by Joel Kotkin
Thursday, 12
May 2022
Debate
14:05

Abortion won’t save the Democrats

The Party's position on this issue is too extreme for most voters
by Joel Kotkin
Americans, by and large, do not have extreme views about abortion. Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images

Joe Biden’s Presidency is unravelling, but Democrats hope that Republicans will snatch victory from the maw of their own miscalculations. The decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has energised warhorses like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to see a way to rescue their now fading prospects.

Chiding California’s Governor Gavin Newsom, a strong abortion rights activist, for not being hysterical enough, Pelosi wants to throw some red meat to her downbeat progressive Democratic base, and even persuade some centrist suburbanites. The New Republic, once a respectable source of opinion but now largely a mouthpiece of the Democratic party, warns of “devastating political fallout for the Republicans”.

But the abortion issue may not be the silver bullet issue for Pelosi and her minions. Given that the administration has been tied to such things as high crime, inflation and now a troubled stock market, abortion barely registers for most voters.

Indeed, if the Democrats read the polls better, they would see that their absolutist position could prove as problematic for them as the abortion ban zealots are for the GOP. Gallup reveals, for example, that over the past decade, barely one in five Americans support a total ban on abortion, but only one-third favour no restrictions at all. Most Americans, according to a recent Pew survey, including in both parties, favour generally limited rights to abortion, but the current Democratic Party line of essentially no restrictions wins barely one-fifth of the electorate.

The absolutist position on abortion rights is reinforced by the essential blending of the urban political base — largely childless and often single — with the clueless dominant legacy media. The idea of late-term abortions may be widely accepted in the deep blue states, but far less so among suburbanites, small city, and rural residents. The North-East is far more favourable to a less restrictive environment than the South, where much of the media goes simply to tut-tut and moralise.

Roe’s demise will accelerate the already festering division between the states. With the exception of Alaska and New Hampshire, all the constituencies that allow essential unlimited abortion are deep blue or heading that way —Colorado, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont. The most restrictive are largely in the South, Texas, and the Great Plains. After Roe, we can expect blue states to further liberalise their laws while the red ones may tighten theirs.

This political battle will intensify, but the animating forces —dedicated pro-choice and pro-life activists — fail to reflect the more nuanced public mood. The Roe decision might spark a more bitter conflict, but it can only be resolved either by allowing vast regional differences or, better still, coming to a political compromise that may actually make the necessary accommodations critical to a functioning system of self-government. But if Nancy Pelosi and her ilk refuse to back down on their radical position, the Democrats won’t see the bounce that they’re hoping for in November.

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Mary Bruels
Mary Bruels
11 days ago

The idea of abortion up to the moment of birth is abhorrent. As more and more premature babies are saved and allowed to grow up, isn’t an abortion of a late term pregnancy akin to murder? In some states if a pregnant woman (and I use that word deliberately) is murdered, the killer can be charged with not only killing the mother but the unborn baby as well. Extreme positions on abortion on either side completely miss the vast middle of opinion that a woman should be able to decide on an abortion in the early stages of pregnancy and that there should be a time limit.

Jo Nielson
Jo Nielson
11 days ago
Reply to  Mary Bruels

Exactly. I’m in the pro-life camp, but I’m not dumb enough to believe that we can get away with a complete and total ban. That’s just not where the public is. I think that’s what doomed Hillary here in Michigan in 2016 because she was talking about unlimited abortion, anytime anywhere. Most people don’t support either of these options.

Most people want legal abortions with a limit in the first or second trimester because we know that medical care can save a lot of the premature babies that are born these days. That’s the advantage of the advancement of medical science. There are families who would be thrilled to adopt these children, even if they’ve struggled early in their lives.

And it’s really just the weirdos trying to stir things up acting like there’s going to be a ban on contraception too. That just blows my mind that commentators are actively talking about this. Again, it’s a fringe thing. Most people won’t go along with that either.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
11 days ago

As usual the protesting crowd will overreach and saner people will reject them. We have it now and again when the decision arrives, likely what the leaker planned. While the press tells us 2/3’rds support Roe, that doesn’t mean unlimited abortion just prior to birth. I suspect the inflation issue will remain the voter motivation.

J Bryant
J Bryant
12 days ago

The title of the article is “Abortion won’t save the Democrats” and I suspect that’s true, at least not by itself. But the Dems are already spreading the idea that if the Supreme Court will overturn Roe then what other rights are in danger?
I also read an article in Politico yesterday discussing how Biden is trying to win over white, working class voters by (very belatedly) supporting unionization. And then there’s the Ukraine war. If that situation doesn’t blow up in his face (excuse the analogy) he might appeal to a broader range of voters as an effective “wartime” president.
The Dems are starting to craft a credible strategy for the midterms, imo. Whether it will be enough to distract voters from high inflation, increasing crime courtesy of Democrat-sponsored Defund the Police initiatives, and the more extreme manifestations of progressive politics remains to be seen.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
11 days ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Don’t worry. The White House is just now figuring out “what inflation? I don’t see any inflation, oh that inflation” might not have been the best political messaging.

