JOE BIDEN’s 2020 vote share there.
It marked the first time since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade that voters had a chance to directly weigh in on abortion rights.
One thing is certain in politics: every action has a re-action. Overreach creates a backlash. Huge overreach can create a huge backlash. When the Supreme Court struck down a fundamental right for women to control their own bodies, throwing the power to decide this very personal right of self-determination to state legislatures, the Court unwittingly unleashed a huge backlash response that we can now predict will impact the 2022 midterm elections.
The proof of that just happened in the deeply red state of Kansas.
What Happened in Kansas
After the Supreme Court struck down Roe, Kansas saw a huge 1,000% uptick in voter registrations. 70% of the newly registered voters were women. It was not yet clear whether that meant energy on the side of abortion rights or anti-abortion energy. Republicans in Kansas didn’t know what was about to happen. The typical turnout for a primary in Kansas is light and that was the expectation this time. The Republican state legislature decided to sneak in a constitutional amendment for their primary and make it confusing enough so that voters would give the state legislature the power to rescind the right to abortion that was previously enshrined in the Kansas state constitution. Instead of the typical light turnout, the turnout was huge and the energy was on the side of abortion rights. 20% of the voters in this Kansas primary showed up to vote ONLY on the Constitutional Amendment. The people voting to stop the state legislature from stripping Kansas women of their reproductive rights included Republicans and Christians in deeply red areas of this deeply red state. Now we know that uptick in registration was the result of outrage and outrage fuels electoral tsunamis.
In a weird way if this energy plays out as I think it will, the Supreme Court’s huge overreach violation of women’s rights might ironically help to beat back the Christian national authoritarian movement that got Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett onto the Supreme Court in the first place. The takeover of the GOP by the MAGA extreme right could be the very thing that thwarts GOP aspirations to win big in November.
How Democrats are Using MAGA Extremism Against the GOP
Trump aligned candidates are mainly winning their primaries: these are the election denialists, the conspiracy theorists and Trump loving MAGA extremists. You might think that is a bad thing. But maybe it is a good thing. The Democratic Governor’s Association thinks it’s a good thing.
The DGA, flush with money, is making a bet. That group is putting its money to work to elevate the most far right candidates they can in key governor’s races and some House and Senate races. An example is Darren Bailey in Illinois who got the help of the DGA to win in the primary and who will run against Governor Pritzker in the general election.
The DGA amplifies Republican extremist candidates by running ad buys that reveal their views in race after race. They are not cheating or lying in this endeavor, by the way. They don’t have to. They are simply elevating the comments made by those extreme candidates who are already on the record opposed to abortion rights, even contraceptives, as well as other off the wall ideas like 10 year olds being forced to give birth to their rapist’s baby. The DGA is simply educating voters using clips from speeches and talks these candidates have given that expose just how extreme their viewpoints are. The hope is that they win their primaries because the rabid Trump base will turn out to vote for them in the primary.
Then the gamble is that in the general election voters are more moderate and will therefore be repulsed by these same people because they are so extreme. This approach uses Trump and MAGA extremism to eventually beat Trump and MAGA extremism. Yes, it’s a gamble. It’s a gamble that relies on the idea that most Americans are moderate people not flame throwing extremists. Faced with a choice between a nutball MAGA Trump loving candidate or a decent human being who wants Americans to have better lives and can prove that up with real policies that DO help Americans, Americans will choose sane over crazy.
Some commentators are saying this approach, amplifying the MAGA wing of the GOP to help them win their primaries, is not fair or too cute and clever. They say the Dems should simply run their own races and not try to manipulate primary outcomes. But if you believe as I do that every single Republican who gets elected will sooner or later be forced to succumb to the MAGA influence if they want to succeed in this fully Trump owned Republican Party, then the goal must be to beat EVERY Republican possible. If you have any doubts about the total allegiance Republicans must vow to this extremist GOP, look no further than Liz Cheney in Wyoming. There could be no one more conservative than Liz Cheney. The reward for her participation in the January 6th Committee, which has been brilliant and brave, will be the loss of her primary in Wyoming on Tuesday, August 16th to a MAGA election denialist.
This is also a war being waged on democracy by a GOP that will cheat and lie to win and keep power. 2022 and 2024 will be the elections for all the marbles. If they lose an election, the election deniers will claim their elections were rigged. They will not concede. They will go to war. We are in an uncivil civil war. The stakes could not be higher.
