Abortion: Is the Texas GOP the Dog that Caught the Car?
Republicans are proud of how they're intimidating women in Texas. But could this abortion ban & its vigilantism be the tipping point that activates women & allies to take down the GOP?
Texas Republicans and five hardcore rightwing Republican appointees on the Supreme Court are quite proud of themselves right now.
“The court’s order is stunning,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor last night in dissent. “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”
But this is a political as much as a legal and social issue, bringing to mind old clichés about counting chicks and things coming home to roost.
Ever since the Reagan election of 1980 the GOP has been the party of billionaires and big business. The problem they’ve always faced, though, is that there aren’t enough morbidly rich voters to win elections and big companies can’t vote at all.
To get around that, they’ve brought together a coalition of fervent true believers, sometimes called “single issue voters,” representing a variety of “special interests.” These include:
Working-class white racists (who Nixon first reached out to with his “Southern Strategy” in 1968)
Sexually insecure male gun and military-garb fetishists
Upper-middle-class and rural “anti-welfare” anti-tax white people
“Christian” religious freaks who want their sect running the government
Anti-abortion “pro-life” activists
Without all of these five groups, Republicans don’t have enough voters to take on the Democratic Party’s coalition of educated urban whites, racial minorities, gender minorities and women, Social Security/Medicare-age voters and young people.
Which raises a vital question about the Republican Party, both in Texas and across the country: will a final successful abortion ban take enough steam out of their most fervent followers that they’ll begin to lose elections in a bigger way than they are now?
Could it even turn some Republican voters — who always just gave lip-service to pro-life causes but never really thought such a Handmaid’s Tale dystopia could ever happen — against the Party?
Four of the five groups that make up the Republican voting coalition have passionate causes that will never be resolved, thus keeping them tight with the GOP:
The white racists are always going to be dissatisfied with anything short of a reversal of Brown v Board (1954) and a return to the “separate but equal” doctrine of Plessy v Ferguson (1896)…and that’s not going to happen anytime soon.
The sexually insecure men and incels will always be vulnerable to NRA propaganda that Democrats are going to take their guns away; even 8 years of Obama expanding “gun rights” didn’t reduce their temperature.
Upper-middle-class white people who revel in the privilege of their income and skin color are always going to object to their tax dollars “being taken at the point of a gun” and given to the less fortunate, particularly less-fortunate minorities.
And the “Christian” religious freaks who want US law replaced by their Christian-Sharia interpretation of the Bible have been with western civilization since long before this continent was thoroughly colonized by Europeans (think: Crusades or Cromwell), and won’t go anywhere else any day soon.
The single-issue anti-abortion voters, however, have just gotten what they want, at least in Texas and at least for the moment. Other GOP-controlled states are looking at the Texas law and because the Supreme Court has basically set aside Roe v Wade to support this vigilante-style approach to social norm enforcement there will almost certainly be clones popping up soon.
Which may well bring us back to the slow-boil societal crisis women suffered before 1973, the year abortion was legalized and back-alley practitioners largely vanished along with foundling homes.
I’m reminded of a mystery novel I read in the 1980s or thereabouts.
In it, women are being raped all across New York City, usually multiple times, and the detectives digging into the case are mystified until they discover that each of the women was an outspoken anti-abortion crusader and the rapist had succeeded in impregnating all of them, one-after-the-other. (I just spent a half hour with duckduckgo trying to find the name of the novel — I think it was by Ed McBain or Lawrence Block — but couldn’t locate it. If you know, reply in comments below.)
In that novel, as I recall, almost all of those fictitious women not only got abortions but also dropped out of the anti-abortion movement, which was the goal of the demented rapist. The plot premise was intentionally ugly and evil, but raises the question: what happens when this abortion ban gets real for Republican voters?
How will it change the political equation when, as routinely happens, daughters of the well-off and politically active end up with an unwanted pregnancy?
What happens when one of their kids dies from a coat-hanger abortion (as happened to a girl I knew in high school in 1966)?
Or they simply know a friend or neighbor to whom that happened and, through that sudden reality-check, come to realize the brutality of such total state (and, with the Texas regime, vigilante) control over women’s bodies?
Let’s be honest here: the “right to life” movement was never about children or life.
These are the same people and politicians who want to cut food stamps, refuse to expand Medicaid, and will fight to their political death to prevent low-income women with children from getting free housing or medical care.
Hell, they’re just fine with kids dying from Covid exposure at school. They’re enthusiastic about it, in fact, and are this week passing more laws to prevent school mask and vaccine mandates in an effort to prove they can be as callous and brutal as the Sociopath of Mar-a-Lago.
Children are literally dying from Covid every single day across the USA, and these “pro-life” Republicans are pushing for more children to show up in crowded schools without masks or vaccines.
Their passion for “life” ends when a woman gives birth, and that’s the movement’s Achilles’ heel. Along with the fact that 77 percent of Americans want Roe to stay in effect.
Actually banning abortion — as opposed to just talking about it every election year — could deflate a significant slice of the Republican voter base without adding to it at all. The anti-abortion crowd got what they wanted: now it’s time to put away the bullhorns and signs and go home.
Republicans have the anti-abortion crowd firmly in their camp right now, but with the issue no longer a political one will those single-issue voters just melt away over the next year or two? Or start looking at other issues, where they may disagree with the GOP?
On the other side, will it super-energize women across the nation — both in Red states and those afraid of a GOP takeover in their Blue or Purple state — to actively engage in politics in ways like we’ve seen anti-abortion folks do for the past 5 decades?
Instead of an annual “Right to Life” march on Washington, DC will there be an annual “Right to Choose” march? Will the Equal Rights Amendment finally get passed after 50+ years of GOP opposition? Will thousands more women jump into politics from school boards to statewide offices to the US Senate?
Have Republicans now begun losing one of the most fervent parts of their voter base?
While the GOP is basking in the warm glow of victory at this moment, I’m wondering if they’re like the dog that finally caught the car and is now haplessly running down the road, unable to unlock his jaws from the bumper?