A desperate Republican Party explains the series of extreme abortion bans emerging from the nation’s statehouses.
Republicans, in general, and President Donald J. Trump (R-New York), in particular, will need every vote they can get in 2020. Moreover, Republicans believe they will lose next year if conservative Catholics and Evangelicals do not vote or switch parties.
Roe v. Wade is in no Danger but Republicans are
Bizarrely, these laws will probably die in the courts and never reach the US Supreme Court. Dramatically, U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves writes “Here we go again” about the heartbeat law.
“Mississippi has passed another law banning abortions prior to viability,” Reeves notes. “The parties have been here before.” The Guardian notes, the legislation irritates Reeves because he has struck similar laws down before.
I conclude a woman’s right to choose is in little danger. Instead, the GOP is manipulating abortion; and Christians’ faith, in a cynical and desperate effort to drum up votes.
How Republican losses explain the “Heartbeat” Laws
Not even the intervention of Trump, could help candidates like Kris Kobach in Kansas. Furthermore, Republican “victories” in supposedly red states like Texas and Georgia, were uncomfortably close in 2018.
The Grand Old Party (GOP) suffered an unprecedented series of losses in the Bible Belt in 2017 and 2018. For instance, Republicans lost a U.S. Senate Seat in Alabama, U.S. House and state house seats in Georgia, US House seats in Kansas and South Carolina, and the Governor’s mansion in Kansas.
Given these circumstances, I think Republican strategists believe the only way they can win 2020 is to energize conservative Christian voters.
Republican Fears Motivate Extreme Abortion Bans
The easiest way to motivate Evangelicals; and Conservative Catholics, is to raise the hot-button cultural issues. Since, there is no hotter button than abortion, Republicans are pushing it hard.
Consequently, four states had passed extreme abortion bans as of 9 May 2019, Vox reports. Yet the Pro-Life offensive seemingly, came out of nowhere. Tellingly, I saw no reports of agitation or demand for it among pro-life activists or the public in the media.
Will Heartbeat Laws Help Republicans in 2020?
However, the so-called heartbeat bills, are just in time for the 2020 campaigning season. Conveniently, legal challenges to the laws will make headlines during next year’s primary and general elections.
Sadly, the Republican strategists’ cynical assessment of Christian behavior appears correct. The Guardian finds there has been an increase in extreme antiabortion activism like pickets in recent months
Trump is Afraid Christians will vote against him
Moreover, Trump; and GOP strategists, fear religious conservatives will turn against the President in next year’s presidential primaries.
In fact, 68% of church-going Republicans voted against Trump in the 2016 GOP primaries, author Timothy P. Carney calculates. See Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse page 121 for the full story.
Additionally, 31% of white evangelicals admit they would prefer another candidate to Trump in the 2020 presidential primary, the Evangelical News Service estimates. Plus, 25% of white evangelicals admit they disapprove of the president.
Trump Fears a Primary Challenge
Yes, polls indicate a majority of white evangelicals support the president. But enough of them are leery of Trump to hand him some embarrassing primary losses.
Something to remember here, is that no sitting US president; who has faced a serious primary challenge, has won reelection since Lyndon B. Johnson (D-Texas) in 1964. Historically, even modest primary challenges; like Pat Buchanan’s stab at George H. W. Bush (R-Texas) in 1992, can be fatal to an incumbent president.
My guess is that Republicans are trying to head off a primary challenge to Trump by playing the abortion card. The GOP leaders’ intent is to back Pro-Life Christians into a corner. Religious conservatives will have a choice of supporting Trump; whom some of them openly despise, or voting for abortion.
Another obvious fear is that a successful primary challenge will trigger a Republican civil war that will fatally wound the party in November. That’s what happened to Bush I in 1992; and Hillary in 2016, and both candidates lost the general election.
Basically, Republican leaders want to offer Conservative Christians a stark choice next year. Either vote for Trump and Life, or see abortion continue and possibly expand.
Will the Cynical Republican Strategy Work?
Only time will tell if this cynical Republican strategy will work, but it reeks of desperation.
Playing the Roe v. Wade card is risky for Republicans; because it could gravely damage their future chances if it fails. I can foresee four ways that the Heartbeat Bill strategy could backfire badly for Republicans.
First, if Trump and many other Republicans lose next year it could discourage religious conservatives from future political participation. Notably, some Christian traditionalist thinkers like The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher are already urging partial Christian disengagement from politics and society.
Second, the Heartbeat Bill strategy could frighten moderate; and even some conservative, voters to support pro-choice Democrats. Third, the Heartbeat offensive can trigger a destructive pro-choice counteroffensive. An obvious strategy is boycotts targeting the Heartbeat states and business interests that support Republican candidates.
Will Voters Punish Republicans for focusing on Abortion?
Fourth, angry heartland voters could punish Republicans for focusing on cultural matters; such as abortion, rather than meat and potatoes economic issues. Remember, in 2016 Republican primary voters rejected cultural conservatives; US Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in particular, in favor of Trump whose campaign focused on free trade and lost jobs.
Importantly, the impressive economic recovery is having little effect in rural America. For instance, rural areas lost 17,500 businesses during the first years of the current economic recovery, Eduardo Porter estimates in The New York Times.
Plus, Porter believes rural areas have fewer jobs today than they did in 2006 before the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Additionally, America has lost nearly five million manufacturing jobs this century, many of them in Red States, Quartz estimates.
Why Trump will have a Hard Time in 2020
Throw in growing hysteria about technological unemployment; and you have a recipe for an ugly backlash against any candidate who talks about anything but economic issues.
To make things worse for Trump, I think Democrats are likely to nominate a leftist who will campaign on economic issues. Notably, the April Emerson Poll, places U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont); who only discusses economic issues, at the head of the Democratic primary pack. In detail, Emerson places Sanders at 29% and his closest challenger former Vice President Joe Biden (D-Delaware), at 24%.
Not surprisingly, Emerson finds economy-focused leftists; like U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D-California) and Liz Warren (D-Massachusetts), and insurgent Andrew Yang (D-New York), are handily beating moderates. For instance, Emerson has Yang at 3%, Warren at 7%, and Harris at 8%, meanwhile well-known moderate US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) had less than 0% of the vote.
I believe such numbers set the stage for a close and brutal presidential battle in the heartland in Fall 2020. In fact, Emerson’s hypothetical 2020 presidential poll has Harris and Trump evenly matched at 50%.
Thus, Trump will need every vote he can get to stand a realistic change next year. Under those circumstances, the President and Republicans are doing everything they can to get Christians to focus on abortion rather than the economy.
Republican Heartbeat Bills are Utterly Shameful and Doomed to Fail
Finally, I think it is utterly shameful, cynical, and unethical for Republicans to threaten women’s basic rights and lives just to win a few votes.
In the final analysis, the GOP needs a new strategy that can win over ordinary Americans rather than hot-button cultural issues. Even if Republicans, succeed next year, any victory will be temporary.
Interestingly, Niall Ferguson and Eyck Freymann think leftist Democrats could enjoy a substantial majority in less than a decade. They write “ten years from now, if current population trends hold, Gen Z (persons under 24 today) and Millennials (people aged 23 to 38 in 2019) together will make up a majority of the American voting-age population,” in The Atlantic.
They speculate; “twenty years from now, by 2039, they will represent 62 percent of all eligible voters.” Ferguson and Freymann even predict; “A self-identifying ‘democratic socialist’ (presumably Sanders) could win the presidency.”
Given these conditions, focusing on abortion is a destructive and self-defeating strategy for Republicans – even if it produces victories next year. Unfortunately, today’s GOP is too unimaginative to think of anything else.