Tuesday, June 28, 2022


Michelle Goldberg thinks the anti-abortion movement won because it practiced politcs better than abortion rights supporters did.
... I’ve been haunted by a moment from the new documentary “Battleground.” ...

The scene I keep revisiting features a Students for Life training session about “how you can change minds about abortion online,” in which members of the group learned how to draw young pro-choice people into debate in comment threads. Hawkins said they’d had 105,000 conversations.

Cynthia Lowen, the director of “Battleground,” told me she was struck by the activists’ “strategy to get into environments and places, online and offline, where young, typically pro-choice people are,” and to try to create “doubts about their position.”

This is quite different from what I’ve seen in the pro-choice movement, where activists frequently act as if those who don’t agree with them on everything aren’t worth engaging with. (Last week, NARAL tweeted, “If your feminism doesn’t understand how anti-trans policies disproportionately impact BIPOC folks, particularly Black trans women and girls, it’s not feminism.”) In the aftermath of the anti-abortion movement’s catastrophic victory, it’s worth asking what we can learn from their tactics.
I agree that the NARAL tweet could be off-putting to quite a few people. But this is just a rehash of the ridiculous assertion that Democrats didn't score big victories in downballot races in 2020 because some people on the left say "Latinx." That's not how politics works. Most people are blissfully unaware of the "Latinx" controversy, as they're unaware of that NARAL tweet.

More to the point, the anti-abortion movements efforts to change hearts and minds might have worked in some individual cases, but it was a failure overall, as Goldberg acknowledges:
Obviously, the anti-abortion movement hasn’t convinced anywhere near a majority of Americans. Roe’s death comes courtesy of three Supreme Court justices appointed by a president who lost the popular vote. According to a CBS/News YouGov poll taken after the ruling, 59 percent of Americans — and 67 percent of women — disapprove of it.
Goldberg is so close to understanding what really happened:
The Senate can’t codify minimal reproductive rights because of the filibuster, which gives a minority of conservatives veto power over much of national policymaking. In states like Wisconsin, legislatures are so gerrymandered that it will take more than a popular-vote majority to undo their abortion bans. The right pretends that ending Roe returns abortion to the democratic process, but Roe’s demise was made possible by democracy’s erosion.

That shouldn’t blind us, however, to the success of the anti-abortion movement, which has organized for almost 50 years to bring us to this moment. Those state-level gerrymanders didn’t just happen. As The New York Times reported, they were made possible by the 2010 Republican wave, which reduced the number of state legislatures controlled by Democrats from 27 to 16. Republicans then used redistricting to cement their hold on power even as they passed a barrage of state laws meant to chip away at Roe.
But the anti-abortion movement doesn't deserve credit for the GOP project to flip state legislative seats in 2010 and then mercilessly gerrymander as many state legislative maps and state congressional maps as possible -- that was the work of right-wing billionaires, Fortune 500 corporations, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who gave big money to the project not because they wanted Roe overturned but because they wanted to elect legislators who'd cut their taxes and deregulate their industries. These are the same folks who financed the Federalist Society takeove of the Supreme Court, which rubber-stamped political gerrymandering, the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, and vast amounts of dark money in politics.

Banning abortion wasn't the end these folks had in mind. It was a means -- a means of getting right-wing voters to the polls to vote for Republicans, nearly all of whom are both anti-abortion and pro-plutocrat.

This is also the answer to the question asked in Paul Krugman's most recent column:
Many political analysts have spent years warning that the G.O.P. was becoming an extremist, anti-democratic party....

The question that has been bothering me ... is why. Where is this extremism coming from?
It's coming from a Republican media operation that uses alarmism, conspiratorialism, and demonization to persuade members of certain mostly white demographic subgroups to keep angrily voting Republican, because telling those voters what Republican politicians really want -- to make rich people richer -- won't motivate them at all. The GOP is all in on a strategy to portray even the most moderate Democrats as communist transexual gun-grabbing baby-killers because doing so gets Republicans elected often enough to prevent any significant increase in rich people's taxes or in business regulations.

This victory was bought, and the purchasers bought it because it was a means of getting what they really wanted.

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