August 9, 2022 - 9:00 pm
What the world of politics needs is a lot less nonsense and a little more nuance. And that goes double for the universe of political analysis.
The correct interpretation rarely turns up at the extremes. It’s usually somewhere in the middle. When a major event happens, partisans are going to try to spin it to suit their own agenda. One camp will claim that it’s nothing, while the other camp insists that it’s really something.
Just take a look at what’s happening with what we might call the politics of abortion in the excruciatingly suspenseful lead-up to the midterm elections. In June, the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, with its head-scratching decision in Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization. In doing so, the justices returned the issue of abortion to the states.
That was the cue for the political parties to swap scripts. For the past 49 years, Democrats — mostly abortion rights advocates content that the court was on their side — have attempted to keep the electorate calm over abortion, while anti-abortion Republicans have tried to get it riled up in the hopes of overturning Roe. But now, Republicans — pleased that Roe has been overturned — have tried to keep the electorate calm, while Democrats have attempted to get it riled up in the hopes of using the abortion issue to help retain control of Congress.
The parties can’t seem to agree on one central question: Is abortion on the ballot in November?
Liberals claim the answer is an emphatic “yes.” Conservatives insist the answer is a very low-key “no.” Democrats went from downplaying the abortion issue for years to playing it up in the past several weeks as the most important issue facing Americans. Conversely, Republicans went from arguing — to anti-abortion groups and deep-pocketed donors — that abortion was the single most important issue on planet Earth to now insisting that no one cares enough about it for it to affect the outcome of the midterm elections.
Both parties are being dishonest. That’s not exactly news. But, in this case, the parties also are both wrong.
After voters in Kansas, a deep red state, recently defeated a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have outlawed abortions in the state, the left-wingers were euphoric. This was just the beginning, they said. In this “pro-choice” nation, they said, voters were primed to punish the GOP for trying to restrict or even outright eliminate abortion rights.
Meanwhile, the right-wingers framed the Kansas vote as an outlier that had more to do with voters’ reluctance to tinker with the state constitution than with preserving abortion rights. Abortion, they argued, isn’t an issue that determines how most people vote. In November, they said, many more voters are likely to be focused on bread-and-butter issues such as the economy, inflation or gas prices — and this will be bad news for Democrats, the party in power.
As is usually the case, the truth may be somewhere in the middle.
Of course, the issue of abortion won’t literally be on the ballot in November. But the vote in Kansas suggests that “extremism” will be.
Voters are likely to recoil from extreme positions in both parties and be drawn to more moderate views. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., are sure to win their own races. But if these two had to be judged by a national referendum, they would both be wiped out.
In an interview last year with Susan Page of USA Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., passed along her message to AOC and other members of “The Squad.” Pelosi said that, while she admired their passion, “when you come in, cross that door, take that oath, you have to be oriented toward results.” The speaker reminded the firebrands: “You’re not a one-person show.”
Recently, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. — who is unlikely to survive her own re-election battle because of her opposition to former President Donald Trump — told The New York Times that she had no interest in working with Greene because “what the country needs are serious people who are willing to engage in debates about policy.”
In striking down Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court embraced extremism. American voters are likely to recoil from it.
And that’s bad news for the one party that has, as of late, on one issue after another, made extremism part of its brand: the GOP.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His podcast, “Ruben in the Center,” is available through every podcast app.