The Democrats’ high-stakes abortion gamble
Moloch’s moment is fuel for the left and fear for the right
According to Axios, “Democrats have already invested more than $124 million this year in TV ads referencing abortion—20 times more than Democrats spent on abortion-related ads in the 2018 midterms.” That is one of the most stunning statistics I’ve ever read in my career as a political commentator. What it reveals is that the spirit of Moloch is having a moment and is spending a lot of money. It most likely will not do Democrats much good.
In Georgia, where I live, Stacey Abrams has pulled all her commercials except one. A woman faces the camera and laments that Brian Kemp signed a “radical” abortion law that could criminalize miscarriages. She says women’s rights are threatened. Even fact checkers have pushed back on the advertisement, but Abrams has plowed ahead. It is her last stand—defense of abortion rights until the moment of birth.
The Democrats’ decision to make abortion their central focus has two explanations. First, they cannot run on the economy. The U.S. economy continues to collapse as the Federal Reserve raises rates and companies have begun sounding red alerts about a recession. Second, Democrats are playing defense. They are not so much trying to keep Republicans from winning as they are trying to keep Republicans from winning big. The Dobbs decision from the Supreme Court led may political observers to think this year could be unlike any previous year. NBC’s Chuck Todd, on Meet the Press a few weeks ago, said “the old rules may not apply.” We’ll see about that.
The economy continues to be the No. 1 issue for voters. Overwhelmingly, voters think the country is headed in the wrong direction. In swing states, crime ranks above abortion as an issue. What Democrats are trying to do is flip suburban women their direction on a self-interested issue and preserve seats in districts that Joe Biden won by significant margins. The seat in a district Joe Biden won by three points will probably still go to the GOP. The seat in a district Biden won by ten points will probably stay Democrat. Republicans will probably take the House, but might not take the Senate, or only win it by one. Democrats just want to avoid a Republican blowout like 2010.
Republicans, too, have helped the Democrats and hurt themselves. They appear scared of the talking about abortion. In Arizona, Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters completely revised his website on abortion once Democrats started pouncing on the issue. In Washington, D.C., South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham enraged his fellow Republicans by offering legislation to prohibit abortion at fifteen weeks under federal law, even though states could do so sooner under his legislation. The GOP simply does not want to talk about the issue and is scared of it.
Democrats, after Dobbs, found a unifying message to rally their base. Republicans, who for years campaigned on ending Roe, now not only did not have that message, but won so thoroughly on it, the GOP has scrambled to figure out what to do next. Democrats have been able to put them on defense.
The ghoulishness of the position fits our times. Democrats want abortion on demand until the moment of birth. On CNN, should the topic come up, anchor Dana Bash regularly asks Democrats where their cut off period is. They cannot say. Most try to avoid saying they believe in abortion till birth. Some have scrambled for a nebulous “survival out of the womb” standard. Republicans have yet to reframe the issue to highlight the Democrats’ extremism.
While the GOP scrambles, Democrats are pouring money into abortion advertising. The Democrats do believe some young voters will vote who otherwise might not. They believe women who might vote Republican because of the economy will now vote Democrat because of abortion. The saddest commentary on the matter is realizing Democrats believe they can persuade enough voters to vote for child sacrifice that they can mitigate the voters’ wrath over pocketbook issues.
Republicans need a new unifying post-Roe message. Whether it is to leave the matter to the states or a federal law with poll-tested popularity, the outcome is yet to be determined. For now, it is damning indictment on both parties that the GOP seems scared of the issue and Democrats seem convinced spending millions on the right to kill a child can save them at the ballot box. It’ll be a truly damning indictment on the nation if it works.
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