Abortion and guns can wake a sleeping giant for Democrats | Robert Reich
JTwo of the most basic human aspirations are to make one’s own decisions about whether or when to have a child, free from government interference, and to keep any child one has out of harm’s way. shelter from random violence.
Yet both aspirations have been fiercely resisted in the United States – the former by many evangelical Christians, the latter by the gun lobby.
Republican lawmakers are in the pockets of both. Democratic lawmakers are on the side of reproductive freedom and gun control.
It has become the sharpest divide in contemporary American politics.
The American people are not evenly divided on these issues. A large majority wants to maintain access to abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy, which has been the rule since the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973.
An even larger majority (including many Republican voters) support requiring universal background checks of potential gun buyers, and most favor banning high-capacity magazines and sale of assault weapons.
Do majority opinions matter on these two issues, where politically powerful minorities have demanded otherwise? At first glance, it seems not.
After the May 2 leak of a draft opinion in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, authored by Samuel Alito and evidently joined by four other Republican-appointed justices – which argues that no abortion rights cannot be found in the constitution and that therefore such a right does not exist – Senate Democrats attempted to codify a national abortion right.
But on May 11, the Women’s Health Protection Act failed in the Senate, by a vote of 49 to 51. It not only lacked a simple majority but, more importantly, the 60-vote supermajority required to overcome the inevitable obstruction. (Only West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin crossed party lines.)
Now, following last week’s massacre of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, Congress is poised to vote on gun regulations. Hardly anyone believes there are 10 Republican senators who will support any form of gun control, even after last week’s horror.
While adamantly refusing to maintain access to abortion services and denying all recent attempts to control guns, Republican lawmakers at the federal and state levels also remain opposed to government funding of child care, parental leave, sex education and contraception, as well as reproduction, maternity, neonatal care. -natal and pediatric health services.
It takes a lot to wake up the sleeping giant of American voters. Most do not belong to any of the main political parties. Many are put off by politics. In a typical midterm election, only about half of those eligible to vote do so.
Yet every once in a while the sleeping giant wakes up – and with a swipe of its enormous arm at the ballot box addresses the growing disconnect between what voters want and what politicians do (or don’t do).
In the 2014 midterm elections, only 20% of young people aged 18 to 29 turned out to vote.
But midterm in 2018, after two years of Donald Trump and congressional Republicans trampling on issues that mattered to young people — like the environment, education and protecting undocumented immigrants who arrived in America while they were children – young voters were inspired to take action: 36% of them voted. That was enough to transfer control of the House to the Democrats.
Most pundits are convinced that Democrats are doomed to lose the House and Senate in future terms. They point to the fact that after 15 months in office, Biden votes poorly, at around 40%.
But the punditocracy ignores the disconnect between what most Americans want on abortion and guns and what Republican lawmakers are doing.
The two issues of abortion and guns may impact Americans more significantly together than they have had separately because of the moral relationship between them – being free to decide if and when to have children and protect children from armed violence.
(Experts also forget that at the same time of his presidency, Ronald Reagan was voting about 40%. But as inflation waned, Reagan ran for re-election against Walter Mondale and won 49 states.)
If the sleeping giant awakens, a mobilization the likes of which America has rarely seen could propel Democrats to larger House and Senate majorities in November – giving them enough votes in the Senate to eliminate the filibuster and relegating the Republicans to a quasi-permanent minority.