Democrats’ strategy now should be clear
Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), recently assured — or warned — America that “If a dog catches a car, it doesn’t know what to do. We do.” Arguably, these are the strongest words we’ve heard from a pro-life leader in the wake of news that the U.S. Supreme Court has prepared a draft ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Tobias is not new to this game. She’s been active in the pro-life movement for four decades, and has spent the past 25 years — more than half of the 1973 Roe ruling’s lifespan — on the NRLC board of directors. In other words, she of — all people — is more than equipped to back up her words.
She indicates the anti-abortion movement has additional plans for after the expected ruling.
The question now is whether most conservatives will join her.
Rather than celebrate last week’s reported draft ruling, conservatives buried the lede —a lede they’ve been writing for nearly half a century — in favor of condemnation of an unknown leaker.
The leak — not their supposedly unbending devotion to strangers’ zygotes and fetuses — dominated Republicans’ attention.
At a rally in Pennsylvania on Friday, former President Donald Trump barely even alluded to the anticipated SCOTUS edict — downright bizarre behavior from a man who never shies from celebrating victories, even when such victories are actually defeats.
In Congress, Republicans are somehow on the defensive, as if they realize a nationwide abortion ban might make the Affordable Care Act look like a post office re-naming. And of course, they’d be right.
Last year I explained why Democrats needed to make “every future election a referendum on whether the government should control human bodies.” The polls have been on the pro-choice movement’s side almost continuously in the past 50 years. Simply put, they would be foolish not to put Republicans on the defensive.
And that’s what makes Tobias’s bold statement all the more curious. Who is the “we” in her remarks? Because surely Republican congressional leaders have no idea what to do after catching the car. Neither does Trump, his party’s likely 2024 nominee (should he choose to run again).
Ironically, the pro-life movement was close to achieving its ultimate goal of passing a federal law outlawing abortions (that also would have been upheld by the Supreme Court). At no time since 1973 have conservatives simultaneously held majorities in all three branches of government — yet they now control the court and appeared to be on their way to re-claiming both the U.S. House and Senate in 2022, and seemed to have a good shot at winning back the White House in 2024.
If Justice Samuel Alito and his fellow conservatives on the court had simply waited 30 months, they could have achieved everything they and their movement could have wanted. To borrow from Tobias’s analogy, they caught the car, but it was a backfiring Ford Edsel.
There is probably very little the pro-life movement can do at this point, except hope Democrats fall on their faces and cede the battlefield to the prematurely anointed victors — a reasonable possibility given Democrats’ repeated squandering of political capital. But with Americans supporting abortion rights by a 2-to-1 margin over an abortion ban, Democrats don’t need a genius strategy to reclaim the advantage. They just need to follow the Supreme Court’s lead and do what they should have been doing for decades: make 2022 and 2024 a referendum on whether the government should control human bodies.
This is a political battle most Republicans don’t want to have, which is all the more reason for Democrats to have it.
B.J. Rudell is a longtime political strategist, former associate director for Duke University’s Center for Politics, and recent North Carolina Democratic Party operative. In a career encompassing stints on Capitol Hill, on presidential campaigns, in a newsroom, in classrooms, and for a consulting firm, he has authored three books and has shared political insights across all media platforms, including for CNN and Fox News.
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