The Fear of Winning

I’m convinced that people like complaining, especially when it comes to politics. People especially like to complain about losing. That would certainly explain why some pro-lifers seem to be cowed by fear that Roe v. Wade may actually be overturned. I am not talking about the anti-anti-abortionists I mentioned a couple of posts back. No, I am instead talking about genuinely pro-life people who nonetheless are concerned that reversing Roe may lead to Democratic gains in the November elections.

First, on a simply practical level, I don’t think that’s going to happen. There is already scant evidence that the leak of the potential majority decision in Dobbs has led to any appreciable uptick in donations to Democrats. What’s more, the people who are most agitated (on either side) over the abortion issue assuredly have their votes cast in stone and were set on voting for Democrats (if pro abortion) or Republicans (if pro life) this Fall. The mushy middle on abortion (and I am more convinced every day the Simpsons Halloween special from 1996 captures the mood of a good chunk of the American electorate) are not likely to be especially bothered by a SCOTUS decision they barely understand when they’re paying $5 to fill up their cars or when they can’t buy baby formula.

More fundamentally, though, so what if the decision did have some negative electoral consequences? What is the point of winning elections and appointing originalist justices if we live in perpetual fear of actually accomplishing legal or policy goals? Pro-lifers (and even some originalist pro-choicers) have waited 49 years to overturn the abomination that is Roe v. Wade. For the first time in half a century this issue will be left to the states (hopefully – the decision has not officially been rendered). While there will be states that continue to permit abortion, and there will be woke corporations willing to fund abortion tourism, this will result in lives being saved as states pass laws restricting abortion to varying degrees and stages of pregnancy. This is a good thing. There will be much work left to accomplish, but it is impossible to put abortion on a course of ultimate extinction without this first step.

Reversing Roe will not only permit states to restrict or even prohibit abortion, it will change the conversation. Many people labor under the misunderstanding that reversing Roe will outlaw abortion, or that under the current regime states may prohibit abortion after certain stages of pregnancy. They are not aware that America’s current abortion policy is far, far more permissive than in almost every other country on earth. Most European countries either prohibit or severely restrict abortion after the first trimester, a fact that eludes a good chunk of the electorate. Bringing abortion back into the democratic process will be an educational opportunity for pro-lifers to bring light to the issue. Once more people will grasp the reality of current policy, it may begin the process of people asking even more questions about abortion, and including questioning their own beliefs.

Abortion isn’t the only policy issue where some seem almost forlorn that some measure of success has been achieved or that the issue may be debated out in the open. Senator Rick Scott’s 11-point plan has come under fire, although not without reason. He has already walked back an earlier iteration that called for raising taxes on lower- and middle-income people to make sure “everyone had skin in the game.” And some of the other points seem a little half-baked. Yet there almost seems to be a reluctance to have any meaningful discussion on any policy proposal that may generate even the tiniest amount of pushback. Republicans will almost certainly have a great November, and so many are content to mute any kind of issues-oriented campaigning. But what exactly is the point of elections if you refuse to ever advance an agenda?

In some weird way I almost admire the “burn it all down” approach of the Democrats. Sure almost everything they have attempted to do is completely unpopular, but you have to give them credit for their gumption. Of course, their problem is the complete opposite: completely disregarding public opinion is no more sensible than poll-testing every utterance. Somewhere between political cowardice and complete recklessness is a governing philosophy that hopefully some of our leaders might adopt before the end of the republic.