Kat L
Kat L
10 days ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Wartime president? We are sick to the teeth with war plus they are breaking our backs to send them billions; borrowing money from China to effectively fight Russia. Ukraine wasn’t a bastion of democracy to begin with and the govt push to send money that will never be accounted for is absolutely unacceptable. They put us ever more into debt while calling us deplorable. Sick of most of congress and especially the president.

Greg M
Greg M
10 days ago

Always great to read Joel Kotkin’s stuff (I highly recommend his book btw). But the comments here and I think also in the article tend to suggest that the polar opposite beliefs on abortion are ‘extremes’ of more widespread opinions, as if they were on a par with the argument about immigration, for instance: supposedly a sliding scale from “ban all borders!” to “build the wall!”
I’m not sure that’s the case: the opposite ends of the abortion argument are not positions on a sliding scale, I think they are both logical positions from utterly different metaphysical concepts neither of which can, once held, countenance the other. The description of these positions as “extremist” (or even “absolutist”) is not helpful. If you believe that from conception a human life exists and is sacred and has (or should have) rights, then in the womb that life is manifestly innocent. Given the fact that most people consider the intentional taking of innocent life to be murder, the natural conclusion of this predicated ‘values position’ is that abortion should be banned completely. It is a rather a big ask to expect someone who believes that to compromise on it for political expediency – or else in what other area with this moral ramification would we apply the same logic? (“Look, they just want to kill a few Jews, and I know you guys think they’re human but come on you need to compromise at some point you extremist”).
The same point goes for the Pro choice polar opposite: if you believe that abortion is an important form of healthcare because the fetus is NOT tantamount to a human life (or more usually in this argument, not a human ‘person’) until it is born, then it is in fact perfectly logical to believe in abortion up to birth, and even in ‘partial birth’ – why on earth would you compromise on that position just to satisfy people uncomfortable considering these moral and metaphysical arguments?
These positions are not ‘extremes’ or absolute positions on a sliding scale: they are totally different metaphysical positions which, it seems to me, are perfectly logically progressed to by their promoters’ first principles.
The illusion of a sliding scale only exists politically because people who (at some level) perfectly understand the positions above are willing to compromise on whichever they ultimately believe when it suits their particular values/opinion/lifestyle/bank account.
This doesn’t bode well: it means that politically most of the West is knowingly and willingly amoral. A principled people would either abolish abortion entirely or safeguard it in law forever, and celebrate whichever they chose.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
9 days ago
Reply to  Greg M

And you fail to understand that ‘extremist’ positions in lots of scenarios of fundamental issues are very often logical. But it’s real people who try to come up with pragmatic solutions that are a compromise and address the zillion permutations adequately.

Last edited 9 days ago by Ian Stewart
Greg Moreison
Greg Moreison
6 days ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Hi Ian, thanks for the reply. I quite understand that ‘extremist positions in lots of scenarios are often logical’. And I would have to be entirely ignorant of the past 60 years of abortion politics if I didn’t realise people had tried to come up with ‘pragmatic compromises’ (although why they in particular should be considered “real people” is, I admit, beyond me!)
The purpose of my post was to submit that the central question of abortion only really has two ‘moral’ positions. And they do not admit of compromise with their opposite, in the way that any other, genuinely “sliding scale” issue can be easily (and perfectly morally) compromised. Hence my example of immigration as a ‘sliding scale’ comparison.
Given this situation – and by all means attack my view of it on principle if you wish – I further posit that the description of these obvious polar opposites as “extremes” is not at all useful. I think it simply coddles those who would rather compromise on what is an uncomfortably clear moral question: “is the human foetus’ existence tantamount to a human life?”
It seems to me there are only two possible answers to this. There are plenty of compromises available, whichever answer you ultimately believe to be true: but none of them follow morally or logically from the answer given.

Vince B
Vince B
10 days ago

Abortion is one of those issues where the extremists couldn’t represent their side of the issue any worse. As the article states, the vast majority of Americans are much more sophisticated, nuanced and intellectually honest than the total banners, and zero restrictions ghouls.
While I am a proud Clinton hater, Billy Boy did get what our approach to abortion should be exactly right: “Safe, legal and rare.” Rare, meaning, creating a society and policy where unwanted pregnancies are less common. I think that’s where most Americans are.
I tend to believe that Republicans will pay at the ballot box if indeed Roe is overturned and many red states enact Draconian bans. But the Democrats never fail to defeat themselves with their own extremism and hysteria.

Last edited 10 days ago by Vince B
LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
10 days ago

This is true. An insightful analysis.

Gerald Jensen
Gerald Jensen
8 days ago

The Biden “Administration” (LOL) really DOES care about babies–as long. of course, as they are the babies of ILLEGAL PARASITES. Ask your Democrat Rep or Senator about the pallets of baby formula being sent to the border to feed the infants of illegals while the parents of American infants all too often aren’t able to find formula to feed their AMERICAN babies…