The Manchin/Schumer Surprise Play
Republicans in Congress have also become too extreme. They only care about their party and their power, not the good of the American people. To that end, Republicans want to keep the Biden administration from having any successes AT ALL more than they want to help our country be the best it can be for all Americans. The Build Back Better Plan was supposed to be the star studded success of the Biden administration because it would be great for the American people in so many ways including combatting climate change, helping Americans with child care and college costs and much more. It’s failure was seen as a big win for the Republican Party. Republicans were thrilled that Biden and the Dems would have “nothing to run on” and would get beaten up over high gas and milk prices, the border, and crime. Predictions have been and still are that the Dems will likely lose the House- the only question is by how much. And the Republicans should take over the Senate because they only need one more Republican Senator to gain total control of that chamber.
When all is said and done, though, Republicans have NO POLICIES. They are only a party of personalities (notice Trump is all in on personalities: Hershel Walker, Dr. Oz, JD Vance, Kari Lake) who stand for Nothing. I guess that works for them because when you get someone like Trump in power then he doesn’t have to answer for anything. He can make it up as he goes. How can you fail to fulfill a pledge if you never make any? Worse yet, Republicans are anti everything. Anti gay, anti abortion, anti education, anti health care, anti climate change legislation, anti gun control, anti immigrant and now they will be rightly branded anti-woman.
However, just as it seemed the train of defeat was rushing towards little Nell, helplessly tied to the tracks, and much to the chagrin of Republicans, the Dems may now have a real chance to pass the new Manchin Schumer BBB lite bill. Krysten Sinema is having another moment in the spotlight. She wants to protect her rich donor friends by changing some of the language in the bill so she can agree to pass it. The bill hangs in the balance awaiting Sinema’s response. Tick tock. But it is a good bet she will not want to be the lone assassin that kills off this terrific legislative package that will help Americans. Democrats have been the champions of good policies for America throughout the Biden administration and if this bill passes they will have even more to run on.
UPDATE: Sinema did sign the bill this evening after getting removal of the tax targeting wealthy investors.
Republicans, on the other hand, are locked in to their anti everything extremism and will be damaged by their opposition to self-determination for women in a country in which both Republicans and Democrats deeply value personal freedom.
Why does this matter? Because three months out from the most important midterm election in our lifetimes, the Dems are moving from a position of defense to offense. Other major concerns are receding. Gas prices have come down steadily for the past 6 weeks. The job market is strong- anyone can get a job. Covid is not front and center anymore- you can get vaccines and antiviral medications. People are traveling again. The January 6th Committee will continue to prove to many Americans that Trump is not worth the trouble and another Republican would have a better chance of winning. The DOJ will have the goods on Trump now that they are actively forcing Trump’s inner circle to testify before the Grand Jury. Rupert Murdoch has finally had it with Trump and has turned against him. And the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs looks to be the match that could light the turnout bonfire. The end of Roe could be just what Democrats need to get explosive turnout.
What is Coming in 2022
November 2022 will be a turning point. We could lose our democracy or keep it. To preserve it we need more Democrats in power both nationally and in every state house. We especially need more Democratically led state legislatures and Democrats as governors now that the Supreme Court is granting more and more power to states to determine our reproductive lives and control election outcomes. That means we need to have many more Democratically led chambers in red and purple states.
Even having ONE of the two state legislative chambers led by Democrats instead of Republicans in key swing states like Wisconsin, Arizona, and Michigan could make a huge difference in defeating the passage of anti-democratic and anti-abortion bills in states across the country. We need as many Democrats as possible to oversee elections in order to keep them free and fair. That means secretaries of state, attorneys general and governors need to be Democrats wherever possible.
2022 will be a fight against the crazies and for sanity, a fight against the antis for a reaffirmation of self-determination for women.
It looks like a Democratic base plus motivated Independents and some Republicans will care deeply enough about preserving a woman’s right to control her own choices about her body, her own destiny and life, that they will turn out in large numbers to vote to preserve that right for themselves and their daughters. This voting group includes unlikely bedfellows: Millennials, soccer moms, suburban and urban women, Republican women, Christian women and the men who love them will get out and vote like their lives depend on it…because this November their lives really really do depend on it.