The Party's position on this issue is too extreme for most voters
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.