A shoo-in for the title of most prolific liar in American history, Donald Trump has said a couple of things that are true and relevant to the upcoming election. The first true statement was that he made Ron DeSantis (unstated proviso: Trump can unmake him too). The second was that Republicans “are getting killed” on abortion.
Whether by Trump’s tiny orange hand or not, the DeSantis candidacy is looking like a fart in a whirlwind, which is a good thing for the republic, if not for Republicans. But item #2, the abortion rights issue, won’t dissipate like a fart in the shape of a Florida governor. As the Virginia governor’s recent fleecy faceplant makes clear, there are no magic words or outerwear items that will defang the reproductive rights issue. But Republicans are still looking for one weird trick.
Liz Mair, a GOP strategist who worked on the fart-in-a-whirlwind campaigns of Scott Walker, Carly Fiorina and Rick Perry, proposed a way Republicans can escape the reproductive rights morass in a guest essay in The New York Times. Here’s a gift link, though I cannot recommend an essay so poorly reasoned, deliberately deceptive and willfully blind to reality.
I call your attention to it because the level of denial in Mair’s piece is almost comical. Her premise is that redefining the meaning of “pro-life” will do the trick, as if decades of red-faced “pro-life” fanatics screaming BABY KILLER and a year-plus of post-Roe “pro-life” legislation that substitutes religious dogma for modern healthcare standards hasn’t etched the correct definition firmly in our minds.
Depending on which pro-lifer you talk to, “pro-life” could mean believing Roe was incorrectly decided and that under a correct interpretation of the Constitution, states were free to enact anti-abortion laws — though many states would not, and that was fine.
Or it could mean believing this but also being determined and committed to working to pass laws in every state banning abortion, possibly with multiple exceptions. Or it could mean believing Roe was wrongly decided and that federal law or the Constitution (or both) should ban abortions, perhaps with exceptions.
Or it could mean being pro-Roe but at the same time anti-abortion, or it could mean strictly opposing abortion in the second and third trimesters, with only cursory concern about Roe.
“Depending on which recovering alcoholic you talk to, ‘recovery’ could mean guzzling a handle of Tito’s every day…” I mean come on! What a steaming load of horseshit! It’s not surprising because forced-birthers lie about everything, all the time, but the massive chutzpah on display here from Mair, who is allegedly one of the “reasonable” Republicans, is something to see.
Understanding that “pro-life” can mean a variety of things should inform the way Republicans approach this issue. Right now, when many voters — again, even Republican voters — hear the term “pro-life,” their brains process it as denoting an extreme position. Maybe they think of states like Alabama, Arkansas and Oklahoma, which have imposed near-complete abortion bans.
Gosh, maybe “their brains process it” as an extreme position because voters recognize that it is an extreme fucking position. And maybe voters have noticed that when Republicans are in power, they give their extreme position force of law.
Mair dishonestly highlights Alabama, Arkansas and Oklahoma as rural outliers when in fact 21 U.S. states controlled by Republicans either imposed draconian restrictions or in effect banned abortion after Roe fell, including populous states like Florida and Texas.
In a sign of how desperate Mair is to extricate her party from the trap it made, she turns to shitty misogynist weirdos JD Vance and Donald Fucking Trump as models of how Repubs can move forward:
This trend — in which “pro-life” equals “extreme” — is what Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio pointed to in explaining why voters in the state resoundingly approved a ballot measure enshrining a right to abortion in the state Constitution. As he put it, the pro-life side got clobbered because voters disliked both options, but they particularly disliked the state’s pro-life so-called heartbeat bill, which made abortion illegal beyond about six weeks of pregnancy, and voted to keep some forms of abortion legal.
As Mr. Vance posted on social media, “We have to recognize how much voters mistrust us (meaning elected Republicans) on this issue.”
Well, he’s right that voters mistrust Republicans but he’s wrong about why. By huge margins, Americans reject abortion bans. They mistrust Republicans because Republicans brazenly lie about their intent on abortion all the time.
The “pro-life” movement’s aim is to abolish reproductive rights, as movement figures openly proclaim to supporters, and then they tell bald-faced lies to gain the power to do so, as the Republicans on the Supreme Court did when they called Roe “settled law” as nominees and then overturned it.
Like the robed liars in the highest court in the land, Republicans like Mair, Vance and Trump are only advocating a temporary ceasefire on abortion so they can regroup and think up new lies. Mair comes close to admitting it here:
But the party can triage. Focus first on a broadly winning position, which is banning later abortions. And at least for a few years, drop the legislating, especially where it gets into Ohio-like terrain. That is what the pro-life movement will be left with having to do anyway. If the Trump-Vance scenario comes to pass, the pro-life movement will be left with having to change hearts and minds to affect individual behavior based on (shifted) individual opinion rather than focusing mostly on changing laws.
It’s an absurd proposal. Republicans stopped trying to persuade people decades ago and went all-in on minoritarian rule because their policies are unpopular, including their opposition to abortion rights.
Republicans also made screaming fanatics a leg of the GOP coalition’s three-legged stool 50 years ago, so they’re stuck with them. And lying about what “pro-life” means isn’t going to fly when nearly half the states are run by fanatics who are consigning every woman of childbearing years to substandard healthcare and higher mortality rates.
I think Mair and company are just going to have to reap the whirlwind on this one. No one is buying their bullshit anymore.